Review: Beyond Coincidence by Jacquie Underdown + Giveaway

beyond coincidence by jacquie underdownFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance
Length: 239 pages
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Date Released: September 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

In 2008, 250 Australian and British soldiers are uncovered in a mass grave in Fromelles, France, lost since the Great War. One soldier, bearing wounds of war so deep it scarred his soul, cannot be laid to rest just yet.

When Lucy bumps into the achingly sad soldier during a trip to France, she doesn’t, at first glance, realise what he is – a ghost who desperately needs her help. Lucy can’t turn away from someone who needs her, even someone non-corporeal, and they travel back together to Australia in search of answers and, hopefully, some peace.

This chance meeting and unexplainable relationship sets into motion a chain-reaction of delicate coincidences that affect the intertwined lives of family, friends, and lovers in unexpected, beautiful ways.

My Review:

Beyond Coincidence is a romance that requires that the reader throw their willing suspension of disbelief out the window, but the history behind the love story is based on actual events.

Let’s just say that the author has taken an extremely romantic perspective on a project that is both sad and moving, and uses the romance to personalize something important.

Fromelles6_460x306pxThe genesis of everything lies in the Battle of Fromelles, which took place in France in World War I. Fromelles wasn’t merely a disaster for the Allies, it was also one of the most costly battles in history for the Australian Army. Over 5,500 men were killed in 24 hours of fighting.

In 2008, a mass grave was found near Fromelles, containing the unidentified bodies of 250 of those Australian losses. In the intervening years, a project has been mounted to identify those remains and create closure for the families.

Beyond Coincidence is a romanticized, in some ways paranormally romanticized, story about the identification of the remains of one particular soldier.

Lucy sees the ghost of a man, in a WWI Australian Army uniform, visiting the gravesite in Fromelles. At first, she thinks he’s a reenactor. When he keeps turning up, she decides he’s a stalker. It’s only when he materializes in her car that she finally starts accepting that he’s a ghost.

Freddy Ormon is one of the unidentified soldiers from the battle. He convinces Lucy that he won’t be able to rest until his grave is properly marked and his remains are identified. He has no idea how this is supposed to happen, just that it has to happen and that there is a greater plan that has chosen Lucy as the one to bring it about.

So Lucy sets out on a quest to find Freddy’s possible descendants. He knows that his wife was pregnant when he left Australia, so it is possible that there is a great-grandson or granddaughter back home. Lucy just has to find him, or her.

Lucy heads back home, and hunts down Nate Ormon, Freddy’s great-grandson. Both Lucy and Nate are at career and romantic loose-ends, so when Freddy serves as unintentional matchmaker, they click. Nate even looks like Freddy, which is not a hardship for Lucy. She’s quite fond of her “friendly ghost”.

In spite of some ham-fisted interference from Lucy’s suddenly violent ex, Nate and Lucy discover that they have a lot in common beyond Nate’s interfering ancestor. But they have some deep-seated fears that almost drive them apart.

The story ends with the promise of one of the sweetest but most surprising second-chances at love that I’ve read in quite a while.

Escape Rating B: Although this is Lucy and Nate’s love story, Freddy feels like the most memorable character in the book. He is so confused by what has happened to him, and so frustrated at his inability to act for himself.

His grief over the death of his wife is fresh and new. She lived decades without him, but he’s just now confronted with both her death and that of the child he never got to see. The world is so different from what he knew.

At the same time, his interactions with Lucy are quite funny. Not because he doesn’t know the 21st century, but the way he adapts surprises and dellights her. You can see them becoming friends, no matter how unusual that friendship might be.

There’s a sense that Freddy is Lucy’s guardian angel in some way. He looks out for her, and he’s also pushing her life into a different but better track than she would have found on her own. Lucy and Nate do not “meet cute” and without a push, she probably would never have seen him again.

Freddy, or someone above him, are also manipulating events for their own ends. “This has all happened before and it will all happen again” as they say. And the set up between Lucy and Nate does feel contrived. As much as I liked Freddy as a character, I had to swallow my logic in order to enjoy the story.

But I certainly did enjoy it quite a bit. It’s sweet and romantic, and I loved the history angle.


Jacquie is kindly giving a $30 gift card for Amazon! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Her Last Whisper by Karen Robards

her last whisper by karen robardsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Dr. Charlotte Stone, #3
Length: 353 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Released: August 26, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Madness and murder invaded Dr. Charlotte Stone’s life when she was just a girl—and made her a woman determined to save others from the horror she survived. An expert in the psychology of serial killers, she’s faced down more than her share of human monsters. But Charlie can also communicate with the spirits of those who die violently, an extrasensory skill that has helped the FBI bring lethal predators to justice. Now, after narrowly escaping death a second time, Charlie’s ready to step away from the edge . . . before her luck runs out.

Too bad Charlie is too dedicated for her own good—and too devoted to federal agent Tony Bartoli to say no when he asks her to ride shotgun on yet another risky mission. Of course, she already has her hands full with Michael Garland: the handsome, roguish ghost with whom she’s hopelessly in love—a spirit who depends on Charlie to keep him from slipping forever into the dark side of the afterlife. But in the mortal world, beautiful single women are vanishing from Las Vegas hotels at night. All signs indicate that a psychopath is on the prowl in Sin City, and Bartoli’s FBI colleague Lena Kaminsky has reason to fear that her missing sister may be just the killer’s type.

In a town full of fast players and few rules, flushing out a smooth-talking stalker like the Cinderella Killer might be a loser’s game. But for Charlie, the only way to cage her quarry is to plunge back into the homicidal hell she vowed to leave behind—and may not leave alive.

My Review:

I can definitely say that Karen Robards Charlie Stone series makes for compelling reading. I started Her Last Whisper in the morning, and couldn’t keep myself from grabbing it at every opportunity; breaks, lunch, bus rides, making dinner, eating dinner, (taking the book to the bathroom with me…) etc. I finished before bedtime, because I couldn’t wait that long to wrap it up.

But there are definitely points where it’s compelling like watching a three-car pileup on the expressway. It’s horrific and you can’t turn your eyes away. It’s a train-wreck book.

First, Charlie falls in love with a ghost. It’s not the first time I’ve read this particular trope, and it can work. Stacey Kennedy’s Supernaturally Kissed is a great example of a story where this trope does work.

But, Dr. Charlie Stone is also a psychiatrist who studies serial killers. She went into that particular line of work because she survived a serial killer when she was a child. But then she goes and falls in love with one of the serial killers she is studying. OK, that actually happens, sort of.

But Charlie goes the “falling for an inmate” trope several stages further. Charlie also sees dead people. And the serial killer that she has fallen for is the aforementioned ghost. She knows this whole scenario is too stupid to live, she even calls herself out on that, but she continues anyway.

And for the cherry on the sundae, Charlie works with an elite FBI unit that chases serial killers, and one of the very much alive FBI agents wants to make their relationship personal. But Charlie is way too hung up on the gorgeous dead guy to give the equally gorgeous living one a chance.

Into this mess we throw the hunt for another serial killer. In this case, the case gets much too close to home, as the serial killer has kidnapped the sister of one of the other FBI agents, and eventually grabs Charlie’s friend as well.

So Charlie keeps dividing her attention between the sexy ghost that follows her every move, and the serial killer that she needs to find before he kills again.

Her Last Whisper should be a thriller about the serial killer. The case is plenty gruesome, especially with the personal angles thrown in. Whoever this guy is, he’s been kidnapping women off the very busy streets of Las Vegas for two years, and it isn’t until the FBI shows up that anyone even figures out that there IS a serial killer.

But the focus, instead is on the relationship between Charlie and Michael Garland, her drop-dead-sexy-but-mostly-just-dead convicted serial killer. Charlie spends most of her energy trying to determine whether Garland was really guilty, and figuring out ways to keep his ghost from going to Spookyville, because whatever he did it made him ineligible for heaven. After six weeks of Garland hanging around, Charlotte has come to rely on his help in her cases, and has fallen head over heels for a man she absolutely can’t have.

Which doesn’t keep her from trying (and occasionally briefly succeeding) through each twist and turn of a very nasty case.

Escape Rating B-: I have to give points for extreme readability. This series is addicting, quite possibly in the way that chocolate is addicting. Or maybe like some kind of drug. Once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, you absolutely have to keep going. Just when you’re sure it can’t get any crazier, it does.

last kiss goodbye by karen robardsUnlike the previous book in the series, The Last Kiss Goodbye (reviewed here), the hunt for the live serial killer carries equal weight with the angst about keeping her dead serial killer attached to this world. The case that she and the team are trying to solve is chilling, thrilling and disgusting in equal turns.

But Charlie involves a friend who is also psychic in her increasingly desperate attempts to keep Michael Garland around. That involvement makes her friend a target for the live serial killer, just upping the ante on how crazy things get.

As the story progressed, I thought I figured out how the author was going to manage to pull a happy ending rabbit-trick out of relationship-with-the-dead hat. But as the story ended (on a horrific cliffhanger) I decided that I had been on the wrong track.

How many live serial killers can Charlie survive while she continues to be distracted by her feelings for a dead one? Tune in next year (I hope it’s next year and not longer) to find out. I know I will. I’m compelled!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Haunt Me by Heather Long + Giveaway

haunt me by heather longFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance
Length: 175 pages
Publisher: Entangled Covet
Date Released: January 27, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Recently divorced author MacKenzie Dillon has lost her writing mojo. When she inherits her great aunt’s haunted house in Virginia, she is determined to make a new start. The creepy old house provides inspiration but at what cost?

Successful architect and paranormal skeptic Justin Kent returns to Penny Hollow to fulfill his father’s dying wish of revitalizing their small town. To do that, he needs the allegedly haunted estate at Summerfield. Mac, the new owner, may be gorgeous and spunky, but she refuses to sell.

These two have a dangerous history that spans the ages, but will they discover the truth in time to save their lives?

My Review:

As a paranormal romance, Haunt Me is kind of a ghost romance. It’s not that either the hero or heroine is a ghost, or romancing a ghost, or any of the things usually associated with the phrase “ghost romance”.

Instead, the protagonists are haunted by ghosts who are attempting to finally get things right. Call it an “umpteenth chance at love” story.

As the hauntings continue through the story, even though you know where things are heading, the reader gets the feeling that the ghosts have been waiting for centuries for living people to get close enough to their old story that they have their chance at a happy ending. Or at least a satisfying resolution.

It is a big part of what makes the ending, well, haunting.

But at the beginning, we have Penny Hollow, Virginia, a town that wants to bill itself as the “most haunted town in the U.S.” in order to bring in some much-needed tourist income. It’s not a bad idea, especially since the town really is haunted!

Justin Kent wants to use Summerfield, the big house with a reputed curse, as the centerpiece of the tourist strategy. Justin doesn’t believe in the curse, he doesn’t believe in ghosts. He vehemently doesn’t believe in ghosts. (Yes, the gentleman doth protest too much)

But Summerfield house would be perfect as the town’s focus point. Perfectly creepy, perfectly legendary, perfectly haunted.

Unfortunately for Justin, when the aged owner dies, instead of leaving the house to the town as promised, she leaves it to her great-niece. And MacKenzie Dillon has no intention of selling out. She needs the house–not just as a home, but also as an inspiration for her stalled writing career.

She also needs the refuge from her abusive ex-husband.

Justin starts out by helping Mac fix up the place. He begins by wanting to buy the place, but decides pretty early on that things with the town will still work out if Mac is willing to allow the house to be used for ghost tours.

Even though his business is in restoring old houses, there’s something about bringing Summerfield back to its former glory that obsesses him.

Just as there is something about being in Summerfield that makes stories absolutely pour out of Mac to the point where she forgets to eat and even sleep. She feels compelled to work on her new historical romance, even though she can’t make it come to a happy ending.

The house wants Mac and Justin to resolve its story. Which ended tragically before, and might very well end tragically again.

Escape Rating B+: Haunt Me has all the elements of a potential tragic romance, along with the charm of a small-town romance with all its busybody fun. The people in Penny Hollow can’t resist interfering in Justin and Mac’s relationship at every turn.

The history of the house is very creepy. It becomes clear that the house is using Mac and Justin, even to the point of using them up, in order to get what it wants. It’s hungry to re-enact the old tragedy. The more Mac dives into the history of the house, the more she realizes that the romance novel she thinks she is writing is actually the true history of Summerfield.

In the end, she uses that knowledge so that it doesn’t use her.

Mac and Justin’s relationship develops slowly, from a position of distrust on her side and overbearingness on his to a sweet love story, but it takes time. Mac is still recovering from a lot of abuse, and its difficult for her to trust. With good reason, her ex is a nasty piece of work. He’s also a necessary player in the story that the house needs to resolve.

Justin comes around to admitting that the paranormal not only exists, but that it scares the crap out of him. He has to accept in order to see what’s really happening below the surface. He also has to come around to admitting that he’s willing to put down roots in the town he tried to hard to get away from.

The way all the elements swirl together makes Haunt Me a terrifically inventive paranormal romance, where the past and the present blend into a very satisfying ending.



Heather is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Fantastic! To enter the giveaway just fill out the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Eternally Devoted by Stacey Kennedy

Eternally Devoted by Stacey KennedyFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Frostbite, #4
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: March 27, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Tess Jennings, who has been gifted with the ability to see ghosts, struggles to help the Grand Master of the Animus, Alexander, cross over. She might even have discovered who murdered him, but she has no way to prove it.

Adding to her pile of failures, Tess must accept a harsh reality—she has officially run out of time. The closer she gets to an answer to save her ghost lover, Kipp McGowen, the more she’s realizing she’s been searching for an answer she didn’t want to find.

Tess will have to make difficult choices, and her decisions will lead to consequences she cannot predict. Will Kipp finally take a living breath again, or will Tess take her last and join him in the Netherworld forever?

My Review:

The Frostbite series by Stacey Kennedy (Supernaturally Kissed, Demonically Tempted, Mystically Bound and finally Eternally Devoted) is a wonderful urban fantasy/paranormal romance series.

Supernaturally Kissed by Stacey KennedyInstead of boy meets girl, or vampire meets girl, or whatever might float your paranormal boat, in Supernaturally Kissed we have Tess and Kipp, girl meets ghost. She tries to ignore him–then she tries to help him cross over.

But Kipp isn’t just any ghost. He’s a Memphis cop. Ghosts can’t cross until they resolve whatever is keeping them here, and Kipp needs to solve his last case. So Tess helps. And in the process of helping Kipp, the former bad boy cop and good girl clerk fall in love.

Talk about star-crossed lovers!

Kipp refuses to cross when the case is over. Tess has become his new piece of unfinished business in the world of the living. Or so they both think.

The road from that first unfinished case to Eternally Devoted has been fraught with danger. Tess has discovered that her involvement with the supernatural is much more than just the ability to see ghosts. She can help the police, she can help the ghosts.

It can also be dangerous.

And Tess and Kipp have a real chance at happiness. In the real world.

But before that can happen, she has to solve a murder of the leader of the Animus, a secret supernatural community. Maybe she’ll be able to return Kipp to his body, if she provides the right answers.

And maybe they’ll both be trapped in the Netherworld.

The Animus are so secretive she can’t tell which are her friends, and which are her enemies. But if Tess doesn’t find out soon, all of her friends could end up dead protecting her.

And Kipp might be lost forever.

Escape Rating A-: The series as a whole is awesome. You really, really want Tess and Kipp to find their happy ending. Tess has worked incredibly hard for it.

One of the amazing things in the series is that Tess is the one rescuing Kipp. He’s a ghost for the entire series and can’t act in the real world. She has to do the heavy lifting.

Mystically Bound by Stacey KennedyI did figure out who the “bad actors” were very early on in Mystically Bound. One of the motives was murkier than was apparent, but both of the “who” parts were pretty easy to determine. Tess was more forgiving than human nature would warrant, in my opinion. YMMV.

But, they do get their HEA. I won’t spoil the how, where and why. It’s earned, and all the loose ends are wrapped up. Thank goodness. I don’t think my heart could have taken another one of Stacey’s positively diabolical cliffhangers.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Mystically Bound by Stacey Kennedy

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Mystically Bound by Stacey KennedyFormats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Frostbite, #3
Length: 151 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: January 29, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Tess Jennings’ life is in chaos. Her ghost lover, Kipp McGowen, vanished into the Netherworld without a trace. Now, she finds herself in White Castle, Louisiana, surrounded by the Animus—a secret society of the supernaturally gifted. To make matters
worse, they present her with an offer she cannot refuse.

If she helps solve the murder of their Grand Master, they will assist her in saving Kipp. Soon, Tess will land herself lost in another mystery she doesn’t want. But she will have to trust her enemies to gain what she most desires—a life with Kipp.

Only problem? People are hiding secrets and dark pasts. Tess will soon discover that nothing is as it seems. She might want to save Kipp from his ghostly state, but someone has decided it’s better for her to join him…

My Review:

I didn’t want to start reading Stacey Kennedy’s Mystically Bound until after I got a copy of Eternally Devoted. I just knew Stacey was going to end this thing in another one of her diabolical cliffhangers, and I was right. I won’t spoil the ending regarding the nature of the cliffhanger, but I will say to save yourself the agony and if you like her Frostbite series, just get both books and save yourself the agony.

Supernaturally Kissed by Stacey KennedyMystically Bound picks up right where Demonically Tempted left off. Which was after one of those damnable cliffhangers. This series has to be read in order, so start with Supernaturally Kissed. And fair warning, it is impossible to talk about Mystically Bound without revealing details from the first two books. If you haven’t read them and don’t want spoilers for them, take a look at the reviews for Supernaturally Kissed here and/or Demonically Tempted here instead.

So Mystically Bound starts out with Tess in White Castle, Louisiana (no town should be named White Castle, I kept thinking of the little square hamburgers). She’s in White Castle because that’s where the Animus is, and they might be able to help her get Kipp’s spirit back into his body, providing she helps them first.

And providing she can locate Kipp’s spirit in the Netherworld. She knows exactly where his body is now. It’s in the hospital, in Memphis, in a coma. That’s why his ghost never acted like all the other ghosts.

Kipp’s not dead. Not yet, anyway.

But the former leader of the supernaturally gifted, a group known as the Animus, is dead. They need Tess to talk to Alexander’s ghost and find out who killed him. but it’s not quite that simple.

Nothing has been that simple since the day Kipp’s ghost drifted into her life.

Escape Rating B+: The Frostbite story as a whole is all about Tess’ relationship with Kipp. There isn’t a whole lot of Kipp in this book, so that’s kind of a downer.

eternally devoted by Stacey kennedyIt was all too easy to figure out who both of the “bad actors” were long before they were revealed in Eternally Devoted. One person’s motives were clearer than the other, but who they were was just a shade too obvious.

This may be me geeking out just a bit, but having the supernatural society named “the Animus” didn’t sound or feel right to me. My mind kept going to either the dictionary definition of animus or the old psychological concepts of anima and animus. Neither may have been meant, but both went to wrong contexts in my head.

Because I read Mystically Bound and Eternally Devoted back to back, the cliffhanger wasn’t as frustrating as it might have been. On the other hand, Mystically Bound felt like half a book. I enjoyed it, but not only did I know it wasn’t over, it felt like the first part of a two-part episode–the story didn’t feel finished.

I’m very glad I waited until the final book was out before I read this one.

But in celebration of April Fools’ Day, I’m holding my review of Eternally Devoted until Wednesday. It’s not up there with the cliffhanger that Stacey ended the book on, but it’s what I’ve got.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Author Interview with Blair McDowell

Today is a very special day for author Blair McDowell. June 7 is the Release Day Blitz for her delightful (sorry, couldn’t resist) time-travel ghost romance, Delighting in Your Company (review here). Blair is popping up all over the blogosphere today, but I managed to sit her down (virtually, at least) to answer a few questions about her writing and this haunting story.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Blair McDowell when she isn’t writing about ghosts?

I run a B&B in the small fishing village of Gibsons Landing on Canada’s spectacular west coast. After the tourist season ends I go traveling—usually to Italy or Greece for a month. Then down to the Caribbean to a small island where I’ve had a house for 40 years. Then back to Gibsons to start the whole cycle again. Through all of this I try to write at least 4 hours a day. I’m retired from my day job so all of this is now possible.

Delighting In Your Company takes place on the island of St. Clement’s in the Carribean. Is there a real St. Clement’s? Or was there a particular place that served as the inspiration for the setting?

There is indeed a real island on which St. Clement’s is based. It’s St. Eustatius, and I built a house there some forty years ago. The legends and stories I heard there over the years were the inspiration for Delighting In Your Company.

It feels like a lot of research went into Delighting, about the legends of the West Indies, and about the “Triangle Trade” of rum, molasses and slaves. Would you like to share some of the interesting things that you found while you were researching the book?

I think some of the facts I discovered about the slave trade were the most interesting—and the most appalling. I made my hero, Jonathan, anti-slavery. I think one of the facts that struck me deeply was that although the slave trade was outlawed by Parliament in 1807, the actual ownership of slaves—the abolition of slavery in the British Isles — didn’t happen until some thirty years later. All the outlawing of transport did was result in a flourishing business for ships that could outrun the law.

Delighting is both a ghost-romance, and a time-travel romance. How did you decide to mix the two?

I couldn’t have done one without the other in this case. The story seemed to come from out of nowhere except my knowledge of the islands and their folk tales. It just arrived in my head, quite complete.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Odd. I can’t even remember learning to read. I’ve always loved reading and read in every spare moment. When other children were playing ball, I was off in a corner reading.

Who or what most influenced your decision to become a writer?

Again, no one. It was as natural a choice as breathing. I’ve written since I was a child. Long letters to friends, short stories just for myself, then professional books in my field when I was a university professor, and now (my favorite) novels. I love writing.

And are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plot everything out in advance, or do you just let the story flow?

I plot carefully. First I choose the setting I want to work in, then I start thinking about possible characters in that setting, then I start developing plot. The plot may change as I work on the book, but I start with a very complete story idea.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

Indeed. In Sonata, my book that will be coming out in the fall, one character completely turned the tables on me. I don’t know how it happened.

What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?

There just isn’t ONE book. No two of us are alike in what we bring to the books we read. What one person enjoys another may cordially detest. My advice is to read widely and in many genres. Only in that way can we be broad enough as readers or as authors.

Can you tell us a little bit about your next project?

Sonata is the story of a world class concert artist who falls in love with a Vancouver cop. There is a jewel heist, attempted murder and general mayhem before our hero and heroine finally get together.

What about your off-writing time? Any special hobbies or interests you’d like to share?

Travel. I love to travel. I enjoy being surrounded by cultures and languages other than my own.

Coffee or Tea?

Coffee—the kind the Italians call “cappuccino oscuro” Dark Cappuccino. A Cappuccino made with a double espresso and topped with the foam of milk—not actual milk, just the foam.

Blair, thanks so much for letting us have a glimpse into your writing world!

(Photo credits: Photo of St. Eustacius: Walter Hellebrand from Wikimedia Commons, Diagram of the slave ship is from the Archives of the Library of Congress and is in the Public Domain.)

Delighting In Your Company

If the phrase “delighting in your company” sounds familiar, it should. It’s from one of the most persistent ballads in the English language. Still stumped?

It’s Greensleeves.

And the story, Delighting in Your Company, uses the tune and the words, as it is one song that is familiar to people in both the 19th and 21st centuries.

That’s important, because Blair McDowell has created a ghost story and a time-travel story that links people and events between those two centuries.

Ms McDowell interweaves the history and beliefs of the Caribbean, a stinging rebuke against the “Triangle Trade” of the 17th and 18th centuries, and a bittersweet love story that changes history. Because history needed a “cosmic kick in the pants”.

But first, the heroine needs a more localized one. Amalie Ansett’s life needs a do-over. Or at least a fresh start. Her marriage has ended in bitter divorce, and her beloved mother is dead. While packing her her childhood home, she discovers a family secret–the good kind for a change. She has family she never knew about. A cousin in the Caribbean, on the laid-back island of St. Clement’s.

One delighted phone call, and Amalie is taking a much-needed rest on a sleepy tropical island where the pace is life is slow, and time has a chance to heal her.

The one thing she doesn’t expect to find is a man. The other thing she doesn’t expect to find is a mystery.

Long ago, there was another Amalie Ansett. Her portrait hangs in the museum. And she’s a dead-ringer for 21st century Amalie. There’s something else dead about historic Amalie. Her eyes. They’re empty. Not just in the sense that the portrait was bad, but as though the artist painted her corpse.

He did. History-Amalie was catatonic while she was painted, while she was the governor’s wife. There’s a big mystery about her death. And Amalie’s cousin Julia knows it. Something went very wrong back there in the past.

Because that man Amalie has met in the here-and-now? He’s a ghost. Everyone on the island knows something haunts the old Ansett and Evans Plantations, and it’s him. Jonathan Evans. The man the original Amalie was supposed to marry.

Instead there was a slave rebellion, and history went way, way, way off track. Jonathan’s ghost thinks his Amalie has come back to him. Amalie thinks that her handsome ghost-man is using her as a substitute for the woman he really loves.

But he’s real enough to her that they manage pretty well. Until Amalie investigates that rebellion-and figures out that she might be able to go back and fix things. But if she makes things right, she’ll lose the man she loves.

Love is about making the one you love happy, not yourself, isn’t it? No matter how much it hurts?

Escape Rating A-: Usually it’s either the ghost story or the time-travel story. This time it’s both, and it SO works. Amalie has to meet the ghost of Jonathan in order to know she’s supposed to go back and fix things. And yes, it might be a little arrogant to think she’s the one who has to fix the past, but who else?

The story works on a lot of levels, the love story because Amalie knows it can’t last, but does it anyway. She’s always trying to make things right for Jonathan, aware that it’s a sacrifice for the greater good. But it only works when she builds trust with people in both the present and the past, especially her past self. That was fascinating.

The time travel angle works because Amalie goes back to herself. She’s not trying to create a new role, she’s already there. She works with what is.

The historic mystery has its roots in the Triangle Trade, and the money to be made there. Not just the slave trade itself, but also the sales of the cash crop from the Caribbean that the slaves produced. If you’re curious about the Triangle Trade, the best, and most colorful description is still the song “Molasses to Rum to Slaves” from the musical 1776. It indicts everyone involved.