Interview with Author Jessica Scott + Giveaway

Today I’d like to welcome back Jessica Scott, who recently published Back to You (reviewed here). If you enjoy military romance, or simply love contemporary romance with marvelous characters, Jessica’s Coming Home series is absolutely awesome. 


Marlene: Welcome back, Jessica! Can you please tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to since we last talked (in October 2012)?

Jessica: Wow, so much has changed since then. Let’s see, I’ve finished my first year of grad school and am still sane. We’re settled now in North Carolina for another year. I’m working on new books in the Coming Home series as well as getting ready to start an new series and I’m still working on my master’s thesis. So I guess a lot has changed and then again, not much has?

Marlene: Which came first, the fiction or the non-fiction? And why both?

Jessica: Fiction came first and the non fiction rose out of my journey both to Iraq as well as to become a published author.

Marlene: Of all the books in the series, which couple has generated the most fan comments? Were you surprised?

back to you by jessica scottJessica: I think Back to You has generated the most chatter. It took so long for me to find the right way to tell Laura & Trent’s story, I think a lot of people had expectations. For the most part, the folks who have contacted me have loved the way we managed to get their story beaten into shape, lol!

Marlene: And who is your personal favorite?

Jessica: It’s a toss up between Carponti (I’ll Be Home For Christmas) and Reza (All For You). Carponti is just instant stress relief but there really is something about Reza that touches something for me.

Will there be more books in Coming Home series? What is next on your schedule?

Jessica: So far, I’ve got two more books in the Coming Home series written and I’m hard at work on a third new one. There will be more news coming closer to the end of the year (hint hint: my newsletter will be the first to hear so go on ahead and sign up!)

Marlene: As busy as you are, what is your favorite thing about the writing experience and why?

Jessica: You know there are two things I really love: falling into the page as Stephen King would say and just losing yourself in the story. The other thing (and I may get kicked off the writer’s island for this one) is revisions. I absolutely love getting notes from my editor and diving in to make the changes because there’s little better than seeing the rough draft you’ve just pounded out take form into something that will really resonate with readers. My editor is critical to helping make my books better.

Marlene: What words of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Jessica: Learn what right feels like for you. If someone gives you feedback that doesn’t resonate, figure out why and stick to your guns. At the same time, you need to learn how to hear what people think about your story and learn to listen to honest feedback that’s trying to help you improve.

Marlene: What is the book you most want to read again for the first time?

Dragonflight by Ann McAffreyJessica: Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight. I first discovered her books almost twenty-five years ago and I didn’t realize when I first read it how much those books would influence my life as a writer. She had a truly special gift and I was deeply saddened when she passed a couple of years ago.

Marlene: Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn’t know to ask.

Jessica: Hmmm, let’s see. I’m addicted to ice cream much to my pant’s chagrin. I was just in Maine and one of the awesome things about being at home is that there are ice cream shops everywhere. Course this means I may not fit into my RITA dress this week, lol!

Marlene: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Jessica: Lately I’m more of a night owl. There’s just something about being awake after the whole house is asleep. I manage to get a lot done between about 10 pm and 2 am-ish.

Jessica ScottAbout Jessica Scott

USA Today bestselling author Jessica Scott is a career army officer; mother of two daughters, She’s written for the New York Times At War Blog, PBS Point of View: Regarding War Blog, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn and has served as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas. She’s pursuing a PhD in Sociology in her spare time and most recently, she’s been featured as one of Esquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year for 2012.To learn more about Jessica, visit her website or follow her on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.


Jessica is giving away copies of Back to You (U.S. and Canada only)! For a chance to win, use the Rafflecopter below:

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Review: It’s Always Been You by Jessica Scott + Giveaway

its always been you by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance
Series: Coming Home #5
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Forever
Date Released: March 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

She plays by the rules . . .

Captain Ben Teague is many things: a tough soldier, a loyal friend, and a bona fide smart-ass. He doesn’t have much tolerance for BS, which is why he’s mad as hell when a trusted colleague and mentor is brought up on charges that can’t possibly be true. He’s even more frustrated with by-the-book lawyer Major Olivia Hale. But there’s something simmering beneath her icy reserve–and Ben just can’t resist turning up the heat . . .

. . . and he’s determined to break them

The only thing riskier than mixing business with pleasure is enjoying it . . . and Olivia can’t resist locking horns–and lips–with Ben. He’s got more compassion in his little finger than any commander she’s ever met, a fact that makes him a better leader than he realizes. But when the case that brought them together awakens demons from Olivia’s past, she will have to choose between following orders–or her heart . . .

My Review:

I think that what makes Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series so marvelous is that it doesn’t artificially glorify the practice of war. Her soldiers are doing what they all feel is the absolutely necessary job of defending their country, but she doesn’t turn the firefights into gun-porn.

Her stories are about the emotional costs to the men and women who fight. It’s about the demons they face both on and off the battlefield. She also takes care to tell the story of just how difficult it is to be the one waiting at home.

It’s Always Been You is the story of two people who are fighting their own personal demons as they struggle to do their jobs. It’s a job that Major Olivia Hale, an army lawyer, believes in a little too much, and that Captain Ben Teague isn’t sure he still believes in at all.

Because of a shake-up, an entire battalion command has been reassigned and Ben Teague finds himself in command of a unit instead of pushing a desk. Because that shake-up is due to charges of all sorts of malfeasance, there are a lot of bad apples that need to be weeded out of the entire command. People who are not fit to go back to war, whether due to disciplinary issues or drug addictions.

Olivia Hale is attached to the battalion to expedite all the separations from service as the units begin intensive training for a deployment in eight months.

Ben Teague feels like he is punishing men that he used to fight beside; men who used to be good soldiers before too many deployments and too many drugs screwed them up. He wants to do right by his men, whether or not he’s doing right by the army.

Ben and Olivia butt heads from day one. Her duty is to process some of his soldiers out. He feels that his duty is to take care of his men.

Their conflict is embodied by two cases. One is of a soldier who just needs one more month to qualify for his G.I. Bill benefits. He’s a meth addict who may never rehab enough to take advantage of those benefits, but Ben wants to give him hope.

The other case is that of Ben’s First Sergeant. The evidence all points to the man having beaten his teenaged daughter. Ben is certain that the evidence isn’t the entire story. He can’t believe a man he served with could ever have hurt the daughter he loves.

But Olivia is haunted by one case, just like this one, where Ben’s unwillingness to investigate his fellow soldier resulted in a devastating family tragedy. She can’t let this case go.

The more that Olivia and Ben argue about the fate of his men, the more that they realize they need each other to help them through the intense responsibility involved in both their positions. Even though it’s a bad idea, they can’t resist each other. Then the tragedy strikes that Olivia feared all along.

Escape Rating A-: The contrast in their beliefs makes Olivia and Ben an explosive combination. He has pretty much stopped believing in the Army, and she is burning herself out because she believes that she can make a difference.

I wish we knew more about Ben’s relationship with his mother-the-Colonel. Her influence, and her lack of warmth toward Ben (or seemingly much of anyone after the death of Ben’s father) appears to be part of his lack of faith in the Army as a whole. Ben fears becoming just like her, and that is part of what makes him not want to take a command. He has seen too many commanders who either become too distanced from their soldiers, or who enjoy being “the man in charge” but don’t understand how responsible they are, how much they need to take care of, the soldiers in their unit.

Ben is as overwhelmed by that responsibility as Olivia is by her need to fix everything.

all for you by jessica scottWhile the reader is aware of the case that haunts Olivia, I would love to know more about where she came from. She reminds me of Emily Lindberg in All for You, she’s not career military but she’s on a mission to make a difference.

The love story starts slowly in this one. Ben and Olivia start out at opposite sides of every case. At first, they get together as stress relief, and they both absolutely need one. As the story progresses, it takes them awhile to figure out that they belong together. She helps him settle into his responsibility and he helps her let go when she needs it.

Just as in all the stories in this series, they are marvelous together, after they get past the rough patches. If you love military romance, start this series with Because of You. Because all the stories are so damn terrific, you’ll be glad you did.



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***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: All for You by Jessica Scott

all for you by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance, contemporary romance
Series: Coming Home #4
Length: 307 pages
Publisher: Forever Romance
Date Released: February 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Can a battle-scarred warrior . . .

Stay sober. Get deployed. Lead his platoon. Those are the only things that matter to Sergeant First Class Reza Iaconelli. What he wants is for everyone to stay out of his way; what he gets is Captain Emily Lindberg telling him how to deal with his men. Fort Hood’s newest shrink is smart as a whip and sexy as hell. She’s also full of questions—about the army, its soldiers, and the agony etched on Reza’s body and soul.

. . . open his heart to love?

Emily has devoted her life to giving soldiers the care they need—and deserve. Little does she know that means facing down the fierce wall of muscle that is Sergeant Iaconelli like it’s just another day at the office. When Reza agrees to help her understand what makes a soldier tick, she’s thrilled. Too bad it doesn’t help her unravel the sexy warrior in front of her who stokes her desire and touches a part of her she thought long dead. He’s the man who thinks combat is the only escape from the demons that haunt him. The man who needs her most of all . . .

My Review:

Like the previous entry in this series, Back to You, this is also a story that has been hovering in the background of the Coming Home series, at least since Until There Was You, because that’s where we really get to know Sgt. Reza Iaconelli.

until there was you scottIt’s not a good introduction, because when we first meet him, Reza is a mostly-functioning alcoholic, and a fully-functioning man-whore. In Until There Was You, Reza’s alcoholism causes a major screwup at a training exercise that his friends take the heat for, but Reza is given one last chance to sober up for good, or get discharged.

The military is the only home Reza has ever known. But staying sober is more difficult than facing enemy fire. He fights his cravings every single day, and temptation is always within reach.

He’s positive that Fort Hood’s new shrink doesn’t have a clue what makes any soldier tick. Her theories can’t be any match for the realities of facing combat.

But she fascinates him all the same. Especially because Emily Lindberg is willing to put herself in harm’s way so she can figure out how to help.

From the first moment that they meet, Emily can’t get Reza out of her mind. Not just because he starts out challenging everything she says, but because he’s everything she’s convinced herself she shouldn’t want.

But she can’t resist the adventure that he represents. And the more time they spend together, the more she realizes that he needs her to help him wrestle his demons every bit as much as she needs him to help her find the adventurous side of herself that she lost.

They try to convince themselves that it’s just a fling–but whatever they have is too explosive to be that simple.

Escape Rating A: All for You is not an easy story, but it is a marvelous one.

Reza does not start out exactly as romantic hero material; he fits the bill physically but emotionally he’s incredibly damaged. Not just because of his alcoholism, but as a result of everything else that’s wrong in his life. That he has a well-deserved reputation for chasing (and catching) every willing female doesn’t make him a good candidate for a relationship. Especially since he doesn’t believe in anything more than a fling.

Emily is a freshly-commissioned Captain–the rank seems to be an automatic result of her status as a psychiatrist. She doesn’t have combat experience, and she has an incredibly hard task to get any respect for her ideas of how to stem the tide of suicides running through the Base and the service. It’s her desire to help, her need to get the soldiers on her side, that drives her into the Army and into Reza’s path.

Emily’s desire to save lives is so strong that she has broken with her upper-crust family in order to serve. She never wanted to be a society wife, but she also joins the Army to get away from a bad breakup and a family where she has never quite fit. While she isn’t hurting to the degree that Reza is, she certainly needs some healing.

They need each other, even if initially it doesn’t seem to be for the same things. But what they both need is someone who will believe in them, no matter what.

Figuring that out is a hard and bumpy road, but the story of how they finally manage it is so worth reading.

***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: Back to You by Jessica Scott

back to you by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: Military Romance, Contemporary Romance
Series: Coming Home #3
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Forever
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

He’s in for the fight of his life . . .

Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn’t explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family-so he deployed again. And again. And again…until his marriage reached its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs …if she’ll have him

. . . to win back his only love.

Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she’s just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together. But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried-and a love that won’t be denied. But can she trust that this time he’s back to stay?

My Review:

Back to You is the story that everyone who has read Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series has been waiting for. And I’ll say that it was definitely worth the wait.

because of you by jessica scottTrent and Laura Davila have been part of the series from its very beginning, in the marvelous Because of You. As each of the men in Trent’s command have found their happily ever after, readers have been watching as Trent screwed up his own marriage. It’s been heartbreaking to watch, especially since it was so clear that there was much more going on than we saw in glimpses.

For one thing, Laura still loves her husband. She just doesn’t believe in him anymore. It’s not just what he’s done, it’s also what he hasn’t done, and hasn’t said.

She had no idea that Trent was volunteering for back-to-back deployments in combat zones. He let her believe that they were assignments he couldn’t refuse. Finding out the truth is Laura’s last straw; or maybe the next to the last.

The accusation of sexual misconduct is absolutely the last.

It’s pretty clear to followers of the series (and if you’re not, start!) that Trent isn’t guilty of that crime, or the embezzlement and theft charges that are also laid at his door. There is a rotten apple in Trent’s command, but he isn’t it.

But Trent withdraws from every friend he has during the investigation, and Laura decides she’s lost her faith, and her trust. She doesn’t know what to believe, since Trent isn’t talking to her.

She believes that she deserves more, even if it’s apart.

But Laura’s request for a divorce finally slams home the idea that Trent has a partner he still wants to come home to–if he can win her back.

It will be the hardest battle he’s ever been in.

ill be home for christmas by jessica scottEscape Rating A+: Back to You is a story that lives up to the anticipation that precedes it. Reading the previous stories in the series (Because of You, Anything for You, Until There Was You and I’ll Be Home for Christmas) we’ve known that this story was waiting to be told.

Like every story in this series, Back to You tugs at your heartstrings, and makes you reach for tissue. But there’s more to it than that.

This is a powerful and moving second-chance at love story, between two people who almost lost each other. The reason that Laura files for divorce resonates; she needs to know that she’s waiting for someone who wants to come back. She expected that Trent would be deployed, but she has the right to the truth about why it keeps happening. He keeps breaking her heart, but she doesn’t get to heal. So she finally decides to walk away.

While the court martial hangs over the story, it serves more as a catalyst than an actual threat. It forces Trent to make decisions about what is really important to him; his pride, his grief and his silence, or his wife and children.

It’s a hard journey. The grief and the feelings of responsibility, PTSD and survivors’ guilt, that Trent has to work through make the reader feel for his struggle. His re-entry into his family’s life is incredibly difficult. He wants to be there again, but he doesn’t know how.

The need to present a united family front in the face of his court martial bring all the simmering issues to a boil.

The romance in this love story is about whether they can find a way back to each other. They’ve never stopped loving each other. Their journey back is something special.

If you enjoy military romance, read this series.

***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.

Once More with Feeling: The Best Ebook Romances of 2013

LJ 2013 Best BooksIn spite of what the opening paragraph of the article at Library Journal says, this is actually the third year that I’ve been asked to choose the Best Ebook Romances of the Year for Library Journal.

Just check the archives, if you’re terribly curious, here are the links to the 2011 and 2012 lists. This is one of the most fun things I get to do all year that can be more or less labeled as work, even though, as what I call reverse full-disclosure, Library Journal does not pay for the writing of this particular article or for the book reviewing I do for them.

Creating this list is always personal for me. These are books or series that I read or am in the middle of. They are the books that I gave either A ratings or 4.5 or 5 star ratings to, depending on where I did the review. Or in a few cases, B+ reviews of books I absolutely couldn’t get out of my head.

The first year, I was told to list 5 books. Last year, 5-ish. This year, my editor said 10 from the start. I think she figured out that I cheat and list series. I did again this year and went over the limit.

skies of gold by zoe archerArcher, Zoë. Skies of Gold. Avon Impulse. (Ether Chronicles, Bk. 5). ebk. ISBN 9780062241443. STEAMPUNK ROMANCE (4.5 star review)

The first four books in the Ether Chronicles (Skies of Fire, Night of Fire, Skies of Steel, Night of Steel) were on my 2012 list for good reason; this series is simply awesome steampunk worldbuilding. Also we have all the story possibilities inherent in a world war, but with airships and “ether” power. While Skies of Gold is a more than worthy successor to the first four books in the series, it is unfortunately the last book in the series. If you love steampunk romance, you’ll be enthralled. And then sad that it’s over.

forged in blood 1 by Lindsay BurokerBuroker, Lindsay. Forged in Blood I. ebk. ISBN 9781301493357. Forged in Blood II. ebk. ISBN 9781301349876. ea. vol: Lindsay Buroker. (Emperor’s Edge). FANTASY ROMANCE
I’ve adored the first five volumes of The Emperor’s Edge series (The Emperor’s Edge, Dark Currents, Deadly Games, Conspiracy, Blood and Betrayal) so much that I haven’t wanted to see it end. So I’ll confess that I put the entire series on the list even though only the last two books were published in 2013, and I’ve been saving reading the ending for a treat for myself. LJ was slightly puristic about things and only put the 2013 titles as the main entry on the list. The Emperor’s Edge is Epic Fantasy with a touch of Steampunk. The primary story isn’t a romance, but, and it’s a truly lovely but, there is a romantic subplot. Or maybe that’s sub-subplot. Our heroine convinces the best assassin not to kill her, and keeps on convincing him to help her, even though everyone tells her he’s just a heartless killing machine. Of course he’s not. Well, not completely.

[Bittersweet Blood by Nina Croft]Croft, Nina. Bittersweet Blood. Entangled. (Order, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781622669592. PARANORMAL ROMANCE (A- Review)
What a difference just a few days makes! At the time I wrote the article, I was just about to read the second book in Croft’s Order series, Bittersweet Magic (B+ Review). I didn’t want to jinx things by listing it, but I shouldn’t have worried. What’s so much fun about this paranormal romance series is that the standard definitions don’t really apply; the vampires maintain the Order of the Shadow Accords on Earth to prevent the Fae and the Demons from repeating their use of Earth as the battleground in the long-running Fae/Demon war. The contemporary fallout seems to be over the descendants of the Fae Juliet and the Demon Romeo of that war. But Demons are immortal, so Romeo isn’t dead. But his half blood daughter is ground zero for armageddon, and only the vampires can protect her. Make that one vampire with a personal “stake” in the result. The world-building in this just keeps getting better, and the love stories more complex.

black dog blues by rhys fordFord, Rhys. Black Dog Blues. Coffee Squirrel. (Kai Gracen, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781301668625. M/M PARANORMAL ROMANCE (4.5 Star Review)
This is a dark and gritty post-apocalyptic urban fantasy much more than it is a paranormal romance. There are several characters in this story who care a great deal for the elfin Kai Gracen, but Kai doesn’t even like himself enough to be ready for more than friendship with anyone else. He’ll get there, but he isn’t there yet. The story drops us into Kai’s world as it is; we know what he knows. We don’t know why or how the sidhe suddenly merged with what used to be our normal, just that Kai has to endure whatever crap gets thrown his way. It’s the person who emerges from the endurance that makes the story. That and dodging the dragons mating over the Mojave Desert.

Take What You Want by Jeanette GreyGrey, Jeanette. Take What You Want. Samhain. ebk. ISBN 9781619213746.
Ignore the New Adult label. Take What You Want is an absolutely marvelous contemporary romance that just so happens to be about two people in college. Ellen can’t go away for Spring Break, so she takes a vacation from herself. Just for a few days, she tries to be someone a bit different; instead of being shy and retreating into her books, Ellen buys sexy clothes on sale, goes to a townie bar and picks up the hottest guy in the place. She pretends to be “New Ellen” for just one night. Josh thinks no-strings-attached sex with a girl that he’s had a crush on since freshman year is a fantastic idea, but he knows exactly who she is. Ellen really doesn’t recognize him without his glasses. The next night is where pretense starts butting up against reality, because he wants to turn their one-night-stand into something more and New Ellen and regular Ellen have a difficult time deciding the difference between what they should want and what they do want.

armies of heaven by jane kindredKindred, Jane. The Armies of Heaven. Entangled. (House of Arkhangel’sk). ebk. ISBN 9781620611067. FANTASY ROMANCE (4.5 star review)
The fall of the House of Arkangel’sk is a deliciously complicated blend of the historic fall of the Russian Imperial House of Romanov with Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen with more than few tablespoons of the deviance, decadence and twisted political machinations of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. There is love to be found, but the path to reach it leads through dark places, and our preconceived notions of good and evil, right and wrong, do not apply in Kindred’s Courts of Heaven. The best man in the entire series is a demon, although he would never think of himself as good. The biggest fool is a certainly an angel, and he would definitely label himself as such. The series begins with The Fallen Queen (4.5 star review) and continues with The Midnight Court (A Review) before the conclusion in The Armies of Heaven. Prepare to be enthralled.

how to misbehave by ruthie knoxKnox, Ruthie. How To Misbehave. ebk. ISBN 9780345545305. (4 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Along Came Trouble. ebk. ISBN 9780345541611. (5 star review)
Knox, Ruthie. Flirting with Disaster. ebk. ISBN 9780345541703. (A- Review)
Knox, Ruthie. Making It Last. ebk. ISBN 9780345549297.
ea. vol: Loveswept: Random. (Camelot). 4-vol. set. ebk. ISBN 9780804180436. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
This small town romance series set in central Ohio is all about the Clark siblings, Amber, Katie and Caleb. Knox specializes in contemporary romances where real people solve very real problems while going through major life experiences. The tension in her stories comes from the kind of situations that cause stress in ordinary life; trying to reinvent yourself, trying to maintain a marriage, dealing with grief, not dealing with grief, returning home, being part of the sandwich generation, financial stress. The difference is that Knox makes her characters people that we all identify with and lets them have a fantastically steamy romance while they resolve their problems. Her stories pull at your heartstrings and make you smile. Every single time.

case of the displaced detective omnibus edition by stephanie osbornOsborn, Stephanie. The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Twilight Times. SF ROMANCE
I adore Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings, with the exception of the whatever-it-is that Guy Ritchie birthed with Robert Downey Jr. (who should stick to Iron Man). But I seriously digress. I read, and reviewed, Stephanie Osborn’s Case of the Displaced Detective somewhat in its originally published parts: The Arrival (A- Review), At Speed (B+ Review) and The Case of the Cosmological Killer (B Review). In the case of Stephanie Osborn’s continuing opus, I very much admire her concept of a Holmes who is not quite our Holmes and has an excuse for being so. She has used theories of quantum physics to create not just a possible universe where Holmes would have been a flesh-and-blood person, but to create causality that would bring that person into our 21st century. He is not quite the “thinking machine” of Conan Doyle’s fiction because he is not supposed to be, and that opens up a world of possibilities. Real human beings, after all, feel real emotions as they solve mysteries. Sometimes they even fall in love.

The Story Guy by Mary Ann RiversRivers, Mary Ann. The Story Guy. Loveswept: Random. ebk. ISBN 9780345548740. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE (A- Review)
There was only one thing wrong with this story. It was too short, and at the time it was written, it was the only thing available by Mary Ann Rivers. The story is absolutely awesome, I wanted more by this author, and there just wasn’t anything else, yet.
What’s a “story guy”? A story guy is someone who may or may not be long-term relationship material, but who will, sometime in the future after the heartache is over, make a terrific story. Librarian Carrie West answers a personal ad from a very hot guy for one hour of kissing in the park every week. The answers to the questions about why this unattached and gorgeous man is willing to settle for so little for himself, and to make sure that no one is able to get attached to him, make for one marvelous and nearly heartbreaking love story. (And if you fall in love with The Story Guy you’ll probably also love Ruthie Knox’ Big Boy.)

Anything for You book coverScott, Jessica. Anything for You. Loveswept: Random. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.5). ebk. ISBN 9781301165766. (A+ Review)
Scott, Jessica. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.6). ebk. ISBN 9781455554249. (A Review) MILITARY ROMANCE
Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series, which began in 2011’s Because of You (A Review) and continued in 2012 with Until There Was You (A- Review), is a military romance series that gets to the heart of what it means to love someone who serves in the military, because author Scott is herself a career army officer and is married to a career NCO. So instead of writing about the glory of the battlefield, she writes about the toll that deployments take on a family with inside knowledge of what it’s like to wonder if someone is coming home, and how hard it is to wait and worry. She’s able to convey the emotional cost to a soldier with a career-ending injury, not just because his body is messed-up, but because he’s lost his purpose and he’s worried about the people he’s left behind. If you want to read a military romance with real heart, read Jessica Scott.

That’s it for this list. The specific requirements for the Library Journal list were that they all had to be ebooks, either ebook-only or ebook-first, or ebook-mostly. In some cases, there is a print available on demand, but the ebook looks like the primary format, or it did at the time. Also, for this list, there had to be a romance in the story. Yes, a couple of times you have to be looking for the romance, it’s not the primary plot. But there had to at least be a romantic element.

I used to be able to put this list in preference order, but it’s gotten too big. And there’s kind of an apples/bananas problem. How do you compare a steampunk romance to a paranormal romance when they are both at the top of their respective trees?

I will do a “best of the year” list next week (which includes a few contributions from my friend Cass!) These type of lists are loads of fun. It’s great to look back and see what I’ve read and which books stick in the mind by the end of the year.

Review: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Jessica Scott

ill be home for christmas by jessica scottFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance, Holiday romance
Series: Coming Home #2.6
Length: 126 pages
Publisher: Forever Yours / Grand Central Publishing
Date Released: November 5, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

There’s nothing in the world Army Sergeant Vic Carponti loves more than his wife and his country. Smart-mouthed and easy tempered, he takes everything as a joke…except his promise to come home to his wife, Nicole, for Christmas. As he prepares to leave for his latest deployment into Iraq, Vic will do everything he can to shield his beautiful, supportive wife from the realities of war…and from his own darkest fears.

As a career army wife, Nicole Carponti knows just what to expect from her husband’s tour of duty: loneliness, relentless worry, and a seemingly endless countdown until the moment Vic walks through the door again. But when the unthinkable happens, Nicole and Vic’s bond is tested like never before and changes everything they believe to be true about the power of love and the simple beauty of being home for the holidays.

My Review:

In this story the author finally takes one of the most interesting (and funny!) characters in her marvelous Coming Home series and lets us get inside of his more than slightly off-kilter head for his version of the events that take place during the story so far.

And it’s fantastic seeing Sergeant Vic Carponti’s extremely askew version of the world from inside his head.

While Vic sees his purpose in life as making people laugh in order to distract them from the often truly bad shit that is going on around them, such as serving in Iraq during “The Surge” of 2007, he is also part of the one stable and happy marriage that readers see during the course of the series.

because of you by jessica scottBut it’s Vic dealing with his career-ending injuries in Because of You, the first book in the series, that helps to make Shane Garrison finally get his head out of his own ass about his. Vic is often the catalyst for the action of others. He makes things happen, sometimes by making them laugh, sometimes by irritating the crap out of them.

Vic’s wife Nicole loves him to pieces. I’ll Be Home for Christmas is their love story, even though they’ve already met, fallen in love, and gotten married. Their marriage, unlike another marriage in the series, is not on the rocks. The Carpontis are quite happily married, and enthusiastic about it into the bargain.

The love story here is about the toll that deployments take on a marriage, and how difficult it is for the spouse that remains behind. How much the worrying weighs on Nikki when Vic is at war, and how difficult it is to keep from thinking that each phone call is going to be the last time they talk.

They try to be strong for each other, because they are each doing the thing they are made to do. It’s not as if Nikki’s job is easy either. She’s an officer in the Army Criminal Investigative Division. But being a cop is not as dangerous as going to war.

Vic fears every time he deploys, that Nikki will come to her senses and realize that she can do better than him. Nikki just fears that he’ll come back in a coffin.

Neither of them has quite prepared for him to mostly come back.

Anything for You book coverEscape Rating A: If you love military romance, I can’t recommend Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series highly enough. Every single book in this series is simply awesome, which is why I picked I’ll Be Home for Christmas to review for Veterans Day. I knew it would be perfect, and it is.

The story takes place in parallel with events in Because of You (review) and Anything for You (review), and it probably works better if you’ve read those first. But read the whole series, they are absolutely made of win.

Part of what makes I’ll Be Home for Christmas special is that we don’t read a lot of love stories where the couple in the story starts out happily married. There’s no breakup drama or misunderstandammit. Vic and Nikki have stress because of his deployment, and they are both concerned because in 2007 the information about The Surge was that there was going to be a lot of pushback. He was absolutely going into harm’s way.

There is tons of stress on military families, and it takes a huge toll. That’s where the drama in this story is. As readers, we know they are going to be okay together, because it’s already happened, but this is the first time we get to see things from Vic’s and Nikki’s points of view.

And since they are fantastic people (and in Vic’s case, sometimes hilariously funny), it’s terrific to have them finally tell their own story.

Be prepared; you’ll need kleenex for this one. And maybe not to be too far from a bathroom. You’ll also laugh very hard!

***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: Anything For You by Jessica Scott

Anything but You book cover Jessica ScottFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Military romance, Contemporary romance
Series: Coming Home #2.5
Length: 42 pages
Publisher: Tormia Creatives
Date Released: February 1, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison has spent a year recovering from his combat injuries. A year spent in the arms of the woman of his dreams. But loving Jen comes with a price: every time he touches her, he faces the uncertain fear that loving her might mean losing her forever.

Jen is a breast cancer survivor and with Shane, she’s found a man who loves her despite her scars. But her scars may be too much for their love to survive.

As their love grows, so does the risk to Jen’s life. And Shane must make the toughest decision any man can make to save the woman he loves.

My Review:

because of you book cover Jessica ScottIf you’ve read Jessica Scott’s Because of You (review here), then you absolutely have to read Anything for You. If you love romance with military heroes, then click over and get Because of You right this minute. (If you don’t have an ereader or iPad, just read it on your computer!)

If you have a remotely romantic bone in your body, you will love Because of You. And then you’ll have to read Anything for You.

Anything for You is a short story. And the length is just right. We’ve already seen Shane and Jen’s happily ever after. Or at least that’s what we thought.

But “ever after” is always going to be a question for these two. Their love for each other is never in doubt. Not for a single, solitary moment. But both of them are all too aware that they might not have forever.

Shane is Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison, and he fell in love with Jen while recovering from severe combat injuries. His year of strenuous physical therapy has brought him a world of pain, and hundreds of nights in Jen’s arms, but the purpose of it all has been to get him ready to go back to his men. Back to the sandbox of war.

Jen knows that one of these times he might not come back. She’s a nurse at the base hospital.

But Shane fears just as much that he might lose Jen. Before he met her, Jen survived a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. Yes, she survived, but she’ll always have the scars. She lost a breast to the disease. It could easily have been her life.

Women who have survived her form of breast cancer are particularly susceptible to having their cancer reappear during pregnancy. As much as Shane would love to have a child with Jen, and as much as she would love to have a child with him, Shane can’t bear the thought that if she got pregnant, he might have to make a choice between Jen’s life and their child’s life.

If she ever got pregnant, Jen wouldn’t be able to have chemotherapy because of the risk to that possible child. Shane doesn’t like those odds. The cancer might not recur. This might not happen. But this kind of cancer has too high a chance of recurring if Jen gets pregnant. Too high a chance that Shane might lose the love of his life.

Shane, soldier that he is, can’t fight the cancer for her. But he also can’t face losing Jen over something he can prevent.

However, most birth control methods have failure rates. There’s one that doesn’t, and it’s one that he can take care of, all by himself.

It takes an incredible amount of love for a man to be willing to let anyone near his family jewels with a knife. But if he doesn’t discuss it with Jen first, she may get to his balls with that cutting implement ahead of the surgeon.

Escape Rating A+: For fans of Scott’s Coming Home series, Anything For You is the perfect treat to tide us over until Back to You arrives later this year.

But on its own, this story is also a fantastic coda to Shane and Jen’s love story. There is just the right touch of bitter with the sweet. They have found each other, but they both have real fears that they have to face up to. They do so with the author’s trademark emotional intensity and off-beat humor.

Wipe the tear from the corner of your eye. Laugh. And pass the frozen peas.

***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.

Interview with Author Jessica Scott + Giveaway!

I’d like to welcome today’s special guest, Jessica Scott, to Reading Reality. Jessica is the author of two incredibly marvelous, and I do mean marvelous, contemporary romances with military heroes, Because of You and Until There Was You. (I absolutely loved both books, see my reviews for Because and Until to get the details of just how much and why)

In addition to being a romance writer, Jessica is also a career soldier.  She really took that advice about “write what you know” to heart. And it shows in her work.

Let’s hear what she has to say about it.

Marlene: Hello Jessica! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Jessica: Um, I’m a generally crazy person who has a mouth that has been getting her in trouble for 17 years (aka her entire adult life).

Marlene: What are the extra-special work/life/writing balance issues of being a serving soldier? (And wow and thank you for your service!)

Jessica: There is no balance. I challenge the assumption that balance is something we can achieve. Something always ends up short. During the duty day, I’m focused on work. At home, I try to focus on the kids. When I’m on deadline, I have to make that a priority. So there is no balance, it’s a matter of which way the scales tip today.

Marlene: How did you come up with your blog post on “Things that Happen During Sex You Won’t Read in Romance Novels“? Why haven’t more people seen the comic possibilities of a novel based on this?

Jessica: I honestly don’t remember how I came up with that post but I remember giggling my tail off when I wrote it. It got a lot of traffic, too! Some contemp authors like Victoria Dahl have me laughing my tail off so it’s out there. 🙂

Marlene: You talk about some of your “trunk novels” on your blog. They sound like they are near and dear to your heart. Do you have any plans to publish any of them?

Jessica: Not right now. They would need to be a complete and total rewrite and right now, I have to focus on the stories that my publisher is paying me to write. 🙂

Marlene: Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

Jessica: I’d love to be one of those gifted writers that can just write and let the story come but whenever I do that, I end up stuck at about 25K words. At that point, if the story won’t let me go, I sit down and figure out the major plot points, characters etc., before going forward. It helps me tremendously.

Marlene: Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

Jessica: All the time, that’s why there’s a delete button. 🙂

Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read and why?

Jessica: The Hunger Games. It’s such an important commentary on our time.

Marlene: Will there be more books in the Coming Home series? What is next on your schedule?

Jessica: I certainly hope so! Right now I’m finishing up Laura & Trent’s book for Back to You and after that, Reza’s story is coming along nicely. Beyond that, I can’t say 🙂

Marlene: Coffee or Tea?

Jessica: Oh coffee all day long!

Jessica Scott is a career army officer, mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, wife to a career NCO and wrangler of all things stuffed and fluffy. She is a terrible cook and even worse housekeeper, but she’s a pretty good shot with her assigned weapon and someone liked some of the stuff she wrote. Somehow, her children are pretty well adjusted and her husband still loves her, despite burned water and a messy house.
You can find Jessica on her website | blog | Goodreads | twitter


Jessica Scott is giving away one ebook copy of Because of You and Until There was You to one lucky commenter.

All you have to do is answer the question in the Rafflecopter.

Because these are ebook copies, this giveaway is open to all!

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Until There Was You by Jessica Scott

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: military romance, contemporary romance
Series: Coming Home #2
Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Loveswept (Random House)
Date Released: October 8, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

Though he plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed military leaders will prove that opposites attract . . . even under fire.

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure—except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. Since that brief lapse in judgment, Evan has been at odds with her. But when he is asked to train a combat team alongside Claire, battle-hardened Evan is in for the fight of his life.

Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to achieve her high military rank. In Evan Loehr, Claire sees a spoiled commander who puts the rules before everything else—including his people. Army orders force them together and Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He too has dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

Not all scars are visible. And no one can be changed unless they want to change. Jessica Scott’s Coming Home series isn’t so much military romance per se as it is romance featuring men and women in the military or attached to the military and the struggles they face at re-integrating into civilian life.

The absolutely fantastic Because of You (see my review for full scope of fantastic) looked at the difficulties an ultra-responsible First Sergeant faced when he was forced away from his men due to a severe, and probably career-ending, physical injury. It highlighted the struggles that soldiers face when they return home with shattered or missing limbs.

The story of Until There Was You turns to a different aspect of coming home. The couple in this story,  Captains Claire Montoya and Evan Loehr, are both still in the fight, but currently are not deployed. Hence the problem. They’d both rather be downrange instead of training others to go. Even worse, the commander who drew up the training plan is more interested in making sure his lieutenants know how to conduct a flawless power-point briefing than escort a supply convoy with a minimum number of casualties.

Also, Claire and Evan has been verbally sniping at each other for three years, ever since one ill-advised but oh-so-delicious kiss at the end of a “hail and farewell” that Evan almost didn’t attend.

Evan’s approach is totally by the book, and Claire’s is completely by the seat of her pants. She came up through the ranks and OCS, in other words, a mustang. Evan graduated from West Point. He’s never been anything but an officer. Their approaches never match.

But they do. They’re even the same rank. The non-frat rules don’t apply. It’s just a horribly bad idea. Evan doesn’t date within the military. And Claire tries to pretend she’s just one of the guys.

But when they are thrown back together as part of an insane training operation at a ski lodge, in the snow, training unprepared troops for Iraq, in the desert, it makes both of them re-think a whole lot of things.

Both Evan and Claire have dark demons in their pasts that make them push each other’s buttons, and push each other away. They’ve both learned that losing control, not having control, causes nothing but pain.

But they need each other a lot more than they need to hang onto the old scars. The question is whether they will realize it in time to save anything; their soldiers, their careers, or each other.

Escape Rating A-: The commander who creates the cluster-snafu training exercise that forms the backdrop to this terrific romance doesn’t ever make much sense. He may be all too real, but he doesn’t become enough of a real character to be more than just a paper tiger.

The romance between Claire and Evan is hot, sweet and threaded with pain. Once you see into Claire’s background, you also get an understanding of what brought her to this point in her life, and where the third character in this story fits in. Claire has an enlisted friend, Reza, who she is protecting from rehab. Protecting him not just because he’s her friend and he’s a terrific soldier, but because she’s repeating a childhood pattern that she can’t break, but must break out of to heal. Claire’s father was an alcoholic, and not all of Claire’s scars are physical. The Army gives her control because she had none growing up.

Evan lost control once in his life, and he’s paid for it ever since. That’s why he needs the control the Army gives him. But to make a relationship together, both of them have to give up some control. Watching them battle their demons is the hard part of the story.

Going in, you think the issue is going to be PTSD. It’s not. That might have been less painful. Ms. Scott does an excellent job at making the readers feel her characters’ pain and grief, so this one almost hurts to read. But it is so worth it.

***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: Because of You by Jessica Scott

Format read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary romance, Military romance
Series: Coming Home #1
Length: 262 pages
Publisher: Loveswept (Random House)
Date Released: November 14, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

Keeping his men alive is all that matters to Sergeant First Class Shane Garrison. But meeting Jen St. James the night before his latest deployment makes Shane wonder if there’s more to life than war. He leaves for Iraq remembering a single kiss with a woman he’ll never see again—until a near fatal attack lands him back at home and in her care.

Jen has survived her own brush with death and endured its scars. And yet there’s a fire in Shane that makes Jen forget all about her past. He may be her patient, but when this warrior looks her in the eyes, she feels—for the first time in a long time—like a woman. Shane is too proud to ask for help, but for Jen, caring for him is more than a duty—it’s a need. And as Jen guides Shane through the fires of healing, she finds something she never expected—her deepest desire.

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a military romance. It’s a contemporary romance where a significant number of the characters,  including the hero, are career military and their families who are dealing with the issues resulting from repeated deployments or from what happens when they stop.

For many soldiers, coming home is more difficult than going downrange. The military has rules and regulations. Families and civilian life, that’s something else again. And for some, the military is home, and there’s no place for them when they come home too physically broken by war to go back to the sandbox.

We know this happens in civilian life too, to people who take their identities from their jobs, and have nothing left when they retire. How much more so for someone trained to be a soldier? Trained to fight for his (or her) country. Who can’t go back to take care of the people they are trained to help keep out of harm’s way.

Shane Garrison is a Sergeant First Class. It’s his job to keep his men in line, train them, and get as many of them as possible home in one piece. His responsibility is all he has, all he knows. To the point that he sacrificed his marriage to it. (She probably wasn’t worth keeping, anyway.)

But on his last night Stateside, he meets Jen St. James. They only share one kiss, but it makes a sweet memory for him to hold onto during his deployment in Iraq. In 2007. During the Surge.

He comes home with his legs nearly shattered. And Jen, she’s the nurse who will be taking care of him.

But more than Shane’s legs are crushed. He’ll never go back downrange, and he knows it. The Army may find another job for him, but he’ll never go back to be with his men. He doesn’t have an identity beyond being Sarn’t G. If he’s not taking care of them, who is he?

He wanted to come back after deployment and see if Jen might want to take a chance on him, but not like this. He feels useless. He has men in the hospital that he can’t help, because he thinks he can’t help himself.

Shane believes that Jen couldn’t possibly understand what it feels like to lose control, to not be whole. He has no idea of the scars that she is hiding beneath her uniform. But first they have to trust each other. Something that is just as difficult for her as it is for him.

And Shane has to get his head out of his keister and figure out that his men still need him. Even more important, that the part of him that he needs to help them isn’t his legs, it’s his brain. Or maybe his heart. And both of those are still working just fine. More or less. Or at least they don’t need PT.

Escape Rating A: I read this one twice, once back in the Spring, after I saw all the recommendations, and again this week. I still remembered most of it, but it was more than good enough to stand up to a second read. Was it ever!

Not all battles are fought on the battlefield. Jen fought her own fight against cancer, and won, but she still fights every day. To feel whole, to feel normal, to feel worthy of being loved and wanted. It takes her a long time to let her guard down with Shane. Almost too long.

The most difficult struggles are the ones that the families fight at home. Waiting, hoping and not knowing. This one is embodied in Jen’s best friend Laura, the wife of Shane’s company commander Trent. Laura and Trent’s story is heart-breaking, because Laura gives up. I want to see their unfinished business get finished–Laura is a fantastic character in her own right and an awesome friend to Jen.

Because of You is a terrific story at showing the slow burn of love. Shane and Jen don’t jump into the sack when they first meet, and then, it’s simply not possible as Shane heals. What does happen is their initial attraction develops depth and trust, bit by slow bit. They earn their HEA. They fight for it.

***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.