Guest Post by Author Blair McDowell on The Real Romantic Road + Giveaway

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Blair McDowell back to Reading Reality. Her most recent book, Romantic Road (reviewed here) was absolutely awesome. Actually, I think all of her books have been marvelous. I first discovered Blair’s work when I reviewed Delighting In Your Company back in 2012. I’ve eagerly awaited every new book, because she writes marvelous love stories with interesting twists and fascinating backgrounds. Every story has lots of lovely layers to immerse yourself in.

The Real Romantic Road
by Blair McDowell

It was quite by accident that I first discovered the Romantische Strasse, an ancient Roman road that winds through picturesque old walled towns, from Wurzburg to Augsburg in Germany. I had flown into Frankfurt on my way to Budapest for a meeting. With some days to spare, I decided to rent a car at the airport in Frankfurt and drive to my destination in Hungary.

Romantic Road by Blair McDowellWhat I hadn’t counted on was the German autobahn. I realized within the first half hour on this raceway that I was no match for German drivers. I had rented the smallest and cheapest car available, and I was surrounded by Mercedes and BMWs all traveling at the speed of light. Driving at about seventy miles an hour, I was in mortal danger. Not content with merely passing me, drivers pulled up to about three inches behind me and madly flick their high beams. Since I was already in the far right lane I’m not sure where they expected me to pull over. In full blown terror I looked for a way out. When I saw a sign saying “Miltenberg” I took the exit. Within a few minutes I was in a peaceful countryside, on a meandering two lane road, with almost nobody on it but me. An hour or so later, I was on the outskirts of a walled medieval town on the River Main. Exhausted by both a sleepless overnight flight and my hair-raising autobahn experience I decided to spend the night there.

rothenburg-1I parked my car outside the walls and walked through a huge stone archway into a setting that might have come out of Grimm’s fairy tales. Cobblestone streets, ancient houses huddled close together, and best of all, no cars. I checked into the Zum Riesen, an inn so old I had to duck to get through doorways. People were shorter in the fifteenth century.

The bed was heaven; I sank into oblivion with a huge square down pillow under my head and a plump down duvet over the rest of me.
In the morning, as I enjoyed my breakfast of black bread, ham and cheese, and strong black coffee, the proprietor said to me, “You’re traveling our Romantische Strasse, then?

That’s how, quite by accident, I discovered the Romantic Road.

RothenburgWallThe three medieval towns that officially make up the Romantische Strasse are Nördlingen, Dinkelsbuhl, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The one that stayed most in my mind after exploring this part of southern Germany was Rothenburg. Surrounded by high stone walls interspersed with vast arched gates, it is a reminder of how perilous life must have been six hundred years ago. Tall houses stand huddled close together. From a small park, I could see the surrounding hilly countryside for miles ­- an advantageous position for a fortress town that had to be ready at a moment’s notice to close its gates and defend itself from attack.

The town center was a wide square with a clock tower, a town hall, and a gate chillingly named the Hangman’s Gate. It was evocative of a distant and dangerous time, especially when seen on a chilly, rainy March day, as I first saw it.

RothenburgHillsI returned to the Romantische Strasse many times over the ensuing years. I knew that someday I would have to bring a story to this setting. It was in Rothenberg that the plot of Romantic Road began to take shape. A heroine, I didn’t yet know her name, would take refuge here, pursued by someone who meant her harm. The title, I decided, would be double-entendre, reflecting both the old Roman road with the medieval towns on it, and the personal romantic road of my heroine’s life.

This was the kernel from which my novel of romantic suspense, Romantic Road, grew.


Blair McDowell 2About Blair McDowell

Blair McDowell wrote her first short story when she was eleven and has never ceased writing since, although only recently has she been able to return to her first love, writing fiction.  During her early years, she taught in universities in the United States, Canada and Australia, and wrote several highly successful books in her field.Her research has taken her to many interesting places.  She has lived in Europe, Australia, the United States and the Caribbean and Canada, and spent considerable time in still other places, Iceland, the Far East, and the Torres Strait Islands off the coast of New Guinea. Now she travels for pleasure. Portugal, Greece and Italy are favorite haunts.

Her books are set in places she knows and loves and are peopled with characters drawn from her experiences of those places.   The Memory of Roses takes readers to the Greek Island of Corfu, where a young woman finds her future while searching for her father’s past.  In Delighting in Your Company, the reader is transported to a small island in the Caribbean, with a heroine who finds herself in the unenviable position of falling in love with a ghost.  The setting for Sonata is the city of Vancouver, with its vibrant multicultural population and its rich musical life, and the heroine is a musician who finds herself in unexpected danger.

In her most recent release, Romantic Road, Lacy Telchev, is pursued along Germany’s famous Romantische Strausse as she follows clues left by her late husband in order to solve a mystery that she doesn’t understand, while being chased by dangerous and cunning adversaries.

She hopes her readers will enjoy reading these books as much as she enjoyed writing them. Blair is a member of the Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of America (Greater Vancouver Chapter), the Romance Writers of America (Women’s Fiction), and The Writers’ Union of Canada.

To learn more about Blair, visit her website and blog and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Blair is giving away two e-copies of Romantic Road! For a chance to win, enter the Rafflecopter below.

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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.

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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: Love At Stake by Victoria Davies + Giveaway

love at stake by victoria daviesFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Fated Match #1
Length: 225 pages
Publisher: Entangled Covet
Date Released: January 27, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Abbey is the lone human working for Fated Match, a company that pairs members of the supernatural community with their eternal mates.

To snag a young vampire socialite as their next client, Abbey journeys to the home of Lucian Redgrave, the oldest vampire on the East Coast. But he’s not willing to allow his vampire daughter to use the agency… unless Abbey can first find his perfect match in a month.

As Abbey coaches Lucian through his dates, she can’t deny the chemistry between them. But humans are toys for vampires, and risking her heart isn’t a part of the plan.

My Review:

This was the perfect antidote, or make that the perfect reading change of pace, after a series of very big books with earth shattering themes.

Not that I didn’t enjoy those, but it’s a different kind of enjoy.

Love at Stake was frothy, refreshing and just plain fun. And I really needed a fun book, so it was fantastic.

Also fangtastic, since the hero is a vampire.

Love at Stake is a contemporary/paranormal romance about two people who move in totally different worlds, discovering that they are just right for each other, even though “conventional” wisdom would say they have nothing in common.

So it’s a kind of opposites attract romance. Not just opposite because Lucien Redgrave is a vampire, but also that he is a major player in vampire politics and big business. Without the fangs, Lucien could easily be the hero of a “billionaire” love story.

Abbey is a human who got into the supernatural world by accident. Her mother got bit by a were-badger. (Badger!?!) And its not just that Abbey is human, but that she works for a living in a supernatural matchmaking business.

Of course, the matchmaking business brings them together, but not as a match. Lucien’s daughter wants to use Fated Match to find herself a true mate. Lucien is certain that no computer program can find anyone their mate. He won’t let his daughter sign up until he vets the service first.

Lucien challenges (or let’s call it a bit) that Fated Match can’t find his mate within 30 days. If the company wins, his daughter can sign up. If the company loses…there will be a lot of disappointment all around.

Except that Lucien can’t make himself concentrate on any of the women that might be his match. He’s become fascinated with Abbey. Even though vampire-human matches are not supposed to be possible.

From the beginning, Abbey’s job is at stake. She has to find Lucien’s mate or she’ll lose her job. But long before the time is up, Abbey realizes that what is really on the line is her heart.

Because Lucien claims that he doesn’t have one.

Escape Rating A-: Love at Stake is a paranormal romance where the paranormal elements take a back seat to the romance. But it’s a very plush, leather upholstered back seat in the back of an expensive limo.

The story is about two people who shouldn’t find each other, but do. And because they both know that a relationship between them is not supposed to work, they resist their attraction as long as possible, and with enough suppressed steam to heat my iPad’s circuits.

Abbey is certain that Lucien is out of her league, not just species-wise, but also socially, economically, and she’s certain he’s way too gorgeous for her average self.

Lucien sees a woman who brings life to everything she touches. Her humanity makes every experience fresh and new, something he hasn’t felt for over 900 years. She makes him feel alive.

But they both believe it can’t work. So they pretend it isn’t. The number of times they hurt each other, and themselves, is a little heartbreaking. And it completely sucked me in.

Discovering that Love at Stake is the first book in the Fated Match series is excellent news! I want more!

And if Love at Stake turns out to be your cup of tea, (or glass of red wine), take a look at Jessica Sims’ Beauty Dates the Beast for more supernatural matchmaking fun.



Victoria is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Woohoo! To enter the giveaway, just fill out the Rafflecopter below.
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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: Bittersweet Magic by Nina Croft + Giveaway

bittersweet magic by Nina croftFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: The Order, #2
Length: 242 pages
Publisher: Entangled: Edge
Date Released: November 11, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Roz has been indebted to the demon Asmodai for five hundred years, and her freedom is just around the corner. All she has to do is complete one last task for him—obtain a key that had been hidden in a church centuries ago.

Piers, the Head of the Order and an ancient vampire, is intrigued by the woman who comes to him for help. She’s beautiful and seemingly kind, but she’s hiding something. And he’ll find out who she is and what she really wants once he uses his power to get inside her head. But Piers has no idea that Roz is immune to his mind-control…or that he is simply a pawn in her dangerous mission for freedom.

My Review:

Bittersweet Magic is the second book in Nina Croft’s Order series. The Order referred to in this series is “The Order of the Shadow Accords” and it’s administered by the vampires. I find the concept of vampire peacekeepers to be only the beginning of throwing genre stereotypes into a blender and hitting the puree setting, but that’s part of what makes this series so much fun.

[Bittersweet Blood by Nina Croft]At the end of Bittersweet Blood (utterly marvelous), the Order office on Earth is in a bit of a pickle regarding the maintenance of the Accords between the Fae and the Demons. The whole purpose of the Shadow Accords is to keep the Fae and the Demons from using the Earth as a battleground, because the Fae are paranoid about the Demons invading the Faelands. The Demons really don’t care who comes to visit the Abyss. This isn’t because the Demons are necessarily evil, it’s because the Demons really aren’t paranoid that way.

The problem with the Accords is that the number two vampire in the Order, Christian Roth, has just married a half-Fae, half-Demon named Tara who can move between the Faelands and anywhere else she wants whenever she wants. Her mother and the Demon Asmodai were basically the Romeo and Juliet of the Fae/Demon War. She’s not supposed to even exist, and the Fae are mostly pretending she doesn’t, even though the Fae King is her uncle.

Don’t you just love family feuds?

In Bittersweet Magic, the Demon Asmodai needs to steal a magic Key from a convent. It’s not just any old key, it’s a key that will allow someone to move between the planes of existence, including opening the portals to the Faelands. Of course, he was supposed to have destroyed it at the end of the War. But he didn’t.

Asmodai has a witch on retainer. Rosamund sold Asmodai her service over five centuries ago in return for performing thirteen tasks. Roz is a Seeker; she finds things by magic. Finding the Key is supposed to be her last job. All she has to do is pretend to be a nun until she can steal the key.

Until some seriously awful monsters kill all the other nuns except one scared young woman and Roz and steal the Key right out from under her hidden nose. And tell them to deliver a message to the head of The Order.

The one group that Asmodai has told Roz she should never visit, because they will kill her the moment she identifies herself and what she is. Except that Roz doesn’t really know what she is.

She only knows she’s seriously sick of pretending to be a nun. And that Piers Lamont, Head of the Order office in London, is the damn hottest thing on two legs she’s ever seen, whatever HE is.

At least she’ll die happy. Unless the damn demon has been lying to her all along. Which he SO has. Even more fun, he’s been lying to The Order, too.

Escape Rating B+: Like Bittersweet Blood, Bittersweet Magic is also a story about a woman who has been lied to about who and what she is discovering the truth of her identity and about the reality of the world she belongs in.

Roz is a witch. Among other things. But she has to own it, and the truth of her heritage has quite a lot of bitter mixed in with the sweet. Her mother was burned as a witch, and only calling on Asmodai saved Roz from a similar fate.

Her mother expected Roz’ father to save them. Which does bring up the question about who Roz’ father really is. The reveal on that particular secret is something that Asmodai seems to have been savoring for a few centuries, and it’s a doozy.

The Demon does turn out to be one of the good guys. More or less.

Because Asmodai has kept Roz isolated for all of her long life, Roz has no idea who she can trust. She does figure out that the Order are not the bad guys that Asmodai has made them out to be, but she isn’t quite sure what they are, either. She’s used to being on her own, and they’re used to keeping everyone in the dark.

Piers Lamont is too busy keeping secrets of his own. At first, he’s still fooled by Roz’ disguise as a nun. Once he gets past that, he’s caught up in trying to protect a woman who just doesn’t need his protection, and in keeping secrets of his own.

That Key that Roz was supposed to steal is the only thing keeping a really big EVIL from destroying the Earth. It’s an EVIL Goddess that still wants Piers back, even after he imprisoned her for 1,000 years. Talk about carrying a torch!

Piers has just figured out he wants Roz, even if he doesn’t think he knows what love is. There’s no triangle like an eternal triangle.

This series is just too much fun not to jump on board for the ride. And it’s totally addictive, like chocolate!

Bittersweet Magic - Nina Croft - Banner


The celebrate the release of Bittersweet Magic, Nina is giving away a $25 gift card to Amazon. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

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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: Hunter’s Moon by Lisa Kessler + Giveaway

hunters moon by lisa kesslerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Moon #2
Length: 340 pages
Publisher: Entangled Edge
Date Released: October 21, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, All Romance

Sasha’s future was stolen from her the moment she was bitten. Now she’s on the run from the Nero Organization that transformed her from a human detective into a shape shifting jaguar assassin.

When a rogue bounty hunter threatens her younger sister, she’ll be forced to fight, and with nowhere else to turn, Sasha will need to trust the one man who has every reason to want her dead.

Aren is a werewolf with a secret. While protecting his twin brother and Alpha of the Pack, he found his one mate for life. Sadly she’s also the jaguar assassin who tried to kill them both. Now Aren is struggling between his animal nature to love and protect her, and his loyalty to the Pack.

My Review:

moonlight by lisa kesslerHunter’s Moon is a more than worthy successor to the first book in Kessler’s Moon series, Moonlight (reviewed at Book Lovers Inc.). In fact, any author who is thinking about using the fated-mate trope should check out this series for an example of using that otherwise tired trope in a way that is definitely NOT a short cut to romance and is still filled with both loads of romantic and suspenseful tension.

The story of Hunter’s Moon picks up a few months after Moonlight, and is a bit dependent on some knowledge of the previous story. It took me a bit to remember “where we left our heroes” but I think there was more depth to the family relationships in the story because I did remember. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

In Moonlight, Sasha tried to kill Adam and Aren and capture Lana in order to get the mysterious Nero Organization to give her a cure for the unfortunate case of jaguar shifter that she had been infected with.

Several problems in that scenario. First, there ain’t no cure. Second, Nero is so damn evil, they wouldn’t give it to her if there was. And third and fourth, well, third and fourth turn out to be the point of the story in Hunter’s Moon.

In the big brawl that ended Moonlight, Sasha head-butted Aren. While this does not sound like the beginnings of even a beautiful friendship, it was skin-on-skin contact, even if it did make Aren see stars. It was enough for wolf-shifter Aren to recognize Sasha as his mate.

Yes, we have fated mate trope again. Aren-the-person doesn’t even have to start out liking the person his wolf wants. He’s still stuck. And for life, at that.

But Sasha doesn’t know, doesn’t care, and even when informed (much, much later), doesn’t have to acknowledge that such a thing exists. She’s a jaguar shifter, and jaguars do NOT mate for life. This is his problem, not her problem.

Aren not only has to win her over in some version of the old-fashioned way, he has to do it in spite of the fact that they have really bad history together, and that his entire Pack has really bad history with her.

In Moonlight, this problem existed but it was impersonal. Wolves didn’t like jaguars in general, not necessarily Lana in particular. With Sasha, it’s very personal. She really did bad acts against the Pack.

Sasha can’t figure out how or why Aren is able to put it behind him. She’s certain that the rest of the Pack never will. But she needs their help, because the Nero Organization has sent a rogue werewolf to hunt her down and kill her.

And he’s planning to use her little sister as bait. Or a snack.

Escape Rating B+: The story in Hunter’s Moon is a bit darker than the one in Moonlight. The stakes seem higher and the dastardly plots seem that much more nefarious, even though the Nero Organization is less obvious in this story than they were in the first book.

There’s an awful lot of sub-plot in this one about family, and family has a way of twisting people up more than almost anything else. The pack is “family you make” and they are a tight knit bunch. Adding Lana and Sasha into the mix, along with the strain of the constant attacks because of them, creates a lot of stress that some members are handling less well than others. There are lots of explosions waiting to happen.

Adam and Aren’s long-lost uncle shows up, and turns out to be working for the other side. Well, one of the other sides. Maybe.

But the whole thing hinges on Adam’s need to protect his wife and children, set against Aren’s desire to protect the woman who is the only chance he’ll ever have at a wife. While Sasha believes that the only way that she can protect herself and her sister is to never depend on anyone but herself.

There’s even more major tension in this story related to family, including revelations about the Nero Organization.

One of the things about evil organizations that never ceases to amaze me, they always go the supersoldier route, and it never ends well. Not for the soldiers and not for the organization, but they keep making the same mistake.

But the different ways they screw it up are what make books about them so compelling.

[photo of Lisa Kessler]Lisa Kessler is an award winning author of dark paranormal fiction. Her debut novel, Night Walker, won a San Diego Book Award for Best Published Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror as well as the Romance Through the Ages Award for Best Paranormal and Best First Book.Her short stories have been published in print anthologies and magazines, and her vampire story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award.When she’s not writing, Lisa is a professional vocalist, performing with the San Diego Opera as well as other musical theater companies in San Diego.

To learn more about Lisa, look for her at

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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.

Interview with Author Louisa Bacio

My special guest today is Louisa Bacio, the author of A Date with Death. (This is a not as gruesome as it sounds! In fact, the date both does, and doesn’t, happen. To learn more, read my review. But if you like your love stories hot, sweet and bittersweet, go on A Date with Death)

Louisa was gracious enough to answer a few of my usual pointed questions. Here are her answers…

Louisa: First, Marlene, thanks so much for hosting me, and for the targeted and specific questions! I can really see the time that you put into them.

Marlene: Thanks, Louisa! Now, can you please tell the readers a bit about yourself?

Louisa: First, I love to tell stories, whether they are nonfiction that I share, or ones that I create. I also wear many hats as a wife, mother, professor, editor, freelance writer. I believe in putting everything that you have into a project with passion. And, I love animals and to cook.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser?

Louisa: It all depends upon what I have to do that day. Today, I went on a field trip to the pumpkin patch for my 5-year-old daughter, then had to prep class, and I taught from 7 to 10 p.m. The writing time will probably come about midnight. But it’s an absolute passion. While walking to class, I was wondering about what would happen if one of my vampire characters cut his long hair. Would it grow back over night? And why? I think it’s a scene for a 2013 novella … so even when I’m not writing, I’m still creating. I’m a pantser who knows specific scenes, such as the one mention.

Marlene: What can we expect of A Date with Death?

Louisa: A good, sexy story with heart. My editor at Decadent Publishing Kate Richards really pushed me to hone my craft. My background is in journalism, so fiction uses a different skill set.

Marlene: This is your first book in the 1Night Stand series. How was it different fitting the entire HEA into a one-night encounter?

Louisa: I enjoy writing short fiction. The 1Night Stand stories average 10,000 words or so. I’ve done flash fiction, and 2,500 word stories. The key to turning one night into a HEA is the dynamics between the characters. Even though Maise and Reese in A Date with Death don’t know each other, something unites them.

I teach a class on writing a short story based on a call for submissions. One former student, V.S. Morgan wrote the majority of her m/m 1Night Stand The Gift within my January class. In her story, the characters have a history together, and then their brought back together during this night. Another friend Sabrina Sol will release her first book Reunited in November. By that title, you should be able to guess the connection, right? Those elements help make it more believable.

Marlene: Most of your books are erotic romance, whether paranormal or contemporary. What drew you to writing on the erotic edges of romance?

Louisa: Hmmm, good question, and one I probably haven’t been asked directly before. Maybe it’s because it’s what I enjoy reading. I’ve always considered myself a very sexual person, and I like showing the reality of that relationship. Life isn’t I Love Lucy twin beds. What we hope for is the lifelong passion.

Marlene: What is your favorite thing about the writing experience and why?

Louisa: There really is so much. It’s that process of creating something from nothing. Of connecting with readers, and making them feel the way books have done for me. In some aspects, it’s having a character seem real to me, and “talk” in my head. At the same time, that’s maddening.

Marlene: Where is your favorite place to write?

Louisa: Absolute favorite has to be bed, where it’s soft and comfy and my butt doesn’t fall asleep as easily! Seriously, I also love those moments when I get immediate inspiration. I’m a member of OCC/RWA, my local chapter, and there’s nothing like a great guest speaker with a prompt that makes you come away with a new scene.

Marlene: What projects do you have planned for the future? What is next on your schedule?

Louisa: Earlier this week, I turned in The Wolfe Pack, book 4 in my The Vampire, The Witch & The Werewolf series. Next, I plan to focus on another 1Night Stand, A Dance with Death. (Notice the trend?) I already have the story and characters plotted out. I also have a new paranormal romance series that I’m starting to pitch to publishers so keep your fingers crossed for me. It’s really good!

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Louisa: Passionate. Sexy. Caring. I love to read, and I writing stories that I enjoy, so hopefully that comes through.

Marlene: Morning person or night owl?

Louisa: Have you seen my Twitter feed? Definitely a night owl. The problem is with two school-age kids, I also have to get them up early for school.

Louisa, thank you so much for answering all my pesky questions! And I’m very happy to know that you’ll be writing another 1Night Stand with Death, because that first “Date” went very, very well!

Review: A Date With Death by Louisa Bacio

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: paranormal romance, erotic romance
Series: 1Night Stand
Length: 36 pages
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Date Released: August 21, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Death sucks. It’s boring, and there’s no chance of getting laid. Stuck in the waiting room of Heaven, Maise fantasizes about all the pleasures of the flesh she didn’t get to experience. When Maise discovers a business card for the dating service, 1Night Stand, she wonders if there’s still a chance.

Reece normally wouldn’t consider being set up, but after his brother buys him a certificate, he feels obligated. A romantic night on the Southern California coast, with the full-of-life Maise leaves him wanting more.

Will a 1Night Stand be enough to overcome death?

The trick, and sometimes it is a trick, with the 1Night Stand titles is to get the couple from meeting to happily-ever-after in the course (and definitely intercourse!) of one single night.

This doesn’t mean the couple can’t have met before, and it doesn’t mean that the HEA can’t be a work in progress at the end (the best 1Night Stand stories often use one or the other) but the story takes place in one night. And the author doesn’t have a lot of pages to work with.

Louisa Bacio uses one amazingly unconventional start for a 1Night Stand.

First, throw any preconception out the window. This is a paranormal, just barely. But there are no vampires, werewolves or any other creatures of the night involved, in spite of the suggestions sparked by that title.

The story opens with the heroine, Maise, finding one of Madame Eve’s brochures for her 1Night Stand service. What’s unusual is that Maise finds it while she is waiting for her number to be called in Limbo. Literally, Limbo, as in the waiting room for death. The last thing Maise remembers is the oncoming car, the one that killed her.

Cell phone service apparently reaches to this other-worldly waiting room, but only if Maise punches Madame Eve’s number before her own number gets called. Ironic, isn’t it?

Maise figures that she might as well take one last shot at living, especially since she’s already dead. What she can’t figure out is how Madame Eve manages to rescue her from Limbo, even temporarily, or what the absolutely gorgeous and definitely very much among the living man, Reese, could possibly need a 1Night Stand for. It’s all too obvious to Maise that Reese shouldn’t need a computer dating service.

But Reese’s life has gone into a grief-stricken tailspin for reasons that he isn’t willing to reveal to Maise, and a night of passion with a beautiful woman is exactly what he needs. He wants to feel and not to think. Not to think about the brother he just lost, the one who gave him this night as a present, just before he died.

But Maise and Reese have a connection, and not just the instant-lust that they feel for each other the moment they meet. It’s that real-world connection that will be the saving of them both…if they are willing to believe in what they experience in just one night.

Escape Rating B+: The author did an amazing job with this short erotic romance. She did a deft job of mixing the bittersweet sadness that begins the story for both Reese and Maise with the hot encounter of their one night that leads to the sweet ending.

I find Madame Eve’s powers occasionally beyond belief, but the story works beautifully. My only regret is that it wasn’t longer. I’d love to know how things worked out for Maise and Reece.

***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 T.K. Anthony

[Photo of T.K. Anthony]My very special guest today is author T.K. Anthony. Her amazing debut science fiction romance novel, Forge, is out now. (I finished it in one gulp and reviewed it here. Trying to write the review without revealing the name of the main character (see below) was difficult, but worth it)

Marlene: T.K., can you please tell us a bit about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

T.K.: Marlene—thank you for having me! My eldest sister (the MaryBeth in Forge’s dedication) is a librarian, too. I have a huge respect for the keepers of the keys to the knowledge kingdom. And I am awed by your ability to cater to four cats. I have two co-owners, and I know the saying “Dogs have masters, cats have staff” is no joke. I’m looking forward to spending time with you and your readers.

Family is important to me. I come from a large family; my husband’s family is even larger. So we spend quite a bit of time visiting relatives. This summer was a madhouse of weddings, reunions, picnics…and, sadly, two funerals…in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, and Ohio. When I’m not writing, or on the road (or both) I’m reading, doing crosswords or sudokus, baking, and playing way too much Spider solitaire. And singing. A lot of singing, with some guitar pickin’ thrown in. And a smidgen of mandolin.

Marlene: Forge is described as romantic science fiction. What made you choose to write in the science fiction romance end of the space opera galaxy?

T.K.: I didn’t really choose the story, the story chose me. For a couple paragraphs I thought I was writing a western, until I looked up in the night sky and saw two moons. (This was the scene that became the second chapter of Forge.) Then, I thought I was writing a straight SF, but Nica popped up almost immediately, and I realized there’d be romance, too.

The hero, Keir, gets into dire trouble right from the start. An unidentifiable and nameless amnesiac (“Tazhret” means “Nameless” in the Tormin tongue) Keir’s sold as an indentured servant to an abusive master. He needed some reason to hope, to endure…even if his hope is only an elusive vision of an unknown woman who tells him he has a good name, despite all evidence to the contrary. He’s not even sure if Nica is real. He thinks she might be just another remnant of his drug-induced hallucinations.

Only later, as I got into the story, did I realize that Keir and Nica’s relationship is the crux of the whole story: the power of unconditional and sacrificial love in the face of evil. I had no idea the tale would go there, when I first opened a file and just started to describe the picture I had in my head.

Marlene: Have any of the places that you’ve traveled to made their way into the intergalactic scenes in your science fiction?

T.K.: Absolutely. Keir’s experience of Invershin’s civil circle is an almost direct steal from my visit to the Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium—except the Grand Place is a town square. I’d say the Smokies along Skyline Drive inspired the Green Mountains, while the Rockies inspired the Grey.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser?

T.K.: Some of both. I get scenes in my head, which tend to be key events in a story—sometimes, right down to specific lines of dialogue. I’ll start to write based on those scenes, just to see what direction the story wants to take. Then, I’ll sit down and put together a rough outline, finding the steppingstones between the key scenes. But the characters have the right to veto the outline. When they do, I feel like I’m walking a wire over a snake pit without a net…but they’ve never let me down.

Marlene: What was the first moment you know you wanted to write?

T.K.: Ever since I read Little Women in second or third grade (it might’ve been the summer between). I idolized Jo March, tomboy and writer. But although I wrote a few stories for the entertainment of my sisters and close friends, I didn’t really think I’d write published fiction. Where would I get the ideas? It wasn’t until I had some real trauma going on in my life that writing became my outlet…and the ideas just wouldn’t stop.

Marlene: From your blog, I can tell that music is a big part of your life. Was there a “playlist” for the writing of Forge, or are there some tunes you recommend that might serve as “themes” for some of the main characters?

T.K.: What a great question about main characters’ theme songs. The best answers can be found in Celtic folk.

Keir saves himself from getting recycled with the trash by singing, in a roaring drunk, “Star of the County Down”—which has lines about “the maid with the nut-brown hair,” and “I shook myself to see I was really there.” Clearly a reference to Nica, the beautiful woman of his drug-induced visions. (And, yes…I realize this is an Irish song, with Irish place names in a mostly Scots-influenced tale. But the reference is very oblique, and the lyrics were otherwise perfect, and it is the kind of song you can sing after you’ve hoisted a few…I’m sure that’s why Keir thought of it for Nica. :D)

For Keir, the Scots’ folk song, “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” The tune and lyrics are full of love, longing, and loyalty. For Col, I think the best song is “Minstrel Boy”—he’s someone who’s spent his life in service to the Scotian Realm, no matter the odds or the cost. And for either of the villains, Saril or Gar genZeren…my mind jumps right to Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars!

I don’t always listen to music when I write, but when I do, it’s got to be instrumental. I get really distracted by lyrics. Some of my favorites, when I was writing the chase scenes, were from the group Blazing Fiddles out of Ontario Canada, and Bela’ Fleck’s hard-driving bluegrass banjo, or the alternative jazz of his “Tales of the Acoustic Planet”—music that holds a lot of Celtic flavor, so it was perfect for my Scotian ‘verse. Christopher Parkening’s amazing guitar work on his “best of” CDs made a great accompaniment for some of the softer scenes.

Marlene: What can we expect of Forge?

T.K.: Sixteen planets, three peoples, two scary-bad villains from a race of psychic predators, a sweet romance, and a hero in dire need of rescuing. Yes, it’s built along epic lines.

Because the story is big, I should mention that there is a cast of characters…but you’ll have to scroll to the end to find it. Decadent’s standard practice is to put it up front. But one of the characters doesn’t know who he is when the book begins, and another is traveling incognito, so reading a cast of characters for Forge is the ultimate spoiler. But some people like to read the last page of the whodunit first!

Marlene: Will there be more books in this series? (You did say it was “book one of the Thrall Web series…) What is next on your schedule?

T.K.: The working title of the second book is Web of Destiny. I’ve got it drafted, and am now editing it—using all the lessons I learned from working on Forge with my wonderful editor, Laura Garland of Decadent Publishing. Meanwhile, a contemporary fantasy is peeking out of the shadows of my mind.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

T.K.: 1. Because everyone needs a trip to escapism, and a wormhole to the Scotian Realm is just how to get there.

2. You’ll meet people you’ll love, and people you’ll love to hate.

3. Because I need to feed my cats! (You know how demanding they can be be…)

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

T.K.: I don’t know about a particular book, but I always recommend a particular author: Lois McMaster Bujold. If you haven’t read Bujold…you’re missing a rare treat. Whenever her latest book comes out, I sit down with some homemade cherry cordial (my sister makes it) and some Dove dark chocolate, and indulge in unforgettable characters, excellent plots, pithy dialogue full of wit, wisdom, and humor.

Marlene: Just how do your cats (Pip and Taz) collaborate in your writing? (Mine are a demanding nuisance) What’s your secret?

T.K.: My cats insist they are not nuisances, so my secret is in redefining the word “collaboration” to include Pip hovering over me on the back of my chair, and Taz laying his head on my wrist—or on the keyboard—while I type. They are equally collaborative in household tasks; for example, when I make the bed (flinging themselves under the sheet and coverlet), or do laundry (diving into the basket of clean clothes out of the dryer). My husband tells me I don’t have to put up with that. I don’t know what he means….

Marlene: Morning person or night owl?

Most definitely a night owl. I once had my handwriting analyzed by an expert who had worked with the FBI and police. She took once glance at what I’d written, and said, “You are not a morning person. No matter how early you get up, you’re not firing on all cylinders until 10am.” She gave me a great respect for graphology!

Thanks again for allowing me to visit, Marlene! And good luck to the folks who comment today. In addition to the blog tour prize of the $20 Amazon gift card, they’ll be eligible to win another Decadent title in the e-format of their choice.

Thanks, T.K. for such a fantastic interview. I’ll say that Web of Destiny can’t come soon enough for me. But about re-defining what the cats do as “collaboration”, good luck on that one! Mine have discovered a new super-power. Instead of omniscience or omnipotence, LaZorra aspires to omni-nuisance…and totally succeeds!

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Review: Forge by T.K. Anthony

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance, space opera
Series: Thrall Web #1
Length: 377 pages
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Date Released: July 21, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

Warned by a Seeing…

The high king of the Scotian Realm expects the arrival of an enemy, a race of psychic predators bent on galactic conquest. The Realm’s one hope is alliance with the neighboring star domains in defense of a shared colony, Forge.

Caught in Fate’s grim weaving…

Mindblind, amnesic, Tazhret lives out his drug-induced visions of servitude on Forge. He wants to believe the beautiful woman with the nut-brown hair who whispers reassurances to his harrowed heart: “You have a name.” But is she even real? Or just one bright thread in his dark dreams?

An unexpected hope…

Tazhret’s destiny leads him to freedom and the woman he yearns for—and to a desperate struggle against the enemy.

Tazhret can save Forge, and the clan of his beloved. But only at the cost of all he has hoped for: his name, his freedom, and his love for the woman with the nut-brown hair.

Forge is the name of a planet in T.K. Anthony’s amazing combination of space opera, science fiction romance, and interplanetary intrigue.

It’s also a metaphor for the transformation of the characters in the story from merely human, into the roles that have been cast for them by destiny. Forges create weapons by fire, hammer and strength. The weapon being forged gets pounded on–a lot.

The analogy holds up all too well for the characters in this story. The mindblind slave Tazhret in the book blurb, needless to say, he was not originally a slave. And how he got into that condition, uncovering that is just the beginning of a vast, galaxy spanning plot.

The woman with the nut-brown hair, she’s real all right. And he shouldn’t have had the ability to find her in any dream state, even before he was mindblinded. But there’s that destiny thing again.

They have, not just one star-empire to save, but three. Three races who will all become slaves if they don’t uncover all of the deeply laid nefarious interlocking plans, before it is too late.

If you’re thinking that the slave is going to turn out to be a prince in disguise, you’d be wrong. He’s not. We’d call him an engineer, but among his people, the Scotians, it’s a bit more complicated.

But complicated in a spell-binding way. Rescuing the slave, restoring him to his true identity, starts a chain reaction. The conspiracy that made him a slave stretches back decades, and across the galaxy to the deadly enemy of the Scotian Realm, the Khevox Dominion. The Khevox once enslaved the entire Scotian people, and stands poised to make history repeat itself.

Unless one slave can defeat them. Again.

Escape Rating B+: I did think Tazhret would turn out to be a “lost prince”, and was surprised (and pleased) to discover that the author had not done anything nearly so obvious.

Instead the tale spins into intergalactic plots involving chillingly evil methods and villains who operate from the shadows.

What enthralled me was the way that the story kept peeling back, layer after layer, from a simple tale of one man’s fall into ruin, to something that encompasses empires. And a love worth any, and every sacrifice.

What drove me absolutely crazy was that the story is not complete in one volume. Forge is book one of the Thrall Web series. Fine and dandy. The series is off to an amazing start. But Forge ends on an absolutely hellish cliffhanger, and there is no projected publishing date for book two in the series.

Not fair. Are they saved? Are they damned? When will readers get to find out?

***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 Heather Long + Giveaway

As a lover of science fiction romance (over at Book Lovers Inc. I’m The Rocket Lover because of it!) I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Heather Long to Reading Reality today. She’s here to talk about her fantastic  (see review) new SFR superhero romance from Carina Press, Yesterday’s Heroes.

Marlene: Heather can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Heather: I live in Texas and nearly every animal I have is a stray or a rescue. I’m a freelance writer and copyeditor, I am a mom, a quilter, a reader, and a friend. But at the heart of all of these things, I’m an author. I’ve always written, and when I was little, my grandmother used to read me Harlequin romance novels by Penny Jordan and Nora Roberts. I’m always working on my next project, and I fall a little bit in love with every hero I write.

Marlene: Yesterday’s Heroes is a little bit science fiction, a little bit time-travel, and a lot superhero romance. What inspired you to come up with this mix of genres for Yesterday’s Heroes?

Heather: The In Death series. The X-Men. The Teen Titans. The Avengers. Batman. Terminator. Time Cop. Star Trek.  Changing the past is a provocative challenge, never mind the inherent paradox that exists when you travel into your past. If you recall from H.G. Wells The Time Machine — the reason he could never save his wife is that saving her would have negated the creation of the time machine itself. So these elements create a tapestry of conflict–internal and external — that I just couldn’t leave alone.

Marlene: What did it feel like when you got the call from Carina Press that they were publishing Yesterday’s Heroes?

Heather: I actually wrote about that call for an anthology, because I was in a changing room trying on bras when I got the phone call. I was over the moon thrilled and almost speechless, which never happens to me. It was an awesome feeling.

Marlene: Were you thinking of any particular superheroes when you put together the mix of powers that make up the Boomers?

Heather: Not exactly–I took elements that I enjoyed from different variations on different superheroes over the years — the elements that made me reach for those comic books over and over. Most of the Boomers then introduced themselves to me one at a time.

Marlene: Who are your favorite superhero movies or TV shows?

Heather: The Avengers blew me away when that came out – in fact, I have been over the moon with all the Marvel products in the last few years. As a writer and a fan, it’s amazing to see how well they’ve folded the worlds together with each film and then Whedon’s Avengers just knocked it out of the park. I watched Smallville for the entirety of its ten year run and prior to that I watched Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and even the Superboy series in the late 1980s. I enjoy Nolan’s Batman – even if I think they went far too dark and at the same time I wanted to see more with the internal mythology of that series.

Marlene: Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Heather: My grandmother. She read for years and she used to read to me from Harlequins when she was little.

Marlene: Who influenced your decision to become a writer?

Heather: I’ve wanted to write since I fully grasped reading, so it would have to be my grandmother.

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

Heather: Read Yesterday’s Heroes — it’s one of the best books I’ve ever written – and I can’t wait to spend more time in this world.

Marlene: Will there be more books about the Boomers? Can you tell us a little about your upcoming projects?

Heather: I hope there are more Boomers — fingers crossed! Also coming is The Lady is a Thief, the third and final installment in the Fortunate Buddha trilogy, Micah & Mrs. Miller, book three of the Fevered Hearts series and No Regrets, No Surrender which is the full length follow up to Retreat Hell! She Just Got Here (Always a Marine series).

Marlene: Morning person or night owl?

Heather: Morning person!

Somebody please tell Carina Press I want more Boomers. Right now! In the meantime, I’ll just have to indulge my guilty little addiction for 1Night Stand books, now that I know Heather’s written a whole series of them. Thanks Heather!


As part of her blog tour, Heather is offering ten copies of Yesterday’s Heroes and one copy of Marshal of Hel Dorado.

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