Guest Review: Trust In Me by Dee Tenorio

James’s review of Trust in Me by Dee Tenorio
Contemporary Romance released by Samhain Publishing July on July 23, 2013​

Trust In MeSometimes falling in love is the easy part…

A Rancho del Cielo Romance

Locke Jackman is single, childless…and he has a bad case of empty nest syndrome. For years, as he fought tooth and nail to keep his brothers and sisters together after his parents died, his entire life was focused on his responsibilities.

Now his siblings have all moved on with their lives, and there’s no one around to distract him from his overpowering attraction to his sister’s best friend. Their mutual desire is stunning…but then again, so are the secrets keeping them apart.

Susie Packard’s nightmarish marriage taught her what happens when she gives in to her weakness for powerful men. Too bad the big, stoic frowner across the street—the one who sets her bells jangling just by breathing—has her in his sights.

Try as she might to keep her emotional distance, Locke is determinedly knocking down all her walls. But as much as she wants to be the woman he needs, she knows better than most—passion may have its rewards, but every secret has its price.

Warning: This book contains a hot, modern-day Viking seducing his way to the heart of his woman, a stubborn lingerie designer with a world of secrets and a very deep bathtub… Enjoy!

Dee Tenorio is one of my personal favorite authors, so I jumped at the chance to review this one. I’m happy I did because this turned out to be my favorite romance of the year.

Susie Packard had only been in Rancho del Cielo a short time before meeting Locke. He is a refreshingly straight forward/hardworking guy. Locke has a big Victorian all to himself after raising his siblings. He supported them by working his fingers to the bone building high end row boats. His home can’t be filled with even his large frame. Needing someone in his life, he is drawn to the new girl in town Susie.

Susie is trying to wake up from a horrible nightmare. She has tried to keep out of the reach of her violent and powerful husband. She is hiding from him in Rancho del Cielo. Worn out from the early months of pregnancy, she has to be carried into her small apartment by Locke. Desperately she tries to push him off with bittersweet sarcasm and false disinterest. She can’t resist him for long, and brings him into her undersized bed. He provides her some unselfish relief with his large strong hands.

Discovering her pregnancy he convinces her to stay with him for a weekend that lasts 5 days. They spend their time mostly in bed enjoying each other. Still Susie’s instinct to run away from him is strong. She continually pulls away from him. It’s not for not wanting to be with him. She would do no happier thing in her life than be with him in his large house. Locke is steadfast in his desire for her. A troubled past and a baby on the way does nothing to dissuade him from loving her.

Locke does make a serious mistake. He tries to get Susie out of the hooks of her ex, but instead gives away where she is. It freaks her out. She had worked so hard and given up so much to get away. Before coming to Rancho del Cielo there was no second thinking when she wanted to run. Susie could leave most of her things behind and it didn’t bother her one bit. Now she struggles with the thought of running. She has built herself a life in this town. She has set down roots. That and she never felt more safe and loved than in the big strong arms of Locke.

Dee Tenorio is great at writing scenes that sizzle and spark. The friction between Susie and Locke is never overplayed. It makes perfect sense why she would not want to put her problems on him. The way he thinks of her is genuine and never lovelorn. The story has the right mixture of intrigue and steaminess to keep your attention throughout.

My favorite lines:

That’s when she knew her decision was made. Undeniably. Irrevocably. Whatever came next, she wouldn’t face it alone. Whether he knew it or not, this man had her trust and her heart. Forever.

Grade: A+

You can read an excerpt here (scroll down) or buy a copy here.

Guest: Lucy Monroe on Inspiration

Hi friends! As you see we’ve got Lucy Monroe visiting with us today! She’s a total sweetheart and I’ve been reading her books forever, it feels like. From her Harlequin Presents to her Brava books and on. So I’m happy that she’s guesting here. :)

Inspiration Can Be a Smack Upside Your Head

Glam NightAfter losing my mom, Hubcap (otherwise known as Tom) and I decided we needed to spend more quality time with his parents. So, we decided to take them on a cruise. It had nothing to do with the fact that his mother said, “Don’t send me alone with Papa again! I won’t go.” Okay, well, very little to do with it, anyway.

We opted for Alaska because it was someplace Tom’s father had always wanted to see and we’d heard so many good things about the cruises to our 49th State from friends and family. We booked the rooms (NOT next door for self-preservation), decided yes we WOULD drive to Seattle together and board as a group and went for it.

The cruise north was gorgeous and after we passed out our extra sea-sickness patches to the parents, even pleasant. The food was yummy and the fjord we sailed into was mind boggling, but it was our first stop that hit me upside the head with inspiration and started the moving pictures of stories playing through my head.

Willie Nelson LookalikeWe opted to take a tour of the town and who was our tour guide but Willie Nelson, or at least his look alike. Until the man took off his wig and glasses. Oh, my gosh…were these people quirky. Everyone I met didn’t just spark character ideas, there WERE characters! And the places they lived, the stories they told, the attitudes they held.

Tom and I have done a lot of traveling all over this country and out of it. No place has felt so very unique to itself as Alaska. I’m not sure why. Every person we met, whether native or a transplant was just so certain of their place in this world and that place was Alaska.

My mind spun with ideas of a little town where people lived like that, knowing where they belonged and it wasn’t the Lower 48. The thing was, I was still under contract for two other series at the time with no place in my calendar for new books.

Would the stories go away? They would not. Neither would these quirky people. Every town we stopped at we met new and interesting people, we saw amazing landscapes, experienced towns unlike the ones back home. It was absolutely mind-blowing. And frustrating.

Alaskan TownBecause inspiration does not come with automatic time, or a publisher or a readership, or anything else to make it work as a series.

However, a couple of months later when Berkley pulled the plug on my Children of the Moon and Kensington said no thanks to anything without some suspense in it, my agent said, “Let’s shop it.” And he did and Grand Central (Forever) was keen to try this quirky new series with hot alpha heroes, set in small town Alaska.

So, I guess I owe a debt of thanks to my mother-in-law for refusing to go cruising alone with her husband of 51 years! I know I owe something big to the state of Alaska for the kind of inspiration you can’t plan for and there’s no denying! And I’m even thankful to Berkley for backing off from my Children of the Moon.

It sure hurt at the time, but now I’m looking at these new books and know they never would have happened otherwise.

Hip hip hurray for inspiration that hits you upside the head!

Hugs and happy reading,
Lucy

Wild HeatSometimes old flames are the hottest of all . . .

In the quaint little town of Cailkirn, Alaska, it’s impossible to keep a secret, especially one as juicy as the unexpected return of Kitty Grant. Tack MacKinnon remembers her wild red curls and even wilder spirit-and still feels the sting from when she shattered his heart in college. But there’s a pain in Kitty’s gorgeous eyes that guts him to the core and Tack is determined to do whatever it takes to see the woman he still loves smile again-even if it means taking on her demons as his own.

After fleeing an abusive ex-husband, Kitty decides that the best way to heal her broken heart is to come back home. But she gets a whole new shock when she sees how undeniably sexy Tack has become. More handsome, more muscular, more charming-more everything-he’s impossible to resist. Before she knows it, they’re reigniting sparks that could set the whole state of Alaska on fire. Yet trust doesn’t come easy to Kitty anymore, and as things heat up between her and Tack, she can’t help but wonder if one of them is going to get burned . . .

So, have you read any of Lucy’s books? Has inspiration unexpectedly struck you before? [For anything – not just reading/writing related.] Or – have you ever taken a cruise? Maybe one with family if you were brave? ;)

Guest Author: Manda Collins On Writing What You Know

Hi friends! First of all, I have to say this is a really powerful post. It’s definitely one of my favorites this year. I really hope you’ll discuss with us and share your thoughts at the end. As you see, we’ve got Manda Collins visiting with us today. Really there’s nothing better I can say other than – read on!

How to Romance a RakeFirst of all, thanks so much to Limecello for inviting me to visit ALBTALBS today! I love what she’s been doing to spotlight diversity in Romancelandia and it’s a pleasure to be here.

Because April is Limb Loss Awareness month, I thought I’d talk a bit about my book, How to Romance a Rake, which is to date my only book to feature an amputee protagonist.

First, a little bit about me. I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my left femur over Christmas break from my Junior year of high school in December of 1990. They were able to save my leg temporarily, but four years later a series of bad breaks (pun intended) healthwise meant that amputation of my leg above the knee was the most sensible option. And in the fall of 1995, I returned to my senior year of undergrad without my leg.

At that point, I’d been a romance reader for about eight years, and I’d learned to use romance almost like an infusion of positivity when I felt myself in danger of becoming overwhelmed by life’s darkness. But one thing that bothered me despite my love of the genre was the fact that there were no heroines like me. Though there were plenty of heroines who had “damaged” legs or limps, none were actually amputees. And even the “damaged” heroines were often miraculously cured by the end of the book.

I can remember vividly reading a book by a well-loved author (one of my all-time favorites) who had a heroine who had a mysterious problem with one of her legs. The heroine was deeply ashamed of her problem, how ugly it made her and how she could never imagine a man finding her attractive because of it. And I turned the pages with bated breath, eager to learn what had happened to her, until finally it was revealed that she had…a burn scar.

You all know those “throw the book against the wall” moments? That was mine. I can still remember my disappointment in the fact that what to the heroine was such a horrific thing to suffer through was, to me, no big deal. It’s not that I don’t think that burns aren’t horrible or that people who have scars can’t feel shame about them. I have always been one who appreciates that suffering is relative. But when a heroine thinks that a scarred leg—in an age in which a lady’s legs weren’t even shown in public—is the worst thing that could possibly happen to her, it makes those of us without legs feel like chopped liver.

So, I knWhy Lords Lose Their Heartsew when I got my first publishing contract that I had to write a book with a heroine that I could relate to. And so Juliet, the heroine of How to Romance a Rake was born. I know now from reviews that the big reveal of the reason for her disability was just as disappointing for some readers as my beloved-author’s heroine with the burned leg was for me. But, within the context of the story, and what I was trying to explore—what it would be like for a heroine to “pass” as able-bodied in a world where the disabled were often treated as defective and hidden away—I thought she worked.

I’m positive that Juliet wasn’t the perfect disabled heroine for every reader—one of my first reviews was by someone who said “This? This is her big secret?” Talk about irony! But I wrote her with my own experience as an amputee in mind. Especially the disbelief I often encountered from total strangers who refused to believe me when I told them I lost my leg to bone cancer. (Remind me one day to tell you about the total stranger who reached down and grabbed my prosthesis with her hand to make sure I was telling the truth!) And she was authentic to my own experience at least.

Then why, you might ask, haven’t I written all amputee heroines? Because for me, at least, that’s not what the world looks like. And from what I’ve read and studied about the Regency era, that’s not what their society looked like either. Certainly not the ballrooms of the ton at any rate.

Though I’ve been pleased to note that more and more disabled heroes and heroines have begun to appear in romances, I will continue to add my own into the mix. Because according to the Amputee Coalition of America, around 180,000 amputations occur in the United States alone each year—and if I can give even one reader an example of a heroine who looks like her in the pages of a sexy historical romance I’m going to do it.

Will my version of historical romance heroine amputee work for everybody? Of course not. But, the same could be said for my non-amputee characters. It’s the nature of writing fiction to be read by other people.

And I am perfectly okay with that.

A Good Rake is Hard to FindA DANGEROUS GAME
Heartbroken by the loss of her brother, Miss Leonora Craven vows to uncover the truth about his “accident,” which seems to have been anything but. Jonathan Craven was involved with the Lords of Anarchy, a notorious driving club, and Leonora can’t help but suspect foul play. But the only way she can infiltrate their reckless inner circle is to enlist the help of Jonny’s closest ally, Lord Frederick Lisle. If only he didn’t also happen to be the man who broke Leonora’s heart…

AN UNDENIABLE DESIRE
Frederick isn’t surprised to find gorgeous, headstrong Leonora playing detective, but he knows that the Lords of Anarchy mean business-and he has no choice but to protect her. A sham engagement to Leonora will allow Frederick to bring her into the club and along for the ride. But it isn’t long before pretending to be lovers leads to very real passion. With everything to lose, is their tempestuous affair worth the risk?

Gentle readers, have you ever encountered a book where the author just “got” some aspect of you—be it a personality trait, or a disability, or some other special aspect of “people like you”? Tell us about it! Or tell us of an example of a romance that you think represents disability really well. I’ll give one commenter a copy of my latest book A Good Rake is Hard to Find and Juliet’s story, How to Romance a Rake.

Release Day Exclusive Excerpt: Taken by HelenKay Dimon

Hey y’all! We’ve got an embarrassment of riches here at ALBTALBS today! This is of course only a good thing. There was some confusion and a flurry of emails that needn’t bother you, but the end result is we have another exclusive excerpt today! Whee! Yes, Taken follows Mercy and Only and HelenKay Dimon sent on this exclusive excerpt of Taken to share with you all today. Isn’t she so nice? :D

Taken is Eli and Wade’s story. I don’t usually say you have to read the first book(s) in a series, but here I think it’s important. I’m not done reading Taken yet, and while it seems you could read it as a stand alone, I think it makes a big difference here if you read Mercy and Only first. (Also because they’re good, so you don’t want to miss them. :P)

TakenWade Royer and Elijah Sterling are on shaky ground. While initially reluctant Eli is finally ready to take things to the next level, Wade is hesitant. He senses trouble coming and he’s right. Still, they know their fiercely undeniable connection—both in and out of the bedroom—is worth saving.

Then a man from Eli’s past reappears and the CIA comes calling—and they both want Eli back. With their relationship in jeopardy of falling apart and Eli in danger of a different kind, both men will have to decide what they really want—and then take it…

Wade focused on the man in front of him. He wanted to grab Eli around the shoulders and lead him through the dining room to the back of the supper club. Stake a public claim. But Eli had barely accepted who he was, who they were together. Public displays of affection could be the one step too far.

Ignoring the noise and the shuffle of people in and out of the dining room, Wade gestured toward the door marked PRIVATE. “Come with me for a second.”

The clank of silverware and low hum of voices cut off the second the door closed behind them. Other than the tap of Eli’s dress shoes against the hardwood, they walked down the long hallway in silence. Past Jarrett’s closed office door. Past the door to the locker room for the attendants, the name for the waitstaff who catered to the men. All female, all smart and beautiful, all with impressive degrees and the ability to converse on a variety of subjects. All, including Wade’s baby sister, Kyra—especially Kyra—were off-limits to the clientele.

But his sister, and women in general, were the last thing on Wade’s mind as he guided Eli past the series of doors in the club’s private area and toward the elevator at the far end. The one that led to Wade’s second-floor condo.

“We’re going upstairs?” Eli asked.

Wade waited until they stood in front of the steel doors and he’d swiped his security card and entered the code before answering. “Yes.”

The doors opened and Eli glanced over at Wade. “I’m starting to think you don’t plan on talking.”

He thought about keeping them locked in there. A small box with solid walls. That would work. But one look at Eli, those dark eyes filled with excitement, and Wade wanted a bed. He repeated the security action a second time on the inside of the elevator to get it moving.

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Wade backed Eli against the far wall. Kept him trapped there with a palm flattened on the wall on either side of his head. “I usually chant your name at some point.

That’s almost like talking.”

“Don’t you have to work or—” Eli’s head fell back against the wall when Wade’s fingers traced the outline of Eli’s cock through his dress pants. “Yeah, fuck work.”

“Now you’re getting it.” Wade’s mouth wandered. Down the sexy line of Eli’s neck. Licked the bare skin under the collar of his shirt.

Forget the material separating them and the piles of clothing in their way. Heat rolled off Eli and smashed into Wade. He pressed his mouth against the vein in Eli’s neck and felt the frantic beat.

Heard the hitch of his breath.

Then Wade moved in even closer. Their mouths met in a blinding kiss. Not sweet or building. This was hot, bordering on desperate. His fingers slid through Eli’s hair, then to his shoulders. Eli hands clenched Wade’s back. They were all over each other as the need swamped them.

The elevator doors rumbled open and Eli lifted his head. “Damn.”

“Ignore that.” Any thought of playing it cool vanished as Wade loosened Eli’s tie, then went to work on opening the buttons on his shirt. “The suit is killing me.”

“You picked it.”

“And right now I want you out of it.” Eli’s belt buckle jangled as Wade loosened it and let it fall open. “Now.”

“Longest two days of my life being away from you.” Eli leaned in as his hands snaked around to Wade’s back.

His kiss, openmouthed and lingering, traveled up Wade’s neck to that place right below his ear that made him tremble. Despite fighting for control, Wade’s fingers fumbled on the top button of Eli’s pants. Just being near the guy had Wade mentally scrambled and straining to focus.

The elevator bell dinged and a faint noise skimmed along Wade’s senses. A whirring sound. The camera in the car. The same one that beamed video directly to the security station Becca usually manned downstairs and to one of the many monitors set up on Jarrett’s desk.

“Stupid security.” Wade snapped to attention as he pulled back. Nothing like being busted by the boss for fucking in the elevator. Or almost fucking.

Wade didn’t bother to point at the camera or even say anything. He hustled them off the elevator to stand in front of one of the three doors. The one leading to his condo and the big bed inside.

That mattered most to him right now.

He fumbled the key card, nearly dropping it. Had to enter his security code a second time after botching the first attempt. Wasn’t his fault. Eli rubbed a hand over his ass, dragged a finger up the seam between his cheeks, and Wade’s vision blurred.

“The faster you get that door open”—Eli’s mouth hovered right over Wade’s ear—“the faster I can get inside you.”

The words shot straight to Wade’s dick. As if he needed a reminder about what he wanted or what he’d missed for two days. “The whole Skype thing only made it worse. I could watch you touch yourself but not feel your hands on me.”

Eli shifted until he crowded against Wade, pressing his front right against Wade’s back. The erection didn’t leave any doubt about Eli’s readiness. “Feel me now?”

Wade opened the door with enough force to slam it against the inside wall. After throwing it shut again he didn’t stop to turn on lights or have a conversation. He grabbed Eli’s hand and dragged him toward the bedroom.

But his footsteps faltered when Eli said, “Condom and lube. I’ll handle the rest.”

Wade barely made it through the bedroom doorway before breaking into a run. Once he spied the bed, he turned around and attacked Eli’s clothes. Tore off his tie and grabbed at the rest of his shirt buttons, crushing one in his fist. Equally frenetic in his movements, Eli tugged and pulled.

When they had the shirt stripped off and the undershirt up and gone, Wade lowered his head. Planted kiss after kiss on the warm skin of Eli’s chest as Eli cradled his head in his palm.

With his knees shaking, Wade sat on the edge of the bed and pulled Eli in closer. Kissed his flat stomach before moving lower. He had Eli trapped between his thighs, his fingers on his zipper. A rasping sound split through the silence of the room as Wade lowered it, careful over the growing bulge.

As Eli’s breathing kicked up, Wade pushed the pants down and didn’t play with the boxer briefs. They had to go, too. Another time he’d torture them both by inching the waistband down and kissing each sliver of skin he revealed. Not now.

Eli slid his fingers through Wade’s hair. “I fucking missed you.”

The words hit Wade with full force. Eli didn’t talk about his needs or emotional things. Even admitting that small concession constituted a huge step forward. Wade almost closed his eyes in relief. But then Eli’s fingers started roaming. Slipped down Wade’s neck and under the collar of his shirt. Stroking his skin and lighting it on fire everywhere he touched.

This is what Wade wanted. Eli home and uninhibited. Eli naked. “Show me how much. How sorry you were to leave me alone.”

So what’d you think? Have you read m/m romance before? Or any of the Holton Woods books? Oh and you can read another excerpt here, or buy a copy here. :D

Release Day Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: Chasing Danger by Katie Reus

Hi friends! Today we have Katie Reus visiting with us! She’s a first timer at ALBTALBS – and it’s also release day for her, so everyone be super nice to Ms. Reus!

Thanks so much to Limecello for showcasing Chasing Danger here today! I hope you enjoy the exclusive sneak peek.

Chasing DangerA woman in danger and the one man who will keep her safe at all costs…

Chief Nursing Officer Hannah Young is accustomed to working under pressure, but even she’s still reeling in the aftermath of a horrific terrorist attack on Miami. And things only get worse after a knife wielding maniac tries to kill her. Desperate for help, Hannah must turn to the one man she never thought she’d see again.

After spending an intensely passionate night with Hannah, NSA Agent and former Delta Force operative Dax Costas fell off the face of the earth. He got called away for a two week mission with no way to contact her. Now he can’t get the smart, sexy woman out of his head. She might be angry at him, but when it appears she has a stalker, Dax moves her under his roof and into his protection.

Unfortunately, whoever wants Hannah dead will stop at nothing. And if Dax can’t identify the perpetrator in time, it could be too late to discover if there is more between him and Hannah than just heated passion…

Chasing Danger (A Deadly Ops novella)
Copyright © 2015 Katie Reus

Despite the heaviness sitting on her chest, Hannah let out a short laugh. If there was a crazy guy in a mile radius, she’d find him. It was like she had a homing beacon for the weird. “I’ll take you up on the drink, but forget picking up any guys. I’m so over your gender.”

“You and me both, girl.” Shaun kissed the top of her head lightly. “I’ll text a couple of the crew who are off tonight and see if they want to meet up.”

“Sounds good to me.” There were six of them who got together regularly after work. Right now anything was better than going back to her empty home—for a multitude of reasons. Weeks ago Miami had been rocked to its core with a horrific terrorist attack that killed hundreds. In the aftermath her best friend, Sophie, had come up from Key West, where she lived with her husband Jack.

Jack used to work for the NSA in a capacity that Hannah sort of knew about because she’d been kidnapped a year ago and Jack and his former boss and teammates had helped save her. She’d had to sign a bunch of paperwork swearing she’d never speak of what he did or what she’d seen. Which was fine with her because thanks to them, she was alive. And if she was honest, she wanted to forget everything she’d been through. Being kidnapped and held in another country had been traumatic enough, no matter how levelheaded she was. Having your freedom taken from you, with the additional worry of death—and worse things—hanging over your head, was hard to forget.

Sophie and Jack had come to town because Jack had been doing contract work of sorts for the NSA, including briefly guarding a woman who’d been a witness to the terrorist attack. During that time Jack and Sophie had stayed at Hannah’s parents’ house, and in the aftermath, Hannah had met one of Jack’s former colleagues, Dax Costas.

Dax fucking Costas, whom she wanted to punch right in the face for standing her up two weeks ago after the most intense, raw sex of her life. Yes, that was a violent reaction but she didn’t care. He just brought it out of her with all his raw sex appeal and bullshit charm. She couldn’t believe she’d thought his I’m-quiet-and-brooding-and-don’t-know-how-sexy-I-am act was actually real. Gah! She never fell for that stupid charming act from men.

Until Dax.

She couldn’t believe she’d invited him to her house. He’d been in her bed, on her sheets, in her safe haven. A place it had taken her a long damn time to feel safe in again after being kidnapped right out of her home a year ago. She’d brought him there because she’d thought he was different. He was the first man she’d let in her home, in her own bed, period. The connection between them . . . She shook her head as Shaun strode in the other direction of the garage to get to his vehicle.

She already had enough on her mind and didn’t need to add to her stress by dwelling on a man who’d turned out to be a liar.

As she slid into the driver’s seat of her new mini-SUV, her cell phone rang. Without starting the engine, she locked her doors, even though the garage was teeming with people getting off work. Ever since the kidnapping, she was hyper-vigilant. Glancing at the caller ID, she frowned. Unknown.

Could be a telemarketer even though they weren’t supposed to call her cell phone, or it could be one of her four older brothers. Screw it. If it was a telemarketer she’d just hang up. “Hello?”

“Hannah.”

Dax’s voice. She hated that she recognized him so easily. The deep quality of his voice did strange things to her insides. She swallowed hard.

“Hello?” he said.

Damn it, she needed to get it together. “Who is this?” She didn’t want to admit that she recognized him from two words.

A long pause. “Dax.” It sounded like he said the word through gritted teeth.

“The only Dax I know was supposed to meet me for a date two weeks ago but never showed.” Or called. How freaking humiliating.

“Hannah, I’m more sorry about that than you know. I got called away for work and—”

“Did they not have phones where you were going?”

“Not . . . exactly.”

“What the hell does that mean? Not exactly? Unless you were in the Amazon rain forest with no satellite reception, I find it hard to believe you couldn’t have taken two seconds to call, or even freaking text me.” She wished she could act cool and unaffected, but her voice vibrated with fury.

“I didn’t have the means to call you. I can’t tell you more than that, but I’m back in town and I want to see you again. Please let me make it up to you.” The pleading note in his voice tugged at her, and she almost caved.

But she had some pride left, even if the man’s voice got her hotter than anyone else ever had. She snorted. “No, thank you. The sex was great, Dax, but I’m not interested anymore.” Feeling like a bitch and not caring, she hung up.

Her face burned as she remembered just how raw things had been between them. They’d had sex all over her house. They’d spent four days and nights together, wrapped up in each other, coming up for air only long enough to eat and sleep. She’d even called in sick to work two days in a row, something she’d never done, not in the decade she’d worked at the hospital. She’d never thought sex could be that good, that real. Swallowing hard, she fought the heavy feeling pressing against her chest. Combined with everything today, hearing Dax’s voice brought her low.

She’d thought she wanted to hear from him, but now that she had, it just hurt. He couldn’t even come up with a decent excuse.

“I didn’t have the means to call you.” How lame.

Mentally shaking herself, she started the engine and looked in the rearview mirror to see Shaun’s car pull up behind her. She wasn’t going to sit here in the parking garage and continue to feel sorry for herself. Because that’s not what Youngs did. Not according to her mother.

Youngs didn’t feel sorry for themselves and they didn’t mope. Life was too short.

.
Author BIO: Katie Reus is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Red Stone Security series, the Moon Shifter series and the Deadly Ops series. She fell in love with romance at a young age thanks to books she pilfered from her mom’s stash. Years later she loves reading romance almost as much as she loves writing it. However, she didn’t always know she wanted to be a writer. After changing majors many times, she finally graduated with a degree in psychology. Not long after that she discovered a new love. Writing. She now spends her days writing dark paranormal romance and sexy romantic suspense.
For more information on Katie… Visit Katie’s website, find Katie on Facebook, follow Katie on twitter.

Fabulous! Well, what’d you all think? Do you enjoy romantic suspense? :D To sweeten the deal, Katie has offered up a print ARC of the next book in the series Shattered Duty to one lucky commenter! So remember to wish Katie a happy new release day! ;) [And remember to check back at the end of the month to see if you’ve won!]

And you know, just to make things more fun, here’s the cover and blurb for Shattered Duty.

Shattered DutyWhen his wife was murdered two years ago, Special Agent Levi Lazaro turned his back on everything he cared about. Ever since, he has thought of nothing but vengeance. Now he’s finally uncovered the identities of those who killed his wife—and he’s ready to destroy them at any cost. He won’t let anything stand in his way—not even a beautiful NSA agent on a mission of her own.

Special Agent Selene Wolfe prides herself on being the best. Her fearlessness and quick-thinking make her the perfect person to take down a deadly terrorist cell. But she needs Levi’s help, and the moment he shows up, Selene knows her objectivity—and her heart—are in trouble.

As the two strike an uneasy alliance, Levi finds himself tormented by his desire for Selene—a feeling he thought long dead. But when their mission takes an unexpected turn, he finds himself at a crossroads. Can he put aside his need for revenge to save the woman who’s reawakened his soul?

Special Reader Guest: Alys

Hi friends! So I’d like to crawl into a hole with a fluffy blanket and just … sleep and rest for about a week, but I know I don’t get that. Alas. However, today we have a reader featured at ALBTALBS! These are some of my favorite posts, and I really hope you’ll read what Alys has to say. [Also – the pictures were sent embedded, which WP can’t handle – so odd formatting/whatever is on me. Forgive me.]

Unexpected MagicUm…hello everyone, this is little Alys from some blog somewhere with some twitter someplace and such and whatnot. Not really important. What is important is that for some reason, our dear Limecello (during a momentary lapse of judgment, I’m sure) felt that I was awesome enough to do a guest reader post for her much cooler blog and be on par- ok not on par, more like bask in the warm glowing limelight of equally cool writers/readers/guest posts.

Therefore, too bad for you! Now you’ll have to suffer through my enormously absurd posts. Mwahahahaha. You must endure through this post – ay, hey!! Don’t click that x in the corner and don’t even think about hitting that back button. You know your curiosity won’t let you. XP

In all honesty, I was very hesitant when Lime asked me to do a guest post. I barely update on my own blog anymore and my twitter consists almost entirely of retweeted pictures of adorable animals I don’t have and breathtakingly gorgeous places I’d never been. I guess one thing Limecello and I have obsessively in common would be our love of reading and Asian tv shows/movies and that probably gave her some measure of confidence that I’m sane enough to guest post. I’m just kidding, Lime knows I’m nowhere near sane.

Okay then, after all this ranting, let’s get to the good stuff. I do want to put in some disclaimers that would either help you, dear reader, have a better perspective, understanding or reasoning for the information and personal opinions below. Limecello and ALBTALBS are in no way responsible for what happens to you for reading this – I mean, for the contents of said guest. ;)

Strange Tales from a Chinese StudioI love stories no matter the medium, but reading has always been my first love. Many of my favorite tv series and movies tend to have been adapted from novels. I was once one of those book-starved child that read anything and everything I was able to get my hands on. I have since grown much much much picker (but not as picky as someone *coughLimecellocough*) about the contents, intents, and accuracy.

My first love had always been folklores, fairytales and legends. Thus, to this day I still obsess over anything related to them. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling has been an all-time favorite since before I was able to read.

If you watch or read a lot of Chinese paranormal or historical stories, you’ll actually be able to trace a lot ideas, themes and morals to this collection. It’s by no means a perfect collection, but for a collection dated a few centuries, many of the stories were actually pointed out the hierocracy of those that felt they were better than others. While monsters were feared, humans were even worse monsters. Ghosts, spirits and shifters that were universally feared were often more loyal than people.

Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters by Kathleen Ragan was a collection of stories from around the world featuring female protagonists. A professor suggested I read this book when she was discussing folklores and how in oral traditions, protagonists were very closely split down the middle for both genders. Once they were written down, the number went to about 70 to 80 percent male protagonists. Don’t quote me on it, since I’m writing this based on memory from like I don’t know how long ago *coughdecadescough*. I really loved this book as well and in was able to showcase a lot of different cultures. It also gave some more sources where I was able to actively look for more. Heh.

These two were often my go to faves during times of slumps and idle moments of peace. I have also have Euripides somewhere, but I cannot find it in the masses of boxes at the moment.

Speaking of story slumps, I do have a few wonderful go-to authors that really need no introductions. I just wanted to fawn over them.

Yes, Lisa Kleypas. I do love her historical romances. There was always so comforting about reading her stories. I also fangirl-ed way too much in front of her once. Now I hide in shame.

I loved the book above because of the animals. I shall shamelessly say it.

Another two go to authors whom I admire are Kresley Cole and Nalini Singh, but for two different reasons. For me, Kresley Cole books function like candy. Too much is not good for my general state of mind (since I start thinking random violence solves thing…it doesn’t), but we gotta have a little crazy randomness every now and then. I also adore her heroines for being a little out there, but always able to hold their ground.

Nalini Singh books, on the other hand, came to me at a time when I was in a deep slump and feeling unable to connect to any of the mainstream books at that time. Not only does she contain very diverse characters, but each maintained their own uniqueness that was both endearing and empowering. Also, did you know there was a Harlequin manga based on one of her very early Desire books? Yeah…it’s awesome. I haz it. :D

Now, two more authors whom I’ve grown more and more into their books.

A Lady's Lesson in ScandalA Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran was one of the books the embodied so much of what I was looking for in historical romances. All of Meredith Duran’s books were awesome for me, her stories always contained this grittiness and realism that many writers simply glossed over or outright ignored. As much as people loved to glamourize that era, realistically, it probably wasn’t all that awesome nor exciting. That’s the time of colonization and slave trades, slums and industrialized poverty with child labor and… I need to stop myself. Getting off topic. For me, Meredith Duran didn’t shy away from many of the realities and it meant so much.

Sherry Thomas was another write that wrote wonderfully. I just want to minor-ly complain the heroes don’t grovel enough. :P

A few other authors I adore and want to honorly mention:

Marjorie M. Liu – I adore her writing. She also wrote some comic books! Her stories and characters were so diverse and unique, all over the world really. Adore!!! Minor sidenote: I heard on NPR they were bring back romance comic books! I hope she’ll be involved. Maybe? Pretty please?

Jeannie Lin – Chinese historical romances with Asian protagonists that were stereotypes would be a mild description. Let’s just say I’m waiting for her to go full on wuxia. She needs to. Needs. To.

Sarah Morgan – she does Harlequin Presents right. Her characters are so realistic and so awesome. Yup.

Tessa Dare – Her books were also more comfort read, much in the line of my reading Kresley Cole. Historical settings and very fun characters.

Heart of ObsidianIf you are still there, dear reader, you’ll have noticed the pattern. I do love having romances and love stories. And what is an awesome novel without love and romance? Nothing. A novel is nothing without love. Why am I so adamant? Try going through life without any romance and love. Honestly, I don’t know any particular individual that can go through life without any affection for family, friends, or themselves. So whether it be a love of a character, a story, a plot, a writer – I always enjoy stories with a lot of love.

Romance novels had been a way to assure the reader that good triumphs over those that choose to harm. And female empowerment! I mean, er, we have female centric protagonists that triumphs over hardship and trials of life and still get the guy. ;) Seriously though, reality sucks enough as it is – especially for women, so why rip on something that actively exemplified success for women? Yes, there’s a bunch of formulas and there’s no escaping trends, but the main core of these stories have always been about human strengths and struggles. It is in every culture and in every story – an universal theme, if I may be so cliché to write. ;)

So…I’m trying to draw a tangent to another topic and failing horribly, so you get to suffer this weird divergence…

Lately, I’ve been obsess – er, focusing more on Asian romance stories via mediums such as TV shows, movies and internet novels. Oh my gosh, internet novels rock so much.

The Empress in the Palace (Zhen Huan Zhuan) 甄嬛傳 

This was one of the shows that brought Limecello and I together in the first place, so I felt this had to be here. How to describe ZHZ? It is the rise to power of a woman that really did not want to go down that path, yet fate had other plans if she wanted to survive. Oh, it’s a tragedy, I admit it. A pretty historically accurate story filled with tragedy for all those involved. As in line with the trauma of Chinese historical stories, you have those perfectly doomed loves because of family and responsibilities. Oh freaking Asian people, stop being so realistic. Also, it’s coming onto Netflix soon – abridged and changed, but oh well.

The novel was actually much more extensive and less historically accurate (not in a real historical time period), but the characters were amazing. They cut out a few of my favorite characters, but the tv show still maintained the awesomeness of most characters even if the TV show made everyone much nicer (including ZH and her sister -_-). The timeline in the novel was longer, too. *sigh* Anyways, I have a small notebook filled with thoughts and analysis for review, and then I kind of gave up. Too extensive for me to tackle right now when I can be reading something else. XP

Loving, Never Forgetting 恋恋不忘 

Another show Limecello and I obsessively emailed each other about. As with ZHZ, this was once an internet novel = published = tv drama. Also has Jerry Yan. This story…I actually think a LOT of people would love it. Secret baby style. Lol. The novel wasn’t as insane towards the end as the TV show, but hey, everyone loves to embellish and drama it out. Lol. I did like how the story showcased how it was actually difficult for a single woman to raise a child. Also, I was a little upset how the kind of just forgave the Old Dad. I actually blamed him more than I did the crazy mother.

Silent Separation // My Sunshine (何以笙簫默)

Limecello was supposed to watch this one with me… *pouts* Anyways, this novel was insanely popular. Like, batsh** in a batcave dropping all over the place crazy obsessive. The TV series really shouldn’t be so long, but TV, what can you do. This story was really a reunion love story. College sweethearts (where the girl chased the guy down! Mwahaha), the separated due to youth, miscommunication and misunderstanding. They met again when they were older and it’s about their reunion/love. Under normal circumstances, I actually do not like these types of stories, but this was one sooooooooooo good. Also, realistically the guy would be impossible to be with. Yet, as with all this author’s books, I simply adored the female protagonist. Especially when she was young, that’s like my favorite type of heroine. :D The TV series let her be gloomy for way too long though.

Love in the AfternoonThis author has another famous novel turned TV series that Limecello refuses to watch due to the actors/actresses. Even so, Shan Shan Come Eat still deserved an honorable mention just cuz she showcased so much food. I actually really like another book by this author that wasn’t as popular, but if I start on this author, Gu Man (顾漫), I might as well just stop writing anything else and have a party. Same could be said about the author Mo Bao Fei Bao (墨宝非宝)…sooooo we’ll just move on.

Quick honoralble mention for Wuxia authors Jin Yong and Liang Yu Sheng. I would say more, but then I’ll end up descending into a thunderstorm rant with Limecello. I prefer Lian Yu Sheng’s female protagonists and stories in general, but his stories stayed too realistic (i.e. sad endings). Jin Yong gave us mostly happy endings, but I have much complaints about his female characters. They may be smarts and almost always better than the male characters, but they still maintained too much the stereotypical limitations.

A sidenote of one way I decide how much I like the book: if the female protagonist has her own group of friends. If she does not… I have a really really hard time suspending my sense of disbelief. I mean, “When Spring Ends, I’ll See You Again” by Shu Ke (蜀客), but it only worked because of the type of world it was in: xian xia. There is a very nice and solid fanbase for Chinese translated novels, please take a look at http://www.books.shushengbar.com if you can. Or have an all-nighter binge on youtube. :D

Anyways, let me start wrapping things up… and just because I can: Ghibli, Ghibli, Ghibli. I will forever <3

Hayao Miyazaki. Fuyumi Ono was also extremely influential for me. My biggest regret (so far) was for not ever having met Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett. I hope at least be able to meet Ursula K. Le Guin.

LothaireThere are many many more wonderful authors out there and while each story I’ve read so far has brought me joy, taught me about people, and showed me more about life, I hope to continue to read for that one story embody that balance of life, humor and happiness I continue to seek. So let’s all keep reading.

I hope you enjoyed this random bit of fun and maybe get you to explore a little bit more. If nothing else, I was able to annoy Limecello with stuff she refuse to watch with me. Also, sorry for any and all spelling, grammar, or insanity.

Whew! So anyway – lots of book talk yes? :D And shows! Also I highly recommend both Empresses in the Palace and Loving, Never Forgetting. (Aren’t you so glad my BA in Chinese has become useful? ;-) ) And of course a number of the authors mentioned too. :D Thanks for sharing with us, today, Alys!