Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday Book Review: HEART OF THE SECRET by Jody Kessler

 About the Book:
A 500 year-old curse, a witch who will do anything to marry her one true love, and the heart of a secret that will either divide them or bring them together…forever.


Aspen Morgan is an extraordinary, beautiful, and talented witch with the power to control animals and earth magic. She also deeply desires to marry Rook Avesbury. Unfortunately, Aspen knows that being a Morgan means she is destined to a life of solitude. The Morgans of Lane County don’t get married, they don’t explain why, and their secret always dies with them.

While studying the stars along the northwest coast, Rook, a handsome and charming wizard from the British Isles, falls in love with the captivating Aspen Morgan. After seven blissful months together, Rook is ready to spend forever with her.

Will the Morgan family curse be the end of Rook and Aspen, or will she find a way to reveal the deadly secrets of an enchanted journal and break the five hundred-year-old spell that is preventing their happily ever after?
My Take:
This novella originally appeared in an anthology entitled Magical Weddings, and is now available as a stand alone story. I enjoyed it then, and just bought and re-read it again, appreciating it even more.

Told in first person by Aspen Morgan, the author unfolds a tale of magical curses and redemption through true love. Our narrator is a witch from an old and powerful magick-wielding family with a 500-year old curse placed by a bitter woman. None of the Morgan women are allowed to fall in love or get married, lest the curse kill their love.

But Aspen is of course in love with a warlock named Rook Avesbury. She decides she needs to break up with him before the curse kills him, but quickly realizes it's impossible to stop loving him. Instead, she tries to break the curse for good.

The author does a nice job of blending old and new, magick and mundane, to create a story filled with emotion and heart, and just the right touch of suspense. If you like your romance with angst and magick, try this sweet novella. I'm totally hoping for more about the Morgan family of witches, may be in a longer form novel (hint, hint, Ms. Kessler.)

About the Author:
Jody A. Kessler's debut novel, Death Lies Between Us, is the winner of RomCon's Readers' Crown award for best Paranormal Romance & a finalist for Best First Book in 2014. She is the author of The Night Medicine, a historical time travel series set in the Blackfoot Nation during the 1860's. Jody is currently working on her new Granite Lake Romance series as well as other exciting projects.

When Jody isn't navigating the terrain of her imagination and writing it down, she can be found exploring the wilderness of Colorado with her family, or in the kitchen baking cookies & brownies - and trying not to eat them all. She's passionate about continuing to learn and reads anything and everything that catches her interest. Jody is a full time mom, a Reiki Master, and has taught Hatha yoga for over a decade.

She invites you to stop by her website and see what's new at:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Feature: Chatting with paranormal romance author Karilyn Bentley

Hi, Karilyn! Tell us a bit about you, and what kind of books you like to read and write.

I write paranormal/fantasy romance and urban fantasy. I like to read the same, along with historical romance and mysteries. Here's my official bio:

Karilyn Bentley's love of reading stories and preference of sitting in front of a computer at home instead of in a cube, drove her to pen her own works, blending fantasy and romance mixed with a touch of funny.
Her paranormal romance novella, Werewolves in London, placed in the Got Wolf contest and started her writing career as an author of sexy heroes and lush fantasy worlds.

Karilyn lives in North Texas with her own hunky hero, a crazy dog nicknamed The Kraken, and a handful of colorful saltwater fish.

I love your dog's nickname! Okay, what's your favorite part of being an author? 

Being creative and meeting people who read my books. It's a great feeling when a reader likes your book.

I have to agree with you there! What's your approach to writing? Do you plot or go with the flow? 

I'm a hybrid pantser, which means I have to have a beginning, an end and the turning point (or black point of the story). Other than that, I wing it and hope I don't get lost down a rabbit trail.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? 

I'd like to be able to move things with my mind. Then I could sit in here typing and still get the dusting done without sneezing.

Oh, I hate dusting too. For many reasons. Now. Tell us about your new/latest release! 

I'd love to! My latest release is Demon Kissed, the 2nd book in the Demon Huntress series. Here's the blurb and an excerpt:

Gin Crawford, the world's latest demon huntress, has no time to mourn her dead lover as she's called in to determine why a demon attack occurred at the local medical school. And not just any demon, but the one demon that gives her demon-killing bracelet the shivers. A dead professor, a lab full of missing anthrax, and a demon who turns good people into minions complicate her life. Can Gin and her mentor Aidan Smythe solve the mystery of the missing anthrax and the identity of the demon before someone else dies?

     The scent of sulfur hangs in the air like a demonic stink bomb. I want to slap a hand over my nose, but no one else seems affected by the stench. Must be a demon huntress thing.
     Justitian,” Smythe mutters. “Not demon huntress.”
     “If you don’t like my new title, then stay out of my mind.”
     He glares. I swallow. Cross my arms. Refuse to take a step back. I’m learning not to be intimidated by his anger. Go me.
     My justitia vibrates, throwing me out of my internal battle, pulling me back to the land of death and minions. The blob of colors pulsates, a glowing reminder of a moment of terror. The moment the demon appeared to the grad student.
     Granted, I’m still taking Demons 101, but I thought demons formed minions in private.  Usually after the human committed a crime, not before. A tryout, so to speak. And maybe that happened, but it sure seems to me like the black blob of demon force appeared to the grad student smack in the middle of the hallway.
     Or maybe that always happens, and I just now noticed it.
     The justitia’s vibration grows stronger, trembling my arm, my veins. Not its normal excited tremor upon seeing a minion or demon. A rush of images spikes through my mind, scenes of terror coupled with blood and death, memories of the justitia’s former wearers captured in time by the entity in the bracelet.
     I’m not the only one freaked out by the colored blob. How bad was this demon to scare a justitia?

* * *

Great excerpt! Okay, you’re casting the movie version of your novel – who would you choose for the main characters? We’re talking dream cast.

Oh wow! Let's see. Okay, Smythe would be played by Hozier, but with shorter hair and no beard, and Gin would be played by Jessica Alba. But I'm really bad with this question because I see characters colors, not their faces. Weird, right?

Where can readers find your book and where can they find you online? 

Thank you for asking! Here are the buy links for Demon Kissed:

And here's where you can find me hiding out online:

Thanks for being my guest today, Karilyn! And best of luck with your new book!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Writing Wednesday: About those Alpha Males ...(part 1)

When you hear the term "alpha male" you think strong and in charge. Movie images of ripped Navy SEALs or muscle-bound Highlanders might flit through your mind. Or maybe you picture the powerful billionaire CEO, intense and driven with the "A" type personality.

A for alpha.

Alpha males are a staple in literature as well as movies, and as a writer you should take some time to master this stereotype (pun intended.) There's a difference in writing a strong alpha male who might also have hidden vulnerabilities, as opposed to one who is simply a domineering jerk.

When reading any genre of novel, we want our heroes to be strong and stand up for what they believe, but we also want to connect with characters on a deeper level. Even an alpha male needs something to make him vulnerable, and thus human. He can't just flex his muscles and order women around. And in a romance, he needs to give as good as he gets.

This came into stark contrast for me recently with two very different novels that I read back to back.

The first was the fabulous chic lit romp Lingerie Wars, by Janet Elizabeth Hendersen (highly recommend for a light read that's lots of fun.)
The hero, Lake Bensen, is a former British special forces officer who could totally be the next James Bond. Complete alpha male package who comes off as controlling, sexy, self centered and domineering when we first meet him. But the author also gives us flashes of his humanity, when he walks a stranger who's had too much to drink home from the pub, or the way he puts up with his older landlady, or even the  fact he decides to offer women's self defense classes in the back of his sister's shop. Granted, that last one may have been calculated to help him win the battle between his sister's lingerie shop and the one across the street, but an alpha jerk wouldn't have bothered to put himself out. In the end, when it came to saving the woman he'd fallen in love with, he doesn't hesitate for a minute, his sole thought being her welfare.

In contrast, that same week I also read Mermen, the first book in a trilogy by Mimi Jean Pamfilof, a New York Times Bestselling author.

The alpha male hero of her story is Roen Doran, a Seattle-based billionaire shipping tycoon who, let's be clear, is a complete asshat from start to finish. Okay, yes he saves the girl, and yes, she falls for him (I have no idea why) but even with his tragic backstory, he doesn't evoke emotion or empathy from the reader mostly because he's arrogant, selfish and thoughtless of other people's feelings or needs. And each and every time he saves the girl (it's a convoluted storyline) he does it for self-serving reasons. Saving her is merely a byproduct of his own desired outcome.

What's my point? Mostly that the designation of "alpha" doesn't necessarily equate with being a selfish dickhead. Alpha males more than eye candy on the cover. Written well, their characters can be sexy, hot and (most of all) interesting heroes, if only given the proper emotional abilities.

Okay, whew. There's only so much testosterone I can talk about in one post. And these are just general observations, as I'm sure you've noticed (and are griping about!) Next time, I'll be more specific with my alpha-do and alpha-don't recommendations and examples.Maybe pictures. We'll see.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Book Review: ALTERNATE by Marilyn Almodovar

Alternate, by Marilyn Almodovar
Chronicles of the Interred, Book Three
Published December 25, 2015

About the Book:
When a portal leaves Baxter trapped and powerless in an alternate world, she finds herself on the run and fighting for her life. The world’s Council wants to hand her over to Declan, and her only source of support is a broken Alternate Jack who blames her for all he’s lost. Baxter soon realizes that if she’s going to defeat Declan and get back to her world, she’ll have to reclaim her abilities and be stronger than she ever imagined.

Declan and the Absorbers’ Initiative wage war on everyone who opposes them in their hunt for Baxter. Their actions reveal what her future will be like if she doesn’t make some drastic decisions. She knows that one misstep on her part will lead to the destruction of not just this world, but her own.

In a race against Time and bitter enemies, Baxter will discover how much is at stake and just what she’ll have to sacrifice to save those she loves. Can she learn from the fate of an alternate world how to become the Time Bender she’s meant to be?
My Take:
This third installment of this time travel fantasy starts out fast and keeps up a rocket-fast pace from start to finish. Mixing time travel, magick, sword wielding warriors, and dystopian alternate Universes, this complicated fantasy trilogy needs to be read in order.

Told in first person by Baxter, who is not merely a teenage time traveller but a Time Bender, the story starts where the last book ended: Baxter has slipped through a fissure in the fabric of time to an alternate Universe where she now sits in a jail cell in the Tower of London. In this alternate reality, her boyfriend Jack is already pushing 30 and his wife Baxter (the version of our narrator from this alternate timeline) is dead. In this world, the bad guys are already  in control. Our narrator doesn't like that one bit, and somehow rallies the good guys to fight with her one last time.

New forms of magical abilities are introduced and the fissures are finally explained, as is the narrator's  key role in this alternate reality-hopping series. The whole multiverse thing has our narrator reeling more than once as she tries to figure out how to get everything back to a semblance of normality. Poor Baxter should be in high school, not commander of a multiverse rebellion, and she does have a few breakdown moments of self pity party wallowing. She is a teenage girl, after all. In the end, she sucks it up and does what she needs to do to make things right in this Universe as well as her own.

If you like dystopian tales of intrigue and magick, give this well written and unique series a try. Like any good fantasy series, the first book starts slowly enough to introduce all the characters, but the series quickly picks up speed and barrels through to the end. I could totally see this as a BBC television series, picturing it in my head the whole time as they jump between continents and alternate universes. Kudos to the author for this imaginative and sweeping tale.

Read them in order: Interred (Book One), Fissure (Book Two), Alternate (Book Three)

Sunday, February 21, 2016



Holy Hell!

After battling her way back from Hell only to discover Luc didn't make it out, Lily must rally the angels to descend back into the Devil's domain. Now she has thirty days to rescue her angelic warrior boyfriend and break the curse to free God before Lucifer and his demon army destroy all of humanity on Earth. Forget passing the eleventh grade. Lily must face the ultimate final exam to give the Devil his due and save the world before the reapers catch up and deliver the death she cheated from them a year ago.

Amazon CA ~
iBooks ~


Purchase a copy of any of the Speak of the Devil books to be entered to win a $25 Giftcard (Open US & Internationally). Just enter the information in the link and a winner will be contacted on February 28th, 2016.  

“I can’t see a thing,” Belle said, leaning forward in her seat as if that would help. But I knew how this played out because I’d been here before. I was going to hit the water again, drown again, die again. My heart raced and though I wasn’t in the water yet, I already had trouble breathing.
“Mike!” I yelled, and he reached for me as the car skidded to the edge of the bridge. Belle overcorrected and the car hit the side, bending the rail down, and over we went.
A brief instant passed. The silver sliver of the skinny moon’s reflection glinted in the black water below as we headed straight for it.
“I got ya.” Mike gripped my hand tightly. I closed my eyes and braced for impact.
All I could think was “unbelievable.” Sarcasm. My last thought before dying was sarcastic. Perfect.
Then…impact. Painful, cold, breathtaking impact. This time Mike was ready. He opened the doors easily and pulled me from the car before it filled up and dragged us down to the dredges of the Missouri River. I blacked out.
I woke up lying in the mud on the side of the river. Belle and Mike glowed green as they healed me. I didn’t see Heaven this time. I saw them hovering over me, while I coughed and choked back to consciousness.
“What the hell?” I managed to blurt out before another coughing fit took hold of me.
“We can’t walk to the church,” Belle said. “She’s freezing now.”
“We could try to take her with,” Mike said and gave her a knowing glance.
She looked at me for a second, then shrugged. “We can try.”
Mike helped me into a sitting position. “I’m going to try to take you with me the rest of the way to the church.”
“Wait. What just happened?” I asked as I became more aware.
“I don’t know. We had an accident,” he said.
“Yeah, an accident just like the one that killed us before.”

About the Author:

Shawna Romkey
Shawna grew up around farms in the heart of Missouri but went to the University of Kansas, was raised in the US but now lives on the ocean in Nova Scotia with her husband, two sons, an Irish wolfhound and a rescue mutt she loves to death. She’s a non-conformist who follows her heart.

She has her BA in creative writing from the University of Kansas where one of her plays was chosen by her creative writing professor to be produced locally, and two of her short stories were published in a university creative arts handbook.  She earned her MA in English from Central Missouri State University where she wrote a novel as her thesis.

She’s taught English at the university and secondary levels for close to twenty years and can’t quite fathom how all of her students have grown up, yet she’s managed to stay the same.  She’s a huge geek and fan of Xena, Buffy and all kick ass women, and loves to write stories that have strong female characters.

Twitter: @sromkey