Review of Charm City by Monica McCallan

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With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching I thought I would get myself in the spirit by reading a Valentine’s Day novel. The book I chose was Charm City by Monica McCallan. It was so much more than the traditional cutesy romance novel and I couldn’t put it down.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Taylor Tate has one last chance to turn things around. As the owner of Charm City Events, she needs her upcoming week of Valentine’s Day events to go off without a hitch. She’s painstakingly planned every detail down to the last red heart decoration, but what Taylor doesn’t plan on is the less than enthusiastic bar manager she’s paired with stumbling into her life at the worst possible time, making things more difficult every step of the way.

 

Carson Smith is getting by fine. She loves her job as the bar manager at Second Chances, a dive bar staple of the Baltimore landscape, and she doesn’t need anything or anyone disrupting the delicate balance she’s finally created. Especially for a stupid Valentine’s gimmick to take advantage of desperate singles. When the owner of the bar forces her to work with an event planning company to drum up business, she has no choice but to begrudgingly agree. It’s either play along or see the bar close, and she can’t let that happen.

 

It’s only a week, but time passes differently when there’s love in the air and too much on the line, and both women soon find their lives, and hearts, intertwined as they work together to make the week a success.

 

Can opposites attract? Find out in this HEA Valentine’s Day novella.

 

I wouldn’t really call this book a novella. I defiantly saw it as a full-length novel. No matter what you want to call it Charm City sucked me in from the very beginning. The book had more layers than I was expecting. I really enjoyed Carson’s character. She is the type of person who seems tough on the outside but once you get to know them, they turn into a huge softy. Carson’s past has left her broken she finds it hard to trust anyone because in the past she didn’t know what would happen in her life from day to day. Carson is the exact opposite of Taylor who seems to have her life so put together. While Taylor appears to have her life together that is not truly the case. Behind the scenes she is struggling, she is working her butt off in order to save her business and rebuild her brand.

 

I really liked the opposites attract aspect of Charm City. It made me want to keep reading to see how they would push each other buttons. I also liked how Taylor and Carson’s backstories played into their behavior. I could really see why Carson would shy away from relationships and why Taylor had trouble trusting. It really added to the angst keeping me hooked into the story.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a good Valentine’s Day read or to anyone who likes opposites attract romances.

 

Charm City is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Interview with Magnolia Robbins

Maggie

Who or what inspired Starbound?

My best friend Amanda. After I released Forbidden Melody last year, I kind of had a bit of a frustrating breakdown. It was a lot of work, it took a lot out of me mentally, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. In October, Amanda suggested I write a “nerd book” as she so lovingly put it. This book is really based a lot on our friendship, and is kind of an ode to her. A lot of our inside jokes are in the book, little things that have happened to us. She likes to call me a “nerd” because of all of my hobbies and interests (they’re pretty nerdy, I mean I love playing Dungeons and Dragons, I’m not going to lie…) So, really this book was for her. I went through a lot last year, and finishing this book meant a lot. I’m just happy it’s out there for people to read now.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

In 4thgrade, I wrote a book called “Freddie the Falcon” that got published by my school. I drew the pictures that went with it, and wrote the story. I’ve always had a passion for storytelling ever since I was little. It wasn’t until early college I started really picking it up. I have a mostly-finished draft of a science fiction story that I want to publish at some point as queer fiction. In 2017, my mother-in-law was dying of ovarian cancer and we had a talk in the hospital one day. I’d just quit graduate school after discovering it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I was pretty depressed, for a variety of reasons. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life, and then told me I should write, because she believed so much in my writing. The day after she passed away, I self-published my first book on Amazon.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

Wow! This is a doozy! Haha. Hm, I think if I’d have to pick my favorite, it would have to be Shiloh Pierce from Wildsky. The character was kind of based off of a variety of different people and kind of all melded together. I loved her rugged outdoorsy personality, how passionately she loved Grace, and how dedicated she was to helping her through her mental health struggles. My significant other and I went through a very similar experience when I was going through graduate school as Grace/Shiloh did, so she really mattered a lot to me.

 

I also would have to say Reese, just because I based her a lot off of Amanda, and I love Amanda to pieces.

 

And, I can’t go without saying Juliette Hamilton from Forbidden Melody, because… well, obviously.

 

I totally didn’t give you one person—sorry about that haha.

 

 

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

This is a good question! It’s a very crazy process, sometimes there’s no semblance of order. An idea will come to me and it will start brewing and festering in my head. I try to make an outline. Most of the time I don’t get through it all the way, but I’m happy to say I’m getting better about it. I will try to build as good of an image of characters in my head before I start, so I can picture what might happen to them. Then I throw out a bunch of scene ideas, just as many as I can think of. Once that happens, I try to puzzle piece them together to figure out a good plot.

 

Really though, it’s kind of a magical experience. Somehow things just start coming together once I start going. Definitely not a pantser though, as much as I envy them.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

As I mentioned in a previous question, I get a lot of inspiration from people in my life. Sometimes characters from other books will inspire ideas for me. Like I said, my significant other, Amanda, some of my lesfic friends have all inspired me. My parents, other friends. For Forbidden Melody, Emma was inspired by an America’s Got Talentcontestant named Mandy Harvey, who had the same disorder that Emma did in the book. I get my inspiration from random places.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

Okay. I have two places. It’s hard to choose.

First, is the Salt Lake City Library. Look how gorgeous this place is! It’s 4 stories, they have really nice desks to work at that face the mountains and you can look out at them while you write. There’s windows EVERYWHERE. And a coffee shop inside, so I can get all the coffee I want! The barista’s there love me haha.

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Second, is my home office. I like it a lot because I pimped it out a little this year and got nice big framed photos of my book covers. I also have a giant sloth from Amanda that keeps me company.

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What is your writing process?

I have a daily routine, which usually consists of getting up about 5:30-6am in the morning, even on the weekends. I make a big pot of coffee, take a walk for about 10 minutes, stretch, meditate most days that I can remember to do it, and then I sit down at the computer with my coffee and make a deal with myself—I need to write x amount today and then I can do something I want to do with my life. My goal is usually 2,500 words.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I don’t think my first book was what really changed my writing process. I’ve written 11 books now, 5 novels and 6 novella. I started out writing novellas because I was nervous publishing novels. It was really good practice. I got a review on one of my novellas after I’d been publishing a while saying that they felt like the story could be fleshed out more and have more detail. After that, I decided to write my first official novel. I tried really hard to pay attention and add more details, and work on my craftsmanship. Every book since has been really focusing on one area I can improve each book. It helps a lot. I really thank that reviewer for calling me out, because I might have still been stuck in novella writing mode and not gotten the courage to try something new, if it wasn’t for them.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Hiring a copy editor. 100%

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

The reviews for Wildsky and for Forbidden Melody just exploded my heart. I think the best review/thing I heard was from someone who read Wildsky, who was going through the same experience with graduate school as I did. They said because of the book, and then talking with me after they’d read it, they got the courage to call it quits. I wrote that book specifically for those people who are struggling, because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. And that was a really cool moment to be able to support someone else going through the same thing.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

“Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. If you haven’t ever read that book, you should read it.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

So, I just released Starbound a few days ago, which is a geeky friends-to-lovers romance about a science-fiction television star and a game store manager (who are BFFs) who fall in love. It’s definitely a very cute and light read, a lot different that Forbidden Melody. I hope my readers won’t be too disappointed that it’s a lot different, but I still think it’s a really cute read!
Early February I’ll be releasing the first novella of a 3 part series called “Essence” that is about a baker and an accountant that have a nice falling-for-each-other kind of story. It’s light and sweet like Starbound, but it’s some of my best writing, in my opinion. All three of the books take place in Vermont, which I had the pleasure of visiting last year. It’s a beautiful state that is underrepresented in literature. The series will be the “Green Mountain Novellas” and they’ll release in February, April, and June (tentatively).

 

How do you take your coffee?

Black or with a little cream! And about 20 cups. Ha!

Review of Starbound by Magnolia Robbins

Startbound

As most of my readers know I am a huge nerd. I love everything from board game to video games even D&D. When I saw Starbound by Magnolia Robbins on Kindle Unlimited I had to pick it. Lucy sounded like my nerdy dream woman and I was not disappointed.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

World renowned sci-fi television star Reese Simmons looks like she has it all – fame, wealth, a slew of beautiful women who follow her every move. Except Reese’s life is crumbling around her. She hates her job and is constantly accused of being a “reckless party animal.” Reese’s agent decides the one surefire way to get her image back on track. She has to date the worst person in the entire universe, her co-star Justine Turner.

 

Her solution: she needs a fake girlfriend. And fast.

 

Enter Lucy, the BFF. Game store manager, board game geek, the world’s most AMAZING cosplayer, and Reese’s best friend practically since birth. When Lucy finds out Reese’s predicament, there seems like only one solution: pose as fake girlfriends. And Lucy is more than willing to play the part. She’d do anything for Reese – even if it means entirely too romantic tales about their relationship, hearing she’s “incredibly beautiful”, and expert kisses in public.

 

The problem: Reese and Lucy have been in love with each other all their lives—and they’re both completely clueless.

 

This book features two best friends, roleplaying games, and countless ‘fake’ kisses and begs the question:

 

Who wants a real girlfriend when faking is so much fun?

 

Starbound hooked me from the very beginning.  I loved how Reese and Lucy worked together to protect Reese from being forced to date her evil co-worker, Justine, for publicity. I have never really read a fake romance book before, but I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Seeing how their relationship developed before they even really knew what was happening.

 

Lucy is my favorite character. She is so kind hearted and true to herself. She was even kind enough to try to comfort Justine before she snapped at her. The D&D games with Lucy’s friends is one of my favorite parts of the book. She paired perfectly with Reese whose character is a bit of a lovable mess. Reese can’t seem to get out of her own way. She constantly needs Lucy to help her fix what she has messed up.

 

As always Magnolia Robbins writes amazingly steamy sex scenes that will leave you squirming in your seat.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes friends to lover’s romances, fake romances, and nerdy romances. Hell, I would recommend this book to everyone.

 

Starbound is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Review of The Hidden One by T.B. Markinson

the hidden one

I was really excited to start The Hidden One by T.B. Markinson. It is the second book in The Chosen One series, and I would recommend reading the first book to fully understand what is happening. The book follows the life of Ainsley during her senior year of college as her class does a mock election.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Mock election. Real world danger. Ainsley’s relationship and reputation may not survive the campaign trail.

 

Still reeling from the targeted attack on her family, Ainsley is determined to keep a low profile during senior year. But a mandatory class project pulls her back into the political fray as the mock Democratic presidential candidate. With the entire campus watching, Ainsley knows it’s only a matter of time before her rival turns the spotlight on her and her secretive girlfriend.

 

Groomed from birth by her politically connected family, Ainsley knows she can handle the abuse. But shielding her girlfriend’s secrets is a matter of life or death. To protect the ones she loves, Ainsley will need to use every shrewd political move in the book.

 

The Hidden One is the captivating second book in a series of lesbian romantic suspense novels that shed light on modern American politics. If you like romance that defies the odds, a satirical take on current events, and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love T.B. Markinson’s compelling tale.

 

I really enjoyed the second installment to The Chosen One series. The first book left off at the end of Ainsley’s Freshman year of college and The Hidden One picks up at the beginning of Ainsley’s Senior year and her final project the mock election. I really enjoy the political aspect of this book. I feel like it plays a much bigger role than the first. Suzy is back to her evil ways trying to ruin Ainsley’s live any way she can, and the mock election opens up the ways that Suzy tries to sabotage Ainsley political ambitions.

 

Maya and Ainsley have been dating for three years. Their relationship is much steamier than the first book. You’re going to need a fan to cool down from their sex scenes.

 

All of my favorite characters from the first book have come back including Grover who makes a special appearance in Ainsley’s Presidential campaign. Maya’s backstory is even further explained, and it is mind-blowing.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves political romances and new adult romances.

 

The Hidden One  is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

 

 

 

Interview with author Kate Genet

kate genet

Who or what inspired Saving Rose?

I read a lot of crime novels, and I’ve always loved writing suspense, so one day I had the brilliant idea of putting those things together and writing one. It was a great deal of fun, and I expect I’ll do it again. But it really did come about simply because I decided I wanted to write a crime novel. Once I did that, my imagination came up with Claire and Rose. Valerie (my partner) and I had a great time talking about the story all through the writing process, and Claire is a sailor thanks exclusively to Valerie’s extensive experience with yachts. I love writing children, and am very protective of them, so it all just came together nicely.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to write. At the age of nine or ten, I was stitching together tiny books out of paper, just the way the Bronte sisters did, and waking up early in the morning to write poems in them. That habit didn’t last long, but the desire to write has never gone away. Kate and writer are synonymous, these days.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

This is an awfully tough question, considering I have a whole bunch of books I’ve written now. Every character is a favourite while I’m writing them, because I strive to make them feel as real as possible, and I tend to fall in love with all my main characters.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

I’m ready to write when I can see the first scene in my head, and when I know what sort of feeling or atmosphere I want the book to have. I don’t outline at all; I simply start at chapter one and see where the story takes me, right up until the end. I don’t even know how to write any other way than that!

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

Everything is inspiration. I think when you’re a writer, every experience, everything you see, feel and do, falls through into the well of inspiration and then becomes part of a story, even if it’s one you never end up telling. I do most of my character invention during the actual writing, so they tend to grow very organically, and I meet them and get to know them at the same time I am writing them.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

I’m a big fan of routine. It makes my days look very dull, but I have a space – a room – set aside to write in, and that’s where I go to write. Usually at the same time every day, for the same length of time. The discipline and routine help my brain make the switch to that flow state where language and structure and story and inspiration come together on the page. I’m not a coffee shop writer, or anything of the sort – I prefer to sit on my own when I’m working.

 

What is your writing process?

It’s very dull, from the outside, at least! While it varies slightly from book to book, it pretty much always starts simply with the picture in my head of someone doing something. And I write that picture down and follow where it leads me. I start at the beginning, at chapter one, and I write until the story is done. Valerie (my partner) reads along while I write, and we will talk about the story and she usually does whatever research I need. When I’ve reached the end, I read through it, making sure it all works, and then it gets proofed.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It made me realize that finishing writing projects is a great idea!

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My whole writing career has been run on a shoestring budget. There just hasn’t been the money for anything, so of the few things I’ve spent money on, I’d probably say my very recent purchase of Vellum, which is a miracle programme which will finally allow me to bring my books out in paper.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

I think it is always gratifying to get feedback from readers letting you know that they’ve enjoyed your work. It’s a difficult thing to work for a couple months on a story – something that didn’t exist at all until the writer made it up (literally!) – and then put it out in public for scrutiny, and enjoyment or otherwise. Which also makes it one of the most amazing, humbling things when someone says it made them feel all the things you were hoping it would when you wrote it.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

I don’t think there’s been just one book. Instead there have been many. I’m a great fan of the modernists – E M Forster, D H Lawrence, Virginia Woolfe, Katherine Mansfield, and too many others to mention. Then to those, add a great dollop of Stephen King. An odd mix, perhaps, but then, I’ve never been particularly conventional.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

I have a few planned for this year. Two historical romances under the name Lily Hammond, two contemporary romances as Ana McKenzie, and after that I should be able to fit another two in, if life leaves me enough space. I’ll play with those ones and see what I come up with – most likely some sort of suspense novel like Saving Rose. I like not knowing yet!

 

How do you take your coffee?

With coconut milk and no sugar. If I’m out, I’ll have a cappuccino, again with no sugar.

Review of Saving Rose by Kate Genet

saving rose

As most of you know I’m a huge fan of thrillers and mysteries. There is nothing quite like being on the edge of your seat waiting to know what twists and turns are in store for the hero. Saving Rose by Kate Genet did not disappoint it had me hooked from the very first page.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Driven, professional sailor Claire Wilde is home on a flying visit to see friends and family. She’s especially looking forward to catching up with best friend Zoe, and meeting Zoe’s daughter, Rose.

 

But Christchurch is a city on shaky ground, and when it is hit by a big earthquake, secrets are suddenly exposed that Claire and Zoe had never even guessed at. In seconds, everything is changed.

 

Drawn into a terrible game of cat and mouse with a paedophile and killer she never suspected, Claire finds herself chasing a man who won’t stop until he gets what he wants — three-year-old Rose. Tested even to her considerable limits, Claire is about to discover exactly how far she is willing to go to protect another woman’s child.

 

Saving Grace is not the typical book I review on this site, it has no romantic element. Personally, I thought that made this book even better because they didn’t try to force a romance where it wasn’t needed. This book was told from many points of view. Which I thought made this book all the more interesting. I particularly liked reading from the mind of Danny, the villain. It really added suspense to the story knowing what his plans were and what the heroes Claire and Mona would need to overcome to save Rose.

 

As everyone knows who regularly reads the blog, I love the addition of pets in a story. This book had an amazingly protective German Shepard that Rose named Pilot. Pilot got lost during the earthquake the rocked the city he was found by Rose. He becomes Rose’s companion and tries to protect her from her father. Between Claire and Pilot, Danny had his hands full in his evil attempts to take his daughter. Saving Rose is a wild ride.

 

I would recommend Saving Rose to anyone who loves thrillers.

 

Saving Rose is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

 

 

Interview with Miranda Macleod

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Who or what inspired Holme for the Holidays?

There were two things that inspired this book. One was a trip I took through the real village of Holme in Yorkshire, and the other was the movie “The Holiday” with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. This story is nothing like the movie, but I loved the idea of a house swap that leads to romance.

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a kid. I used to make up plays during recess and make my friends take roles in them. But it was as my 40thbirthday was approaching a few years back that I realized that if I didn’t do something to turn “I want to write a book someday” into an actual book soon, I never would.

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

My very favorite character is Amanda, the office temp turned international spy, from Stockholm Syndrome. I think I like her because she reminds me of all the years I spent as an office temp while I was in graduate school. Often, when you’re in that type of setting, you don’t really know anyone and you can feel a little invisible and underappreciated, so it’s a great environment for letting your imagination run wild. Amanda daydreams about being a spy, only unlike most of us, she gets the chance one night to make her dream come true!

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

I write down ideas whenever they come to me, often along the lines of “wouldn’t it be funny if…” Most of the time, the initial thing that draws me to a story is something funny, like a celebrity chef on a gluten-free diet who gets stuck in a tiny Italian village where the only things to do are eat pasta and flirt with the local chocolate maker. After the initial idea, I always write an outline, even if some of the scenes are a little vague at first. I have to have a plan before I can write, even if sometimes I change the plan halfway through.

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

Sometimes I base my characters and their occupations either on things I know myself, or on people I have encountered. For example, my Love’s Encoretrilogy is set in the theater, where I worked for several years. Other times, I ask myself what type of extraordinary life an ordinary person might like to drop in on for a few hours—perhaps a celebrity singer or spy. But it’s important to me that even the characters with the most unusual and exciting occupations need to be real and relatable.

Where is your favorite place to write?

During the warmer weather, I have a desk on my three-season porch, but when the New England winter gets too cold, there’s a local coffee shop I like, and the library is also a good choice. I find it helpful to get away from home, where there’s always a load of laundry to distract me from writing.

What is your writing process?

Ideally, I spend a week or so creating an outline and then launch into my first draft, which usually takes a few months. When that’s done I get editorial input, revise, and send for final editing and proofreading.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Getting through the whole process, from idea to final product, for the first time helped me to start building a series of steps that I refine with each new work. I found, for example, that I tend to get tired in the middle of the book, where it seems like the end will never arrive, and so it can help me to send it at that stage to a beta reader to get some feedback. Even if all the reader says is “Finish this so I can read the rest,” it helps to rekindle my energy to push through to the end.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

For me, it was buying a Mac and loading it up with the Scrivener and Vellum programs. That gives me everything I need to go from outline to published e-book and paperback.

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

The comments that stick with me the most are when a reader reaches out to say that my story gave them hope in a dark time. My books are romantic comedies on the surface, but I try to deal with the emotions and challenges that real people face, and intfuse them with hope and humor. When I know that’s brightened someone’s day and made something difficult easier, that’s the best feeling in the world.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

In 4thgrade, my friend Jenny gave me a copy of Emily of New Moonby L.M. Montgomery. That series is not as well-known as her Anne of Green Gables series, but it’s all about a little girl who dreams of being a writer, and who has great adventures along the way to achieving her dream, with a lot of embarrassing challenges thrown in for good measure. Even as an adult, I still go back and read it sometimes, and love it every time.

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

Yes! 2018 proved to be a difficult year for writing because of various things that came up in my family and personal life, but I’m pleased to say that I will be publishing London Holiday, the 5thbook in the Americans Abroad series, this coming spring. It’s a modern retelling of the 1950s classic Roman Holiday, which is probably my favorite movie of all time. In my version, a struggling journalist meets a runaway princess in London and has to choose between the tabloid story of a lifetime, or the possibility that she’s found true love.

How do you take your coffee?

Whole milk, and no flavored creamers or heaven forbid, anything sweet in it.