The villain of our own stories

"Good vs evil" storylines are great and all, but what I'm loving the crap out of lately are not the evil you thought you were getting conflicts. Ones where the villain isn't necessarily the antagonist, where we're our own worst enemy, where "good vs good" might blow up and nothing's black and white.

Today, I'm visiting Brenda Whiteside's blog, sharing some thoughts on our "inner villains":

If you like this kind of story too, here are a few movies worth checking out:

  • The Lighthouse
  • Les Misérables
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • The Avengers: Endgame
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

A blonde woman and a mysterious man on the cover of Amber Daulton's new book, Arresting Jeremiah

Fresh Find: Arresting Jeremiah by Amber Daulton

Today's fresh find is Amber Daulton's newest book, Arresting Jeremiah, a 98k super hot romantic suspense published by Wild Rose Press. Here's everything you need to know about the second instalment of the Arresting Onyx series, where to find the book, and how to get your hands on the first book in the limited time sale.

A blonde woman and a mysterious man on the cover of Amber Daulton's new book, Arresting Jeremiah

Arresting Jeremiah by Amber Daulton

Injured Parole Officer Jeremiah “Jim” Borden never expected Calista Barlow, the sassy blonde waitress he’s craved for months, to ring his doorbell. She slips into his heart—and his bed—but he’s obsessed with a gangland investigation that threatens his career and maybe even his life.

Calista doesn’t trust easily, not with a daughter to protect and the stalker who keeps calling her. After her violent ex-boyfriend returns, she finds solace in Jim’s arms.

Jim may have to forego his need for answers to protect the ready-made family he adores, but how will he and Calista escape an unseen enemy that is always one step ahead of them?

  • Series: Arresting Onyx (Book 2)
  • Release date: 14 October 2020
  • Genre: Romantic suspense
  • Length: 98k words
  • Heat rating: 5 flames

A couple get intimate in bed. Text in image: The heat of his mouth, the spark of his touch, and the love in his eyes set her body and soul aflame.

Blurb

Calista entered her bedroom and her mouth dropped open. Oh, God.

Her date reclined on her bed as though he starred in a photo shoot. Candlelight flickered across him. The sultry gleam in his eyes arrested her, holding her captive. His sexy smile weakened her knees. None of her past lovers rocked a pair of classic black slacks and a crisp white dress shirt like he did. His chest hair, a few shades darker than the locks on his head, poked from the parted fabric and teased her.

How would that thick hair feel against her nipples? Soft? Coarse? Just right?

Jim was spread out for her pleasure like a Christmas present. She wanted to unwrap him, layer by layer. Maybe he should unwrap himself, so she could enjoy the show.

She let her gaze travel the length of his body to the bulge pressed against his zipper. Perfect. He was hard already. She licked her suddenly dry lips.

“Stare all you want, but it’s more fun to touch.” He patted his thigh, the invitation clear.

“I’m tempted.” She cocked her hip. “I guess the blueberry clafoutis can wait, but you’re a little presumptuous to think this is how the night would end.”

Then again, she did mention having breakfast together. What did she expect him to think?

“End? Honey, we’re just getting started.”

She laughed, grasped the hem of her blouse, and pulled it over her head. Her favorite perfume scented the room, and she picked up the bottle. “You like?”

“Hell, yeah. A lot.”

She sprayed a few drops on her fingers, caressed the pulse at the base of her throat, and dragged her touch down between her breasts. His guttural growl teased across her nerve endings, shooting rockets through her belly. She shimmied her skirt down her hips and kicked aside her heels. A red-satin bra-and-panty set sheathed her body. She locked her hands together behind her back before involuntarily covering her breasts and stomach.

“Damn, look at you. Come here, Calista.”

Content: woman in jeopardy, man in jeopardy, single mom, family, violent ex, investigations, police procedural, criminals, gangs, drugs, urban romance, HEA, no cliffhangers, standalone, series

Get this book

Or would you like to read book one first? Arresting Mason, book one in the Arresting Onyx series, is now on sale for .99 cents—limited time only.

Text in image: Sale alert, 99 cents, Arresting Mason by Amber Daulton

About Amber Daulton

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press, Books to Go Now, and Daulton Publishing, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.

She lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats.

author Amber Daulton smiles at the camera


SovietWave — retrofuture EDM, Soviet style

Stumbled upon this sweet outrun-esque synthwave playlist recently and have been losing myself in this music.

From the description:

Space, panel buildings and robots, a genre that managed to combine Soviet aesthetics, retro-futurism and electronic music in playlist SOVIETWAVE.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7AjPUkM7t9RyZX5QrBOfD4?si=1jkPueL1Ti-jYu4YzQkEbA

If you're hungry for some aesthetic too, a Google Images search for "sovietwave" does not disappoint.

A gallery of sovietwave images in Google Images search
Google Images search for "sovietwave"

Status Update — Sep 2020

Writing has not been a priority of late. Instead, I've been making time to tidy my dwellings, reconnect with my feelings, and try and knock over all the stuff my mind tends to wander to when I'm supposed to be working 😅

And so my things have been thus...

Writing and such

Writing has consisted mostly of boring stuff, aka. non-fiction stuff for work. My bread-and-butter writing isn't especially exciting, but I must admit, it does bring some relief when I'm anxious or stressed. I suspect it's because there's no emotion in it, not like there is in romantic and dramatic stories.

None of my big fiction projects have seen much love in the last couple of months, but I'm working on a couple of short bits and experimental pieces. My "weird fiction" story got accepted for publication—yay! It'll appear in the Autumn 2020 issue of the Kyanite Press journal.

There's a teaser excerpt coming out in next month's Dot Club. Plus more information on this blog real soon.

Tidying up my digital life

Which means closing accounts and retiring profiles I'm no longer active on. It's funny how many things get "left open" out of FOMO or nostalgia or the fear that we won't have it at some arbitrary point in the future when we might want it again. I'm in need of some proper cleanups at the moment, though, and that oh maybe approach is standing in my way.

As of today, I'm no longer on Wattpad, Noveltrove and Lushstories. Thank you, readers, for following me there. I hope you'll continue to enjoy my work in the spaces where I'm active. Like this blog 😊

Health, fun & other vitals

Self-care means working on my goal setting and time management, as this is proving to be super important while trying to get all my adulting out of the way 😅 I'm also really enjoying nice smelly things (candles, soaps and oils) and delicious tea.

Currently consuming:

Recently finished:

Playing:

  • Gloomhaven
  • Merchant RPG

And recently on the socials...

A sweet piece of my culture.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CErFumegRUb/


Gentleman with dark jeans and a grey blazer clutches a worn hardcover novel beside his leather satchel, as he walks along a country road.

Guys reading romance

When I read The Kiss Quotient last year, I was floored by how relatable Stella (the MC) was. I told my partner that if he wanted to understand how I think and feel, he needed to read this book. To my surprise, he did. He finished the whole book in a day.

And he liked it.

Romance is conventionally regarded as a “women’s genre”, often attracting the ridicule of many men (and women too) who see romance novels as formulaic, unnecessarily lusty, and poorly written. And, to be fair, maybe some books have rightfully earned those labels, thus painting the entire genre a frightful shade of blue in the eyes of the uninitiated.

So for me, as a writer of love stories, it’s extra exciting to see non-romance readers—especially men who don’t see themselves as readers who’d touch a romance novel—be open-minded and curious enough (both very attractive traits, in my opinion) to look past the stereotypes and find out for themselves.

Some fellow writers and readers helped me out with this post. They’ll jump in from time to time to share their thoughtful insights.

Gentleman with dark jeans and a grey blazer clutches a worn hardcover novel beside his leather satchel, as he walks along a country road.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Painted with the blue brush

Romance is a huge genre, so based on probability alone, it’s reasonable to expect that low-quality or formulaic stories will work their way into the mix as writers and publishers strive to keep up with market demand. Though, personally, I take issue with the idea of stories being “low quality” or “formulaic”, because there’s more nuance to those labels than what they suggest.

When we call a story “low quality”, we need to consider the audience it’s intended for. You know that joke about buying your cat a fancy new toy only for her to play with the paper and ribbon it was wrapped in? If the audience doesn’t care about someone else’s definition of quality, then what good is it?

And then we get to “formulaic”, which is an interesting concept when you consider what defines a romance story. From About the Romance Genre (Romance Writers of America):

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending… Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific subgenres within romance fiction.

I know I’ve heard some guys criticise romances for the predictability of two people falling in love, encountering some conflict, and then ending up happily ever after. For a story to be called a romance (in commercial terms), it certainly must follow a particular form, but to consider that a formula is kind of like criticising the dictionary for being, predictably, a book full of words and definitions.

But what about the lusty part? Are the dissenters right about all romances being trashy sex books? Haha, nope!

A.R. VAGNETTI (author of the Storm Series):

They have this misconception that all romance is smut. I absolutely hate that word. Now there are some sub-genres of romance where the whole book revolves around sex, and that’s fine for some, but I think in general, romance is about the growth of a relationship. You take a ride of twists and turns, ups and downs, and navigate the pitfalls and struggles of being a couple.

Contemporary romances have generally moved away from dated stereotypes to more realistic and modern relationships, which can feature challenges such as addiction, single parenting or domestic violence. Throw in suspense or historical events and that makes it even better.

What if blue really is the warmest colour?

Bros can learn a lot about their partners by reading romance. It can be hard to express a thought or feeling or desire in a conversation, because sometimes there’s so much to say and the words don’t do it justice.

There are so many stereotypes and misunderstandings about “what women want” from sex and relationships. And in all fairness, the confusing and ambiguous circumstances we encounter in real life can inadvertently reinforce those misconceptions.

DK MARIE (author of Fairy Tale Lies, Love Songs and Taste of Passion):

The biggest misconception romance has debunked is that only men are sexual beings. That they alone crave the pleasures of sex. This is SO untrue. It is more that many women were taught to let men take the lead and not share what they like and dislike. This is one of the things I love about romances. Many feature confident women. They tell men what they want and expect pleasure and satisfaction.

Romance also disproves the fallacy that most women want a man to protect them. There are those romances, but I have read so many where the woman wanted a partner, not a white knight. They want someone to share adventures and disasters with, not someone to take care of her and fix all her problems.

Even when it’s pure fantasy, romance novels offer readers an insight into real-world wants and needs. By and large, ones written by women will naturally feature a woman’s perspective on shedloads of desires that men don’t always see or understand.

SARAH SMITH (author of Faker and Simmer Down):

I remember when I was a youngster, sneaking romance novels out of my auntie’s stash, reading a lot of too-good-to-be true sex scenes in romance novels. Like, there’s very little foreplay or the woman orgasms easily or it’s the couple’s first time together and they magically know each other’s physical hot buttons so sex is a total breeze. And I think that if you were reading those kinds of books and didn’t know any better, you’d end up with some unrealistic expectations for what sex should be like.

I feel compelled to mention here that it’s not all about the “woman’s perspective” as much as it is about the perspective of carefully crafted characters who have realistic human experiences. Due to the nature of this post, we’re looking at this through a heteronormatively gendered lens, but modern romance—and indeed modern fiction—is tending towards challenging those old boundaries.

CAIDYN (reviewer at @caidynsreads):

People read romance because it represents their wants/needs/interests in life. Perhaps it doesn’t fit their life exactly—some people like different kinks/niches that they don’t have in their day to day life—but it’s something that fits them.

I think that it’d be great if we could normalize people not having to be sexual but can be romantic. Or that it’s all cool if someone isn’t into that sort of thing. That’s what I’d like. I’m just tired of seeing romance as a reason why you should buy something. It doesn’t get me as a consumer. I usually find romantic subplots pointless. I read for good plots and romance just distracts me completely.

That said, one of my favorite books of 2019 was Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin. It’s got a LOT of romance. And I really, really loved it. It was just a great read with amazing characters and plot, so I was able to get into the romance.

A gentleman reads a worn paperback in bed, in his cosy well-decorated bedroom.
Photo by awar kurdish on Unsplash

For me personally, reading and writing romance gave me a safe space to understand and explore my own needs and feelings within a romantic and sexual framework. This may be the case for many readers from all walks of life who, much like me and perhaps you, turn to books and media to help them comprehend themselves and their place in the world, or to simply get away from a reality that doesn’t gel with them.

A.R. VAGNETTI:

I believe there should be an equal mix of diversity as it fills our society. As a reader/writer I prefer the fictional fantasy of my characters. I read to escape the harsh reality of life, while for others, having characters that are disabled, characters with mental or chronic illness is cathartic. And I think those dynamics in the romance genre are changing to fit those needs.

DK MARIE:

I think diversity in romance is fantastic and much needed. I have read many and enjoyed them. There is the fun mix of relatability as a woman and also learning something new, reading a different life view than my own. I believe these stories are important for society. When we understand people’s struggles, we are able to offer kindness and empathy better.

SARAH SMITH:

I know what it’s like to grow up being an avid reader, yet never encountering a character who looked like me or had the same background as me or who went through similar experiences as me. It’s a really empty feeling. So whenever I read a book by an #OwnVoices author, it means so much. It means I feel represented in an industry—in a form of entertainment—that I felt excluded from for a very long time. Making even more readers and authors feel more welcome—making them feel like they are part of this world—is a good thing.

Guys, take note: reading romance makes you sexy

Not just because it makes you look open-minded and secure enough in your manliness to read “a girl’s book”. And not just because it shows you don’t pander to stereotypes and what the men who do might think of you.

DK MARIE:

As for men, I admire those reading romance. This is someone who won’t be told by society what he should like and read. He is confident enough to read what he enjoys. He is his own person, that is admirable.

It’s because what you learn from modern romance novels gives you access to the secrets. Yes, the very same secrets that self-identified “clueless men” claim to be clueless about. They’re hardly mysterious, but hard to discern if you grew up in an age where toxic masculinity was the norm. These are the highly prized tools of interpersonal decency and desirable indecency that would make an encounter with anyone something worth writing home about.

SARAH SMITH:

Honestly, if I ever saw a guy reading a romance novel, it would give me so many happy feels. Even though some people think of just sex when they think of romance novels, I think one of the most important things that romance novels do is show the importance of communication. Some of the major plot points in romance novels are when the main characters are working through misunderstandings and having breakthroughs about their needs and wants. All of those are types of communication. So in a very real way, romance novels are showcasing the importance of communication in sex and relationships, and show how literally everything stems from having healthy communication.

A.R. VAGNETTI:

I believe, men reading romance novels would greatly benefit their current or future relationships and maybe bring back a spark to a stale one. Romance novels are about so much more than just mind blowing sex. In some cases, it can be a real learning guide on how to avoid the pitfalls we all spiral into during a relationship. Like how we tend to jump to conclusions, making the mistake our partner thinks like us. Or burying our feelings, letting resentment build, until we reach a serious crossroads. The underlining message in all romance literature is learning to take a leap of faith, trust, and communicating with our partners. Everyone can benefit from that.

DK MARIE:

Men, you’re getting an inside view of women’s hopes, desires, and wishes. If your wife, girlfriend, or lover has a favourite romance author, it would be a good idea to read one or two of their books. Romances range from sweet and sensual to BDSM. Find out which stories she loves to read and why. Not only will you learn more about her and therefore become closer. I’m willing to bet things will become more fun in the bedroom as these books will open up discussions of romantic and sexual expectations.

With all these benefits, I can’t help but wonder if there may be other factors behind some of the male ire for romance. I’m definitely not qualified to comment on men’s business, and perhaps that’s why I’m prone to being curious: could some of the negativity come from shame and fear?

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CDB6ezxgHvP/

PsychCentral has this to say. From Male Sexual Shame and Objectification of Women:

Passage into manhood often exposes [boys] to humiliation during a period when openness and honesty aren’t allowed. They have to hide their feelings and natural instincts.

Romance novels centering on female experiences and sexuality typically come with a generous serve of emotional real-talk, often at point blank range. In my own experience, when I’ve been through my own phases of emotional fragility (a necessary part of growing up), I certainly found that kind of honesty and rawness extremely challenging and confronting.

Anecdotally, the men I know who have enthusiastically given romance a go (either to support a writer friend or to learn more about female perspectives) seem to demonstrate a lot of openness and comfort with their emotional and sexual selves—or at least a willingness to confront their discomforts and courageously own them.

A.R. VAGNETTI:

Romantic literature can lead to improved sexual confidence, greater sexual activity and greater sexual experimentation. Surveys have demonstrated that many readers of the genre use romantic literature to foster a healthy monogamous relationship while vicariously fulfilling sexual desires. Women who read romance novels also reported that they did not negatively compare their real-life partners with fictional male protagonists or heroes. Which might be a fear some men harbour regarding romance novels.

Well, I do know one thing. Whenever my partner reads the romance books I read (or at least the parts that count), we both come away with a shared vocabulary and context for assessing and analysing our own relationship. We’re not immune to the problems that affect other relationships, and working through those problems—no matter what they are—always starts with the two of us on the same page.


This post was made possible by the experiences, knowledge and insights of the following people. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all <3

Sarah Smith, author of Faker, If You Never Come Back, and the hotly anticipated Simmer Down, coming out 13 October 2020. Sarah is a copywriter turned author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time.

“Romance is just plain fun to read. It’s incredibly entertaining to read about these characters as they go through relatable issues, read their banter, get excited when they flirt and fall in love, and of course get amped up when the steamy parts happen.”

Caidyn (he/him, aroace, trans), the book omnivore and licensed social worker behind @caidynsreads, who names his all-time favourite book as American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

“I’d love to see more accurate trans, aro, and ace rep in romance. I’d be more likely to read it if that happened.”

DK Marie, author of Fairy Tale Lies, Love Songs and Taste of Passion. They’re a mixture of heart, heat, and humour. Brimming with confident heroines and kind heroes, all living, loving, and lusting in and around her hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

“Romance readers are the people who either believe in the Happily-Ever-After; they see the good in a world often overflowing with sadness and hardship. Or they are the ones needing an escape, something to lighten the weight of the day-to-day thrown at us. I fall into this category. Romance makes me feel lighter, hopeful.”

A.R. Vagnetti, author of the Storm Series, transporting readers into a fantastical world of paranormal romance where bold Alpha males will sacrifice anything for the strong, deeply scared, kickass females they love. Her latest book, Forbidden Storm, is now available across major e-retailers.

“No matter how damaged or rough your past, you can overcome, deal with, or completely conquer your personal demons with the love, trust, and support of your chosen partner. I wholeheartedly believe in the love conquers all scenario.”


A handsome merman holds out his hands on the cover of A Merman's Choice by Alice Renaud

Fresh Find: A Merman's Choice by Alice Renaud

Let me tell you about the latest addition to my TBR, A Merman's Choice by Alice Renaud. I'm not an experienced fantasy reader, let alone a shifter or merfolk fantasy reader, but after finishing an emotional contemporary fantasy recently, I find myself wanting more—more of a universe I can relate to while pushing the boundaries of mundane reality.

It's an honour to feature this guest post by Alice Renaud today, as she tells me about the book that started her Sea of Love series. Keep an eye out for book 3 in the series, Mermaids Marry in Green, coming out later this year!


A Merman's Choice: Book 1 in the Sea of Love series

By Alice Renaud

It started with a dream. An aquatic vampire was chasing a girl underwater. She was terrified. She was close to drowning, and she thought that the creature would kill her. But instead, he saved her life.

At the time I had that dream, I was determined to write contemporary romance stories with alpha male billionaires/sheikhs/princes and virginal heroines. I had no room for an aquatic vampire. After three failed attempts however, I realized that I didn’t really want to write contemporary romance, and that I didn’t like alpha types that much. I really wanted to write a fantasy story. So the vampire resurfaced. He didn’t quite fit the story I wanted to write though, so I took away his fangs and bloodthirsty nature.

He became Yann, a young shape shifting merman. His people have lived incognito alongside humans for centuries. Their existence must remain a secret, and they are forbidden from revealing their true nature to humans. They are forbidden from befriending humans… dating humans… marrying humans. But Yann saw a young woman drown when he was a boy, and has sworn that he will never again let a human perish. So one summer he rescues a blonde swimmer in distress, Alex. This gesture changes his life for ever, and sets his people on a new path.

“A Merman’s Choice” is filled with the landscapes and atmosphere of Brittany, in Western France, where I grew up, and Wales, my mother’s country, where I spent most of my childhood holidays. But it is also a story about family expectations, intergenerational conflict, and the difficulties young people face when they defy the traditions of their community.

They say you should write what you want to write, not what you think you should write. It was true in my case. Unlike my billionaire sheikhs and princes, the merman found a publisher, Black Velvet Seductions (BVS) and my first book, “A Merman’s Choice” was released in January 2019.

After Yann came the story of Rob, another shape shifting merman who works as a cop among humans in “Music for a Merman”. Rob’s father is the most traditional of all the elders, but when Rob has to arrest a sexy eco-warrior, he falls prey to a powerful attraction… so powerful that he will risk everything for the woman he loves.

The third book, “Mermaids Marry in Green”, focuses on a feisty mermaid, Caltha, because why should the boys have all the fun? She’s busy ruling the three mermen Clans, but a handsome warlock turns up and asks her to come with him to London to capture a water monster… of course she can’t say no. And if you saw him, you wouldn’t say no either! The last story is “The Holiday Mermaid”, a seasonal short story included in the “second chance at love” romance anthology “Desire Me Again” by Black Velvet Seductions, which will be out this fall. Do mermaids celebrate Christmas? You’ll have to read to find out!

A handsome merman holds out his hands on the cover of A Merman's Choice by Alice Renaud

A Merman's Choice by Alice Renaud

For centuries the shape-shifting mermen of the Morvann Islands have lived incognito among humans. But one of them, Yann, has developed some bad habits. Like rescuing humans, even when doing so risks revealing his true nature. When he fishes Alex out of the sea, he doesn’t expect her to reappear eight months later, and turn his life upside down by asking him to be her guide.

Alex is determined to fulfil a promise to her dying grandmother, by gathering pictures and stories of the Morvanns. But she soon discovers that, on these remote Welsh islands, legends have a habit of becoming true!

Over the course of a few days, Yann and Alex grow close. But some mermen hate humans. Their hostility, and Yann’s secret, threaten to tear the couple apart just as they are discovering that they are soul mates. Can Yann overcome the obstacles in his path and make the right choice?

Excerpt

The girl wasn’t swimming any more. Yann’s sonar gave him a clear picture of her distress. She was flailing. Sinking.

Fear punched him between the ribs. Just a few minutes earlier, she’d been splashing in the shallows, laughing and humming to herself. That music had rippled around him, brightening his journey. Now the sea was snuffing that light out. No! He wouldn’t let it happen. His webbed hands and feet churned the water, and he shot towards her like a torpedo.

Not this one, sea. Not this time.

She came in sight, slim and lovely, with long bronzed limbs and hair the colour of sunshine. But her eyes were closed, her movements slow, hesitant, as if she were falling asleep. His fear hardened into cold, sharp dread. He poured all his energy into the last powerful strokes. He’d almost reached her, when his eye caught the shadow, beyond the crystal surface, out there in the dry world. He sent a sound wave. It came back with an image, and the icy blade inside him twisted: two-legged shapes on the beach. Humans!

If they saw him, they’d know him for what he was. His people’s secret, kept for thousands of years, would be out.

The girl’s head vanished under the waves. To hell with that. He couldn’t let her drown.

He grabbed her and dragged her back to the surface. She thrashed in his arms and coughed up seawater. Intense relief swept through him as he hugged her to his chest. He’d sworn he’d never again swim by and let a human drown, and he’d kept his promise. If the young woman’s eyes remained closed, he might even get away with it. He wanted her to breathe, not scream in horror at the sight of his dark grey face.

He looked up. The shapes on the beach had gone. Another miracle, or perhaps he’d only imagined them. What if they came back? A fresh stab of anxiety propelled him through the surf. He lay the girl down on the sand, cushioning her head on his arm. Her round breasts, encased in the turquoise bikini top, rose and fell in a regular rhythm, but her skin felt clammy under his hands. He scanned the beach in vain for something to cover her with, and saw the motorbike. A sleek, sporty number, well camouflaged among the grass-covered dunes.

Shit. He retracted the webs between his fingers and toes, but his body would take at least twenty minutes to shift from the aquatic shape to the human form. And even when it did, what would the humans think, if they found him naked next to an unconscious girl?

Alice Renaud, author of A Merman's Choice

About Alice Renaud

Alice lives in London, UK, with her husband and son. By day she's a compliance manager for a pharmaceutical company. By night she writes fantasy romance about shape shifting mermen, water monsters and time-travelling witches. Her first book, “A Merman’s Choice,” was published in January 2019 by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. The second book, “Music for a Merman,” is out now and the third, “Mermaids Marry in Green” will be released later this year. Alice has also written a short story, “The Sweetest Magic of All,” included in the BVS “Mystic Desire” anthology, out now. Alice loves reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who’s interested!


A warmly lit wall of books

What I'm not reading — Aug 2020

There must be something about this time of year that gets me doing stuff other than reading. It's Djilba in these parts, according to the Noongar calendar, described as "a transitional time of year". Now, I don't know if that refers to people and emotions as well as the weather, but I'm certainly feeling a sense of flux.

Although, if you were to watch me through the window, it would appear I'm only fluctuating between gaming at the computer or bingeing Netflix on the couch 😅

Well, it's not reading, at any rate, and here are the lovely books that are taunting me from my house-sized TBR:

Forbidden Storm by A.R. Vagnetti

A pensive heroin clutches a sword against the backdrop of watchful lupine eyes, on the cover of Forbidden Storm by A.R. Vagnetti

Newly released and hot off the press, this is the long-awaited sequel to Forgotten Storm. This time, we track the escapades of sexy Kurtis (I loved him in the first book, but who doesn't love a hot martial arts hero?) and the enigmatic Lucretia.

The Kyanite Press: Volume 1, Issue 1

A ghostly hand reaches towards us from a starry night sky on the cover of The Kyanite Press Volume 1, Issue 1

This is one book I wish I had taken with me on my last plane ride. It features speculative shorts of all sorts, and knowing what kinds of stories Kyanite Publishing likes to collect, this would have kept me properly distracted on the long transit home.

The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

A Black woman holding a laundry basket chats to a Chinese guy holding a cat on the cover of The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

This book was an insta-buy when I saw it on Instagram, which is a shame because I've since done some research and learned that Mindy Kaling is one of the audiobook narrators. Oh how I wish I got the audiobook edition instead, because I love Mindy Kaling's narration! It's not ridiculous to buy the audiobook of something if you already have the Kindle version of it, right? Maybe it's time to dust off the ol' Audible subscription...

Not Meeting Mr. Right by Anita Heiss

A redheaded lady contemplates the mediocre men in her life on the illustrated cover of Not Meeting Mr Right by Anita Heiss

Sometimes I don't know what I'm looking for until it finds me. That was this book, another insta-buy from an author I've heard good things about. I eagerly await a chance to get stuck into it, though if it's as "Sex and the City"-esque as it sounds, I should probably load up on wine and snacks first.

Dirty 1st Dates: The Arcade by Harley Laroux

A tattooed guy stands in a gaming arcade on the cover of Dirty 1st Dates: The Arcade by Harley Laroux

Harley Laroux is a top shelf smut writer. While a few of her books await me on my Kindle, this one in particular is bubbling to the top. The next book I read will most likely be this one.

Reverb: Live, Die, Rave, Repeat by David Fuente

A crowd of clubbers dance the night away on the cover of Reverb: Live, Die, Rave, Repeat by David Fuentes

Another insta-buy—everything about this book sounds like a riot. This bit from the blurb was what got me in the end: "Expect Sun, Sex and Sangria all mixed in with EDM, even more Sex and Narcotics."

The Heart of the Deal by Lisabet Sarai

A business woman sits in an executive chair on the cover of The Heart of the Deal by Lisabet Sarai

Lisabet Sarai has been on my reading list for ages, but it was the "Ruby and Rick compete for ownership of a strategic factory in Malaysia" bit that drew me to this book. Who says representation doesn't sell?

Endgame by Aisha Tritle

A skull stylised with an abstract circuitboard theme on the cover of Endgame by Aisha Tritle

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the circuitboard-styled skull really sold me on this. That and the techno-thriller vibes in the very intriguing blurb. I have a thing for guys named Alexei too, so that's a trifecta right there. Oh, Kindle, my Kindle, we shall spend time soon ❤️


Why sci-fi romance is the genre for our time

Today, I'm one of Lyndi Alexander's "Adventurous Friends", sharing my feels on science fiction romance as the genre for our time.

When I tell people I write sci-fi romance, I tend to get interested and interesting looks. "What's the point?" a reader once responded. "Like Passengers?" another asked. Mate, I'd love to be able to write a story like that. Some of my sci-fi friends hated it, some of my romance friends loved it—I think it could have been marketed better.

But amidst all this is the feeling that no matter how fantastical or speculative my sci-fi setting could be, I'm contributing a valid brick to the collective wall of imaginings that create a very real future before us. And I think mainstream audiences—even staunch contemporary and realism fans—are more than ready to come along for the ride.

Thank you kindly, Lyndi, for having me! I very much enjoyed writing on this topic.


Feature photo by Nathan Duck on Unsplash


Fresh Find: Search and Rescue by Lucy Felthouse

The last reverse harem romance I read was a great romp. So naturally, when Lucy Felthouse announced a blitz for her latest RH read, I just had to share. Here's the lowdown on this award-winning author's brand new book. #whychoose indeed 🔥

The heroine and four heroes stand together on the cover of Search & Rescue, a reverse harem romance by Lucy Felthouse

OUT NOW—Search and Rescue (The Dreadnoughts Book One) by Lucy Felthouse

Kim’s trying to save the world—but is she actually going to make things worse?

Kim Medhurst is an ex-British military intelligence officer turned scientist and climate activist. A thrilling, potentially world-changing discovery leads her to a cave on a remote island off the Scottish coast. But before she can return to the mainland, a natural disaster traps her in the cave with limited food and water. Fortunately, she is an intelligent and resourceful woman who made a backup plan even before she stepped out of her own front door.

Enter Jason Chastain—owner and operator of a private security firm—and his friends Aidan Smith and twins Taylor and Joshua Greig. The foursome are also ex-military, so rescuing Kim should be a walk in the park for them. However, her discovery is so top secret she hasn’t even told Chastain and his buddies precisely what their mission is—instead relying on money and intrigue to get them to do the job. It works, until a series of events turn the rescue mission into an escape mission. Throw in a further revelation that will change all of their lives irrevocably and Kim begins to wonder if she’s bitten off more than she can chew.

Should she have left things well alone, or can this colossal mess be turned into something positive? This is about so much more than just five human beings, after all.

PLEASE NOTE: Search and Rescue has a cliffhanger ending.

Text in image: Whoever the client was, they were extremely important, or insanely rich. Maybe both.

Excerpt: Chapter One

Jason Chastain

Jason gripped tightly onto the controls of the rigid inflatable boat—otherwise known as a RIB—as it bounced on the relentless, white-capped waves of the Atlantic Ocean. According to the GPS, they were closing in on their destination. And thank God for GPS; simply looking for their target was futile—it was pitch black, and the remote Scottish island they were headed for was uninhabited, so there were no lights to help guide them. Not even a bloody lighthouse. To make things worse, they didn’t know exactly what—or who—they were going to find when they landed, so they were in stealth mode, meaning no lights on their boat, either. When they got close enough, they’d have to kill the engine, too, so as not to be heard by anyone who might be waiting for them.

He hunched his shoulders against the biting wind which still managed to worm its way in through his layers of technical gear and muttered to himself. Complaining out loud was pointless—the waves and wind would stop the others from being able to hear a word he said, anyway.

Besides, he was really in no position to complain, since it was his fault the four of them were here in the first place.

The job offer had come in via the contact form on his security firm’s website—all mysterious and anonymous, and on the first read he’d almost dismissed it out of hand, his finger hovering over the ‘delete’ button even before he’d read the final line. It was so vague he’d thought it was spam, or someone pissing about—even organisations who wanted to employ him for highly classified missions usually gave more information than that. Not to mention more notice. But something, the merest grain of intrigue, had made him read the message through again and absorb it fully. Despite all the cloak and dagger, it seemed legit.

And when his phone pinged with an alert, prompting him to check his business bank account and find the promised amount just sitting there, all nonchalant-like, the grain of intrigue had turned into the Sahara Desert’s worth. Particularly since the amount in question was just a deposit to help with expenses and getting the mission off the ground. What would have happened if he’d refused the mission? Did he get to keep the money anyway? By this point, that wasn’t really an issue, anyway, since there were a hell of a lot more zeroes at play if he and the three buddies he had in mind to come with him managed to pull this off—a ridiculous sum, even when split four ways and taking costs into consideration.

Whoever the client was, they were extremely important, or insanely rich. Maybe both.

In other words, a good person to get on side. If he played his cards right, this mysterious client could keep him in work for a long time to come—if not personally, then by way of sharing contacts and word of mouth. Either way was good, as far as he was concerned.

Despite the secretive nature of this mission, it would certainly beat some of the two-bit jobs he’d taken on out of necessity in the past few months. Unfortunately, the need to eat and the requirement to pay bills didn’t go away just because the exciting work had dried up.

But this job could be the turning point. The one that launched him from dull bodyguarding of ‘celebrities’—some of those fuckers have been so Z-list that even Google doesn’t know who they are—and protecting sensitive goods to actually making a difference, like he used to do back in the military. Helping people. Taking bad people off the streets.

It could also be the job that launched him into the Atlantic Ocean—not for the first, but possibly for the final time. The RIB lurched violently, and Jason heard the rest of the crew swearing and exclaiming even over the roar of the elements. And these were guys who weren’t afraid of anything. He risked a quick glance over his shoulder and counted three large figures. They were all still there, and for now, that would have to do. There was no time to check in—according to the GPS, the shore was coming up fast, and he’d need all his concentration, skill, and brass fucking balls to land them on the beach in one piece. More importantly, the boat needed to be in one piece, since that was their way out, once they’d secured their target. Without it, they were royally fucked. Unlike in the military, they had no one to call, no backup, no rescue teams.

They were it.

He shook his head, wondering for the umpteenth time who the hell threw so much cash around in order to hire a four-man team to take on a monumental, potentially very dangerous task, knowing perfectly well that if it went tits up, there was no second chance? No clean up team?

The best he’d been able to come up with was: Someone desperate, with a need for secrecy.

So exactly who was desperate, secretive, and filthy rich?

It’s only a matter of time before we find out. If we ever make it onto this bloody beach, that is. He took a deep breath and squinted into the darkness, willing his eyes to pick up something useful. Normally he’d have donned his night-vision goggles, but the rain and the sea spray would splatter constantly onto the lenses, rendering them useless. All he could do was keep flicking his gaze between the GPS and the landscape in front of the boat and hope for the best. He wasn’t a religious man, but he mumbled some random words of prayer to the heavens anyway, just in case. Couldn’t hurt to try, and it certainly wouldn’t make things worse.

Finally, his vision and the gadget seemed to agree the beach was imminent. With another deep breath, Jason killed the engine and mentally crossed his fingers and toes they were close enough that the waves would wash the boat up onto the shore, rather than dragging it back out to sea. He’d researched tide times and planned accordingly, but he knew better than most that things didn’t always go to plan. Especially when it came to Mother Nature. She could be a sadistic bitch at times. But then, given the way the human race treated her, he could hardly blame her for lashing out from time to time.

Thankfully, after what felt like an interminable amount of time, but was actually only a few minutes, the equally terrifying and relief-inducing sound of the boat scraping on to dry land rang out—audible even over the wind and waves. Jason maintained a fierce, knuckle-whitening grip on the controls as the boat lurched, more to keep himself steady and to take out his nervousness on the rigid material beneath his fingers than anything—after all, the steering had lost most of its effectiveness the minute he’d switched off the engine. He’d never admit it to the guys, not in a million years, but his heart was in his mouth. These boats were built to be sturdy, designed to carry out exactly this kind of mission, but it wasn’t impossible that a particularly sharp rock or even something manmade that had been left or washed up onto the beach could puncture it.

He released a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding when the boat came to a surprisingly gentle stop on the sand. He let go of the controls and gingerly relaxed his fingers and hands, then flexed them, wincing a little as the muscles, joints and tendons protested. Immediately, he dropped into a defensive crouch and began readying himself to disembark—they weren’t out of the woods yet. Far from it. For all they knew, there could be a hostile force lying in wait for them.

Once he was ready, he turned to the rest of the team, barely able to make out who was who in the darkness. He shuffled closer to ensure they could hear him. “All right, lads, this is it. Stay alert. We might be on dry land now, but it doesn’t mean we’re safe. I have literally no idea what we could be walking into here, so be prepared for anything. Comms check.”

They ran through the necessary, removed their lifejackets and stashed them in a heavy-duty container, and ensured they had all their gear. That done, Jason took the lead and carefully leapt off the boat, knowing the others would be right behind him. The four of them had always had each other’s backs, and that wasn’t about to change now. Especially not when the stakes were so high.

He dropped back into a crouch immediately after landing on the sand, and paused momentarily to flip his night-vision goggles—usable now they were off the ocean and in a more sheltered spot—into place before setting off to find a route off the beach. He turned his head from side to side, examining his surroundings. It was clear this was no sunbather’s beach, not even in the height of summer—such as it was in this part of the world. He reckoned he’d be more likely to bump into a smuggler here than a sunbather or a swimmer. The sand ran right up to the base of some inhospitable cliffs, craggy and steep.

Shit. I knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but I didn’t think we’d fall at the first fucking hurdle. Even smugglers wouldn’t be so daft as to end up here.

About Lucy Felthouse

Lucy Felthouse is the award-winning author of erotic romance novels Stately Pleasures (named in the top 5 of Cliterati.co.uk’s 100 Modern Erotic Classics That You’ve Never Heard Of), Eyes Wide Open (winner of the Love Romances Café’s Best Ménage Book 2015 award), The Persecution of the Wolves, Hiding in Plain Sight, and The Heiress’s Harem and The Dreadnoughts series. Including novels, short stories and novellas, she has over 170 publications to her name. Find out more about her writing at http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk, or on Twitter or Facebook. Join her Facebook group for exclusive cover reveals, sneak peeks and more! Sign up for automatic updates on Amazon or BookBub. Subscribe to her newsletter here: http://www.subscribepage.com/lfnewsletter

Release blitz organised by Writer Marketing Services.