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Work-in-Progress Teaser: BETWEEN THE DEMON AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA

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My inspiration for Khalid – my novel’s anti-hero

I am very proud of my current progress on writing Between the Demon and the Deep Blue Sea and I’m grateful for the support of my critique partners and friends, who have had a chance to read some of it. Although, I haven’t begun revising the novel – I’m currently still in the drafting phase (and even that is more of a skeleton draft) – I am excited to share a teaser from the opening chapter.

The winter chill bit into her skin, but Shay valiantly ignored the discomfort as she navigated her way through shadows and moonlight. The heels of her borrowed six-inch stilettos clicked on the pavement. There were no security cameras in the empty parking lot. The lighting dim. And the only other residents nearby were two rooms down, with the curtains drawn.

The Casablanca Motel, located in the part of Vancouver that would never make it into travel brochures, made the perfect hiding spot. Officially, it was a roadside retreat for the desperate, weary traveler. Unofficially, the motel offered its clients services of the check in, make out, and check out variety. The oh-so-romantic decor included an overflowing green garbage bin. Nearby, a rat enjoyed the seedy ambience as it nibbled delicately on a fuzzy, half-eaten slice of pepperoni pizza from Peppito’s Pizzeria…or so the cardboard container claimed. She was sure that Peppito — whoever he was — would love to know that his clientele had expanded to the four-legged variety.

Deciding that it was better to give the rodent and his dinner some privacy, Shay focused on room 409. Her target was in that room. According to the file that she had received from River Cameron, her best friend and boss, the werewolf she was tracking currently went by the name of Ambrose Bellwood. The very active Mr. Bellwood was accused of identity fraud, grand theft auto, money laundering, drug trafficking…and the list went on. Apparently, if one lived as long as werewolves did, you could really diversify your personal portfolio. But it wasn’t until recently, when Bellwood added murder to his repertoire during his escape from police custody, that someone in charge decided enough was enough and the city’s enforcers had been called to deal with the problem. It wasn’t unusual. The Enforcers Academy had more manpower and better resources to deal nonhuman threats, but working for the police meant that they were basically doing this for free. But as River claimed, occasional charity work was good publicity for the Academy.

As an enforcer, Shay had been tasked with the job of hauling Bellwood’s ass back to jail for a much needed time out — okay, so the official job description may have varied a bit in phrasing, but the sentiment was the same.

It was too bad the order hadn’t said dead or alive. A kill order would have saved Shay at least twenty-four hours of surveillance time, not to mention she could have avoided having to squish her feet into heels that were a size too small. The back of her ankles stung with every step. Shay was going to have an angry set of blisters by the time this job was over. Unfortunately, her orders were to bring in Bellwood alive because her contact in the RCMP wanted him to roll over and tattle on his accomplices. That, of course, meant finding a way to get close to him.

It had been River’s idea that the easiest way to get close to him was to play on his weakness for scantily dressed females….hence, the blink-and-it-might-disappear dress and medieval torture devices on her feet.

Shay bent one leg to massage her ankle before continuing the rest of the way to Bellwood’s room. When she was less than a foot away from the door, she paused. Like the rest of the motel, the door needed to be doused in bleach. It was marked with fingerprints and a rainbow of stains. Shay curled her nose at the thought of having to touch her knuckles to the incognito petri dish, but steeled herself to knock.

River needs to give me a raise.

She pulled her hand away from the door after knocking thrice. Absently, she rubbed the back of her dirtied appendage on the ridiculously expensive scrap of cloth she was wearing. The red silk rasped against her skin.

Shay barely managed to get the look of disgust off her face before the door swung open. Bellwood stood on the other side, wearing an unbuttoned white dress shirt and black pants. Both looked expensive.

Well, well, well, I guess crime pays after all.

Shay is such an easy character to write. Her voice comes naturally, but other characters – Khalid, and even River, who both make appearances later – are a bit harder to write. The story is written in third person, but I’m playing it safe and writing most of the novel from Shay’s focal point. I have drafted a chapter – just one – from Khalid’s perspective and it was a difficult transition because I still don’t know him very well as a character.

Which brings me to the question – how well do you actually need to know your characters before you start writing a story? 

I never know my characters until I start putting words to paper, but they begin to flesh out as the plot develops. Of course, this may or may not be the best method for writing.

Hope you enjoyed the teaser,

Rika Ashton (aka The Tentative Writer)

The Girl Who Started Something New

Earlier today, Jayne Ann Krentz revealed the full cover for her upcoming novel, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (written under the pseudonym Amanda Quick) on her Facebook page.

In her next historical novel, Ms. Quick is going to take on a whole new era – the 1930s! Romantic suspense against the backdrop of old Hollywood seems like the perfect recipe for a great story, so I am very excited to see where she takes her latest novel.

The American 1930s is an era that hasn’t been explored all that much in the romance genre. Writers, like Johanna Lindsey, have taken on the Wild West – which makes for a romantic read – but Old Hollywood seems to be left mainly alone…with only some of the older novels by Anne Stuart coming to mind. In fact, Goodreads lists only a total of a little over fifty books set in this time frame – which is a very small number considering how large the romance industry actually is.

And it’s not just the American 1930s that lack exploration, but whole other eras and even countries – with that much left unwritten, imagine how many stories we’ve missed out on. Oh, the lost words!

I hope other historical romance writers begin to expand out of the Regency and Victorian eras in Britain – not that I don’t love those eras, because I do and I will always read more stories set in these times – but for those rainy days when you crave variety, it’s time to tell new stories!

Thank you Amanda Quick for taking on something new and for reminding me that there are always new stories to tell!

The ever grateful,

Rika Ashton

Review: MAD FOR PLAID by Karen Hawkins

Disclaimer: I received an arc copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

After reading heavy research tomes and biographies for a whole week, I was ready to dive into something lighthearted, humourous, and romantic…and where better to look than a Karen Hawkins’ novel. Her latest novel, Mad for Plaid, is everything I could have hoped for and more…

27409186Nikolai Romanovin, a royal prince of Oxenburg, has travelled to the deepest wilds of Scotland to rescue his grandmother the Grand Duchess, who was abducted while visiting an old friend in the Highlands. Wanting to avoid an international incident, Nik plans to quietly slip into enemy territory disguised as a groom at Castle Cromartie. But his plans go awry when he falls under the cool gray gaze of the laird’s daughter.

Pragmatic and clever, Ailsa Mackenzie has been left in charge of the family estate and her unruly grandmother in her father’s absence. Something about the new groom catches her eyes, and makes her think he’s not who he pretends to be—and even more shockingly, stirs her senses. Is it his obviously educated manners? His arrogant, non-servant-like presence? It’s certainly not his towering, powerful form, or slumberous, inviting green eyes!

After confronting the imposter and learning the truth, Ailsa agrees to help Nik—for she, too, understands difficult relatives and would do anything for family. Soon their secret partnership leads to growing respect, searing kisses, and then something far more perilous. And when their quest turns dangerous, Ailsa and Nik must discover this unknown enemy while facing the dangerous demands of their own unruly hearts.

He was an imposing figure with broad shoulders, thick black hair, and green eyes so dark they appeared almost black. In public, he took the character of a man of town, charming and easily amused, flirting with women one after the other, and never speaking anything political or of consequence. Indeed, most of Europe believed him a wastrel of a sort…

Mad for Plaid is by far my favourite book in the Oxenburg Princes series! It wasn’t until I started reading the novel that I realized I was waiting for Nik’s story forever. As the Crown Prince, he is very different from his brothers. Previously we learned that he is a bit of a playboy, who can be charming, but in Mad for Plaid we learn more about his true character. He has the responsibility of inheriting the kingdom, which doesn’t allow him the same choices as his brothers, but at the same time he is shown as someone who can be witty, caring, stoic, powerful, and much more. In short, he can be whatever the situation requires and this adaptability has allowed Nik to become a skilled diplomat. But, of course, this also means that no one truly knows him. As the plot unfold, we see him begin to the true facets of his character beyond the title of “Crown Prince.”

Ailsa’s hair was a darker, less noticeable ash blond, her eyes grey, her form stalwart, while her nose could only be described as “prominent.” 

Ailsa is similar to Nik in many ways. For one, her father has left the responsibilities of the estate entirely to her. And despite being young, Ailsa has shown herself capable of meeting her responsibilities. However, she is also quick tempered, creative, and has often been underestimated due to her age which has caused her to be stubborn. In part, it is Ailsa’s need to prove herself (to both her staff and herself) that she is able to run the estate, protect her people, and save Tata Natasha (who has been abducted) without the interference of her father and Nik that makes up the base of the plot.

However, eventually Nik and Ailsa do end up working together to find Tata Natasha, but that is where the mystery of her abduction takes on a plot twist…which was surprisingly well-developed with red herrings to throw the reader off track.

“My grandmother has gone missing,” [Nik] announced shortly. “Lady Ailsa believes Her Grace to have been abducted.”

Apraskin’s mouth dropped open. 

“Someone took Her Grace? On purpose?” Rurik said in obvious disbelief. 

And as in the other novels of the Oxenburg Princes series, Tata Natasha is necessary in bringing the two characters together…as her matchmaking antics have become a signature in this series.

However, my one quibble with this novel was the sudden “forbidden romance” angle. I found it an unnecessary subplot. For one, with Nik’s reputation as a wastrel in Europe, I hardly believe there would have been many eyebrows lifted should he have simply married Ailsa. And secondly, the story had enough intrigue and romance without the need for this secondary addition.

That said, I would still give this novel four our of five stars. It’s tone – both comedic and romantic – embodied summer!

RATING - 4

Mad for Plaid releases tomorrow (August 30th) in bookstores and online.

Happy reading,

Rika

My Top Five Manga Obsessions

In case anyone didn’t know I am a HUGE fan of manga (Japanese comics). When I’m not reading novels or trying to write novels, I’m usually hunting for the latest copies of my favourite manga and there are quite a few series that I am currently obsessed with.

cover1Skip Beat…this one is a bit of a cheat, since I’ve been obsessed with it for years. But I thought I would share it as my number one because I have yet to fall out of love with this funny, romantic, and at times suspenseful series.

Kyouko Mogami lived solely for her childhood friend Shoutaro “Shou” Fuwa. She follows Shou to Tokyo so that he may realize his dream of becoming a famous singer. When his dream is realized, Kyouko overhears the truth behind his decision to bringing her with him: he was using her as a maid.

Shocked and enraged, Kyouko swears to take revenge by outdoing him in show business. With a new look and a new attitude, she joins LME, the agency where Ren Tsuruga (Shou’s rival and the #1 actor of LME) works, in the hopes of achieving her goal of destroying Shou’s pride.

Along the way, she discovers her true self, makes new friends (and enemies), and finds herself at the heart of some interesting situations that will change her life, and the lives of all others involved, forever.

coverYona of the Dawn. Words cannot describe how epic this series is. The heroine grows from a spoiled, pampered princess to a warrior in hiding. Also, this series probably has the most complex characters I have ever read. You find yourself rooting for everyone (despite all the bad that has happened) to somehow be friends again at the end.

Princess Yona lives an ideal life as the only princess of her kingdom. Doted on by her father, the king, and protected by her faithful guard Hak, she cherishes the time spent with the man she loves, Soo-won. But everything changes on her 16th birthday when she witnesses her father’s murder!

cover4Yamada and the Seven Witches. This manga was a complete surprise for me. But one word:  HILARIOUS! The supernatural elements in this manga are important plot twisters and much random hilarity ensues.

Ryuu Yamada is a second-year student at Suzaku High. Ryuu is always late for school, naps in class and gets abysmal grades. His life is a dead bore. The beautiful Urara Shiraishi, on the other hand, is Suzaku High’s brightest student.

One day, without explanation, their bodies are swapped! Ryuu ends up in Urara’s body, and Urara in Ryuu’s.

cover2Noragami. This was another unexpected, but very pleasant surprise. It’s got great characters, and the central story about a god without a shrine and worshippers but who is trying to get into heaven is such a cool idea. (That summary doesn’t really do it justice and the manga is so much more than that. But I can’t go into a lengthy description without spoilers.)

Yato is a minor god whose dream is to have a lot of followers worshipping him and praying to him. Unfortunately, his dream is far from coming true since he doesn’t even have a single shrine dedicated to him. To make things worse, the only partner he had to help him solve people’s problems, had just quit the job. His godly existence and luck just might change when he stumbles upon Iki Hiyori and saves her life; a feat which also leaves her in quite a predicament so she is stuck with him until her problem gets resolved. Together with Hiyori and his new partner-weapon Yukine, Yato will do everything he can to gain fame, recognition and just maybe, one shrine dedicated to him, as well.

cover3SDK (or Samurai Deeper Kyo). Since I’ve read this manga series over ten times without getting bored and discovering something new each time, it has to go on my top five list. It’s male-focused with a heavy emphasis on action and violence but has moments of comedy.

At the dawn of the 17th century, at the end of the era of civil wars, in a world of chaos, the epic Battle of Sekigahara was joined.One man emerged from the largest battle ever fought on Japanese soil; a terrible warrior of unspeakable power, he was nicknamed ‘the unconquerable.’ Kyoshiro is a peaceful medicine peddler who harbors the soul of an assassin. He accompanies a young bounty hunter across Japan in search of a murderer and on a quest to discover the terrible secret of his own identity.

These are my top five, but trust me when I say it was hard to choose. I have so many manga that I am obsessed with but that does mean I don’t want recommendations. I’m always looking for more great reads! (Especially one’s like Skip Beat…the one month wait between chapter updates is killing me…and it’s even longer to get the bound editions at Chapters.)

Who else is a manga fan? Got any that you are absolutely obsessed with?

Please share,

Rika Ashton (aka Shameless Manga Addict)

 

Blurb Reveal: THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH by Amanda Quick

Edited to add (August 17, 2016): Jayne Ann Krentz tweeted me about a name change for the hero. I will edit to add the new name once we have details.

Edited to add (August 18, 2016): The hero’s new name has been added. The old name was Hutton Axton in case anyone was interested. 

I stumbled across some news about the next Amanda Quick novel by accident, but it comes from a trusted source. Get this, the next novel is titled The Girl Who Knew Too Much (which sounds amazing) and it’s set in the 1930s!

And here’s the amazing back blurb I found:

Welcome to Burning Cove, California, an idyllic small town on the coast that has become a refuge for Hollywood moguls and stars seeking privacy for scandalous trysts and wild parties…

Cordelia Carter is a reporter working undercover for Whispers, a Los Angeles based gossip tabloid. She arrives in Burning Cove on the trail of the biggest story of her career.

Oliver Ward is the new, enigmatic owner of one of the most elegant resort-spas in Burning Cove. Before he can get a read on the mysterious Cordelia, she discovers the body of a beautiful, fast-rising film star in one of the hotel spa pools. It soon becomes apparent to Oliver that Cordelia, as the first person on the scene of the murder, may be a suspect. As for Cordelia, she is convinced that the killer she’s trailing has committed murder again.

I did a little (or a big) happy dance after reading this blurb. The whole concept seems so exciting and new, but have the romantic suspense undertones that we know and love in an Amanda Quick novel.

As of now, the novel is set for a May 9, 2017 release. And, of course, because the release date is so far away some details of the book may change (title, etc)…but I hope not, because it sounds pretty exciting as it is!

Can’t wait,

Rika Ashton (aka Breaking News Reporter)

Review: THE WIDOW’S AUCTION by Sabrina Jeffries

Disclaimer: I received a digital arc of this novella in exchange for an honest review. 

28803825Sabrina Jeffries’ The Widow’s Auction was re-released today, but you may have previously read the story in the Fantasy anthology.

Though Isobel Lamberton, the widowed Lady Kingsley, is confounded by her dealings with the obstinate Justin Antony, Lord Warbrooke, his commanding presence sparks something deep within her. But such romantic thoughts are for naught. For Justin’s political aspirations always come first. And Isobel’s own secret past could damage both of them permanently.

So when Isobel’s friend talks her into participating in a scandalous auction of masked widows at a gentleman’s club, she reluctantly agrees…and soon begins to relish being an object of desire. But none desire her more than Justin, who recognizes the outspoken Isobel in disguise and sets out to teach her a lesson worth far more than money…

I remember reading this novella in the anthology but, even now, years later it has not lost it’s charm. Short and sweet, the novella features two complex, compatible characters – Isobel and Justin – whose interactions are riddled with humour and romance. Though the novella is told in first person, there is a greater focus on Isobel’s character and we see Justin mainly through her eyes. I would have liked to know more about his thoughts, but for the short length of the story, his character was developed quite well. As is the case with most well-written novella’s, the story does leave you wanting more. However, if you’re looking for s quick escape this summer, then The Widow’s Auction is a neat little trip back to the Regency era.

RATING - 3

 

Readers’ Watchlist: INTO THE FIRE by Jeaniene Frost

23586994Jeaniene Frost is concluding her Night Prince series and word is that the new release date for Into the Fire is February 28, 2017. It’s been a long wait and is still going to be a lot longer…I confess, I have completely forgotten where the story ended off, so I may have to read the previous books before I get this one. (But I think I’ll wait until its closer to the release date so I don’t have to live too long with withdrawal symptoms…breaking a book habit is hard and I really don’t want to.)

For nearly six hundred years, Vlad Tepesh cared for nothing, so he had nothing to lose. His brutal reputation ensured that all but the most foolhardy stayed away. Now falling in love with Leila has put him at the mercy of his passions. And one adversary has found a devastating way to use Vlad’s new bride against him.

A powerful spell links Leila to the necromancer Mircea. If he suffers or dies, so does she. Magic is forbidden to vampires, so Vlad and Leila enlist an unlikely guide as they search for a way to break the spell. But an ancient enemy lies in wait, capable of turning Vlad and Leila’s closest friends against them…and finally tearing the lovers apart forever.

Has anyone else been keeping up with the Night Prince series?

Readers’ Watchlist: WHEN ALL THE GIRLS HAVE GONE by Jayne Ann Krentz

final_JAK.inddI’m always on the lookout for the next Jayne Ann Krentz romantic suspense and I was not disappointed when I stumbled across a blurb and cover for her next book, When All The Girls Have Gone (the title just gives me the shivers…so cool):

When Charlotte Sawyer is unable to contact her step-sister, Jocelyn, to tell her that one her closest friends was found dead, she discovers that Jocelyn has vanished.

Beautiful, brilliant—and reckless—Jocelyn has gone off the grid before, but never like this. In a desperate effort to find her, Charlotte joins forces with Max Cutler, a struggling PI who recently moved to Seattle after his previous career as a criminal profiler went down in flames—literally. Burned out, divorced and almost broke, Max needs the job.

After surviving a near-fatal attack, Charlotte and Max turn to Jocelyn’s closest friends, women in a Seattle-based online investment club, for answers. But what they find is chilling…

When her uneasy alliance with Max turns into a full-blown affair, Charlotte has no choice but to trust him with her life. For the shadows of Jocelyn’s past are threatening to consume her—and anyone else who gets in their way…

I am beyond excited for this release. Her latest works under the JAK name have featured such amazing characters and I can’t wait to read this book. Spoiler alert…it will be a page turner. When All The Girls Have Gone releases on November 29th.

Happy reading,

Rika Ashton

A Sunday Tease…

I believe I owe you all an excerpt from my work-in-progress, Dagger of the Sun (or DotS as I affectionate like to call it).

Without further delay…here it is:

The night air was causing gooseflesh to spread over her arms and legs and the flimsy pale blue tunic wasn’t doing much to protect the rest of her either. Delphyne cursed whatever gods had brought the prince back from the barracks tonight of all nights. She judged the distance from her vantage point to the throne room’s entrance to be less than a minute, but the trick would be crossing the crowded floor without being stopped by someone interesting in hearing about a hunter’s tale.

Or I could jump from the balcony.

It honestly didn’t look that high. If she bent her knees on the landing, she would be fine. She leaned over the railing, letting her fingers encircle the cool stone.

“I would advise against it.”

Delphyne swivelled, heart nearly popping out of her chest. “Don’t scare me…I thought you were —”

Apollo raised an eyebrow.

“Nevermind,” Delphyne amended. “Where have you been?”

She had lost track of Apollo seconds after the feast had started. Apollo had noticed a poet friend of his in the crowd and wandered off. After that, it had been difficult to catch sight of him for more than a minute as he flitted around the room like a butterfly.

“Making the rounds,” Apollo said. “But I’m more interested in knowing why you’re standing here peeping at the statues?”

In the moonlight, the statues in the garden behind her looked even more lewd. Not to mention the occasional moans that drifted up from the shadowed maze.

“I was…” She paused. How could she phrase her words so that she didn’t sound like either a coward or a pervert? “I was getting some fresh air.” She finished rather lamely.

“It has gotten rather stuffy.” A pause. “More so now that the prince has arrived.”

Damn.

“You know?”

“Asclepius told me.” Apollo looked at her, a small smile forming on his lips. “Did the prince really ask you to marry him…by telling you that you’d be a good breeder?”

Delphyne gave him a look that implied she would not be discussing this at length.

“And did you really punch him in response?”

Clearly, her look got lost in translation. “I didn’t have my sword with me, so punching him was my only recourse.”

Since this is a work in progress, I am very open to criticism and feedback…any thing that will help me improve. So please, please, leave a comment or suggestion below.

Now it’s back to the writing board!

Rika Ashton (aka Book Hermit)

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