Review: Until There Was You by Jessica Scott

 

Title: Until There Was You

Author: Jessica Scott

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

From the author of Because of You comes an all-new contemporary eBook romance. He plays by the rules, she’s not afraid to break them. Now these two strong-willed Army captains will prove that opposites attract . . .

A by-the-book captain with a West Point background, Captain Evan Loehr refuses to mix business with pleasure–except for an unguarded instance years ago when he succumbed to the deep sensuality of redheaded beauty Claire Montoya. From that moment on, though, Evan has been at odds with her, through two deployments to Iraq and back again. But when he is asked to train a team prepping for combat alongside Claire, battle-worn Evan is in for the fight of his life.

Strong, gutsy, and loyal, Captain Claire Montoya has worked hard to earn the rank on her chest. In Evan, Claire sees a rigid officer who puts the rules before everything else–including his people. When the mission forces them together, Claire soon discovers that there is more to Evan than meets the eye. He’s more than the rank on his chest; he’s a man with dark secrets and deep longings. For all their differences, Evan and Claire share two crucial passions: their country and each other.

Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Blaze of Winter, The Devil’s Thief, and Santerra’s Sin.


Review:

I read Until There Was You because it is an original Loveswept release. Loveswept has been a favorite series of mine for years, and I am delighted that Random House is releasing older titles in digital, as well as new titles. Jessica Scott’s first release, Because of You, looked intriguing, but I was swamped when it came out, so it kept getting shuffled to the bottom of the review pile. When I had the opportunity to hop onto a blog tour for Until There Was You, Jessica’s follow up, I eagerly hopped on. I haven’t read many military romances, so I wanted to give myself a little more exposure to them, and after learning that the author is in the Arm has Army experience, it became that much more interesting.

Claire Montoya is a career soldier, and after years of dedicating herself to the military and the war efforts in the Middle East, she was promoted in rank. Now an officer, her current assignment is to prep a newbie unit for the rigors of warfare. They will be deployed in five weeks, and Claire’s good friend, Sarah, is in charge of the unit. With her best friend, Reza, an enlisted man, Claire must get these young soldiers ready for their convoy duties. The task seems impossible; Claire’s superior officers are focused on skills that Claire and Reza deem unimportant to the survival of the troops. With great despair and trepidation, Claire must set aside her personal views about the training and stick to the program, or risk being disciplined and tossed out of the Army.

I found this an fascinating read because I know so little about military life. The story is set after the Surge, when US troops were supposed to provide more of a support function to the fledgling Iraqi government. Life for the deployed soldiers was still frighteningly dangerous, and Claire had been faced with many decisions early in her career that left soldiers injured or dead. She doesn’t want to see any more lives lost, so she is frantic to prepare Sarah’s troops for the dangers they are about to face. She is constantly clashing with Evan, a West Point officer she has been sparring with for years, about the appropriateness of the training schedule. She calls Evan Captain America because of his unwavering dedication to rules and his job duties. Claire is a bit of a rebel, and she’s paid a price for her outspokenness. She has not been promoted as quickly as she might have been otherwise, but she won’t back down when she thinks she’s in the right and that soldiers will be needlessly killed. The conflict between Evan and Claire seemed insurmountable to me. How could either one of them ever compromise on this very basic but personality defining stance? Follow the rules to the letter, or bend them in order save lives.

Until There Was You is a book about conflict and conflict resolution. When we meet Claire and Evan, neither of them is able to adequately work through the conflicts in their life. Claire is driven to train Sarah’s troops as best she can with Reza’s help, but Reza, having seen several deployments, is suffering from PSTD. To keep his demons at bay, he has taken to drinking excessively, partying and hooking up with women indiscriminately. He’s two steps away from being court-martialed, but Claire is skilled at running interference for him. This adds to the tension between Evan and Claire. He doesn’t see how she can, in good conscience, keep covering up for him. Reza is going to get people killed one day, if he doesn’t kill himself first. Claire already tried to save her father from the demons lurking in the bottom of a liquor bottle. Her failure haunts her, and she isn’t ready for a repeat of that.

Evan hasn’t had an easy life either. He feels responsible for his sister’s death, and his guilt has driven him away from his family and away from close relationships. He and Claire make for a sympatric couple because both of them are so damaged. Neither of them can trust themselves to care for someone else for fear of being hurt again, so it’s easy to get behind their relationship and hope that they will somehow find a way to be together, even as messed up as they both are. It is Evan who takes that first, frightening step of accepting his feelings, and of having to face his fear of Claire’s rejection.

One thing that frustrated me about this story was my lack of understanding  of military protocol. I was confused by the chain of command, and about why some of the events would have such disastrous outcomes for the characters. The pacing of the story was also uneven in parts; I found the training sequences fascinating, but found some of Evan and Claire’s missteps irritating in their frequency. Overall, this is an emotional, satisfying read, and I will have to dust off my copy of Because of You for another military romance fix.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Limit Vol 1 by Keiko Suenobu

 

 

Title: The Limit Volume 1

Author:  Keiko Suenobu

Publisher: Vertical

In stores October 9, 2012

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Mizuki Konno is your typical high school junior at Yanno Prefectural High School. Like many teens her age she is studying hard for college and when she has some down time she likes to fuss over fashion and make-up. While she may not be one of the class elites, Mizuki is fortunate to be on the right side of her class’s idols. But that might not settle well with those who are in a similar academic status but not so lucky with their social lives.

Mizuki really isn’t a bad person. However she understands that she is one of the haves. And even if she only has so a strand to hold on to, that’s much more than the introverts or the socially inept.
On the day of the field trip, Mizuki’s position with the cool kids cannot be better. But now a good portion of her class are now firmly against her. While this "lower" clique may not be united, their hatred is much stronger than their differences. Unfortunately tragedy strikes in the form of a traffic accident. And now the class is split into two new groups…the living and the dead!

Almost the entire class has been wiped out and the five remaining girls are injured and lost in the wilderness. They also hate each other, and in a mix of Lord of the Flies with Heathers these girls begin to assert their wills against each other to try to survive while enacting a new class structure where looks and style is no longer the definition of influence.


Review:

When it comes to manga lately, I feel like I’ve been living under a rock.  I received this review copy, and wasn’t familiar with the title at all.  I love the cover, though, with the main protagonist standing defiantly, yet a bit battered, and staring boldly ahead.  The cover is very simple and eye-catching, and I immediately sat down to read the book.  Keiko Suenobu is also the author of LIFE, which was being released by  Tokyopop before they shuttered their offices.  I haven’t read any of that series, but after reading Limit, I am tempted to track it down.

Limit is a Lord of the Flies type story.  After their school trip goes horribly wrong and their bus crashes, Kanno and four of her classmates are stranded in the middle of the woods with only their wits to aid in their survival.  With their teachers and classmates dead, the five girls must juggle their fear and panic with their feelings for each other.  This is a diverse group of personalities, from the bullied Morishige, who has the only weapon and is brimming over with hate and resentment, to Kanno, who was part of the popular clique who made Morishige’s life hell at school.  Sakura, the ringleader of the clique, is dead in the bus, and Haru, one of the survivors, isn’t dealing with her best friend’s death very well.  This is a powder  keg of emotions just ready to blow, and only Kamiya realizes that it’s going to take more than luck to survive until they are rescued.  She immediately attempts to use diplomacy and get everyone to work together to ensure their survival, but she’s not having much luck.  There is a lot of resentment and so much ill-will to overcome, that things look bleak for our intrepid cast.

Limit focuses on the complex relationships the girls have formed over the years.  Angry Morishige is delighting in her sudden ascent to the top of the food chain; she’s got the weapon, and she hates everyone enough that she won’t hesitate to use it.  She casts everyone else in the pyramid beneath her, leaving Kanno and Haru to battle it out for the bottom rung of the ladder.  With the weapon, Morishige also controls the meager food supply the girls have foraged from the wreckage of the bus.  After being a bottom-feeder for so long, she is ecstatic to feel some kind of empowerment over the girls who constantly picked on her and made each school day so horrible. 

I thought that this was a great introduction to the series.  I reached the end and wanted more.  The relationship dynamics bubble with emotion and kept me engaged in the book from the first page.  Kanno isn’t an extremely likable character because she always takes the path of least resistance.  She’s a sheep to Sakura’s domineering personality, and once Sakura meets an untimely end, Kanno realizes how meaningless her other relationships truly are.  Avoiding confrontation, kissing up to Sakura, and trying to hold a middle ground so she wasn’t bullied didn’t endear her to her classmates, she is learning the hard way.

I love Keiko Suenobu’s expressive artwork.  I never had to guess how her characters felt as they were maneuvered from one panel to the next.  Emotions are deftly rendered here, and the visuals are as compelling as the prose.  This is a great start to a series that will appeal to fans of conflict driven stories.  I don’t know how the girls are going to reconcile their feelings for each other and still survive all alone in the wilderness, with no food and only a cave for shelter.  I am looking forward to the next volume!

Grade:   B

Review copy provided by publisher

Waiting on Wednesday–White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Words can not express how wonderful White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan looks.  There is so much power in the love of a dog.  I have no doubt that with a little canine help, Zoe will be able to set Phillip back to rights.

In stores March 2013

  

A young boy tries to find his voice with the help of some four-legged friends in this novel from the Newbery-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Zoe’s family rescues dogs in need. There is always the sweet smell of dog and a warm body looking to cuddle or play. There is always a new dog to be saved and loved. Fur flies everywhere. It covers everything. Zoe’s house is never silent.

But the house across the street is always silent these days. A new family has moved in and Phillip, the boy, has stopped speaking. He doesn’t even want to try.

Zoe knows that saving dogs and saving boys are different jobs, but she learns that some parts are the same. Both take attention and care, understanding and time. And maybe just a bit of white fur flying.

From Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan, White Fur Flying is an endearing tale of companionship and hope.

What are you waiting on?

Interview with Erin Jade Lange, Author of Butter

Erin Jade Lange is the author of the recently released BUTTER.  She recently dropped by the virtual offices to discuss her new book, so check out what she has to say.

[Manga Maniac Café]   Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Erin Jade Lange] I’m a shy girl pretending to be outgoing. I’m more “one of the guys” than a girly girl. And I love loud music and surprises.

[Manga Maniac Café]  Can you tell us a little about BUTTER?

[Erin Jade Lange] BUTTER is the story of an obese teenager who announces a plan to eat himself to death live on the internet with one epic “last meal.” When his plan makes him suddenly popular, he no longer wants to go through with it. But can he keep that popularity if he doesn’t do what he promised?

[Manga Maniac Café]  How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Erin Jade Lange] My stories always start with characters and evolve from there. Butter came to me with his morbid plan already in place, but I had no idea whether he would go through with it until I started writing.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What three words best describe Butter?

[Erin Jade Lange] Sarcastic, talented, angry

[Manga Maniac Café]  If Butter had a theme song, what would it be?

[Erin Jade Lange] “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What is Butter’s most prized possession?

[Erin Jade Lange] His saxophone. For sure.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What are your greatest creative influences?

[Erin Jade Lange] Reality is probably my biggest influence. I absorb and internalize a lot of the stories I write as a TV news producer, and those stories tend to inform my writing in some way. It can be as obvious as the headline topics of internet bullying and teen suicide in BUTTER or as subtle as the poor economic climate in next year’s book.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What three things do you need in order to write?

[Erin Jade Lange] A cup of coffee, a comfortable chair and a nice big chunk of time.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Erin Jade Lange] A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

[Manga Maniac Café]   If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Erin Jade Lange] Charlotte’s Web was my first “big girl” book. After that, I just never stopped reading.

[Manga Maniac Café]  What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Erin Jade Lange] I snowboard (though I’m not very good at it); I play guitar (though I’m very VERY bad at it); and lately, when I’m not reading or writing, I’m planning my wedding.  Smile

[Manga Maniac Café]  How can readers connect with you?

[Erin Jade Lange] Website: erinlange.com + blog: butterslastmeal.com + facebook: facebook.com/erinjadelange + twitter: @erinjadelange

[Manga Maniac Café]  Thank you!

You can order BUTTER from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below

Interview with Susan Vaught, Author of Freaks Like Us

 

Susan Vaught’s latest release, Freaks Like Us, recently hit store shelves.  Susan stopped by the virtual offices for a chat.  Check out what she has to say!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Susan Vaught] Long hair, pacifist, likes chocolate, reads a lot, has parrot, too many dogs, three cats, loves writing, likes football, works in an asylum.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you tell us a little about Freaks Like Us?

[Susan Vaught] Freaks Like Us is a fast-paced mystery, with most of the story taking place in the 24 hours after Jason Milwaukee’s best friend and sort-of girlfriend disappears. To find her, Jason has to battle his mental illness, his self-doubt, and prejudice from other people involved in the search.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Susan Vaught] I have been wanting to write through the eyes and voice of a character with schizophrenia for many years, but it took me a long time to develop just the right personality so readers could relate to Jason. The other characters came more naturally, and they all contend with issues I have either faced in my own life/family, or treated in my years of practice as a psychologist. The mystery element of the story unfolded as the story moved along, surprising me at the end of the first chapter!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What three words best describe Jason?

[Susan Vaught] Brave, Loving, Determined

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What three things will Jason leave the house without?

[Susan Vaught] Three things he wouldn’t leave the house without would be Sunshine’s locket, his house key, and Agent Mercer’s private telephone number. If it’s really supposed to be what he WOULD leave the house without, then the answer would be . . . just about everything else. Jason can get pretty distracted and forgetful. Lunch money, his phone, his homework—all of that might get accidentally abandoned on any given day.

[ED – oops, yes it was a typo.  Thank you for the wonderful answer Smile]

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  If Jason had a theme song, what would it be?

[Susan Vaught] Possibility, by Lykke Li. I think the haunting sound and the words/emotions have real meaning for him.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What is Jason’s most prized possession?

[Susan Vaught] Sunshine’s gold locket. It means more to him than anything other than Sunshine herself.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What are your greatest creative influences?

[Susan Vaught] Life, music, and other people’s brilliant art. Whenever I read a great book, hear a wonderful song, look at an amazing painting or sculpture, watch a good film, or encounter good art in any other format, it inspires me to make more of my own—not copy what I experienced or encountered, but try to come up with something brilliant, beautiful, and lasting, to pass on that gift of inspiration.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What three things do you need in order to write?

[Susan Vaught] A clean house or writing cabin, no distractions, and the exact right song. I absolutely cannot write without good music.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Susan Vaught] Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. I reviewed it on my website. I love the originality of the writing, and the flesh-and-blood feel of the characters…even those that don’t exactly have flesh and blood.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Susan Vaught] John Christopher’s Tripod series. The first book in the series was The White Mountains. I remember falling deeply into that world, into the struggles of those characters. I believe it was the first set of books I read where kids were in real jeopardy, and made a difference.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Susan Vaught] When I’m not writing, I’m usually working. My day job is at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. I also help tend the many birds and animals on our farm. What I’d like to do—ha. Be at the beach!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]   How can readers connect with you?

[Susan Vaught] Through my website, at www.susanvaught.com . I enjoy hearing from my readers!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

You can purchase Freaks Like Us from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below.

Waiting on Wednesday–Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Ai Yazawa is one of my favorite manga-ka, and Paradise Kiss is one of my favorite manga, so I am super excited to see that Vertical picked up the license.  This series deserves to be back in print, and I’m eager to see Vertical’s always classy presentation of this epically awesome story. 

In stores next week.

 

Yukari is a spirited high school senior in the process of studying for her college entrance exams. Sadly the prospect of subjecting herself to a meaningless dull life leaves her feeling depressed about the future.  In a bout of frustration, Yukari begins to ignore her courses and she begins to hang out with a group of fashion design students. But what Yukari doesn’t know is that this circle is known as Paradise Kiss, and they are run by a pair of young designers already making their mark on the Asian scene. Furthermore, while her life is going to soon change, it will not be due to the elite political or commerce based future her family may have hoped for, instead her life may eventually be set in a world of high fashion, with her strutting down the catwalk as the face of Asian fashion!


What are you waiting on?

Review: Slow Dance with the Sheriff by Nikki Logan

 

Title: Slow Dance with the Sheriff (Harlequin Romance)

Author:  Nikki Logan

Publisher:  Harlequin

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ex-ballerina Eleanor Patterson is the darling of Manhattan society—until she discovers her pedigree background is a lie. So she heads to sleepy Larkville for answers….

Sheriff Jed Jackson never expected to rescue a stunning woman from a herd of cattle, or to be so fascinated by the vulnerability beneath Ellie’s tough city veneer. Yet watching her unwind is irresistible, and as he helps her learn to dance again he wants to give both Ellie and himself a new beginning….


Review:

Okay, so I somehow got sucked into the Larkville Legacy series, and after reading the first two books, I am quite eager for the third.  I don’t remember reading anything by Nikki Logan before, though I do have a few of her Harlequin Romances that I picked up during the final days of Borders’ going out of business sales.  Glad I grabbed them now, because Slow Dance With the Sheriff pushed all of the right buttons with me.  It had some humor, some sizzle, and a whole lot of powerful emotional responses from me.  Why?  There is a dog.  He is damaged.  There are two people.  They are damaged.  Because they both find it in themselves to love the dog, they all get a happy ever after.  How freakin’ cool is that?  There aren’t even any horses in this one, and since it takes place in a small Texas town, I expected at least one or two.  Nope, just a bunch of stupid cattle.

Ellie Patterson is seeking a home.  She needs someplace where she fits in, and in 30 years, she has yet to find one.  It seems that her entire life is one of disappointment.  She quit  ballet after discovering that her wealthy father was making huge donations to the company.  She couldn’t live with the humiliation of knowing that he bought her place with the dance troupe, instead of earning it herself.  She is still single and emotionally detached from any man, much to her mother’s dismay.  If she won’t keep dancing, she should at least marry in the spotlight.  Then, when she discovers her mother’s secret, she’s  shocked, but also hopeful.  Her mother was already pregnant with Ellie and her twin brother when her mother married, and she is doesn’t share one drop of blood with her father.  Even though she has never fit in with her New York family, maybe she will finally find a place to belong in Texas with the Calhouns.  Without a second thought, she rents a car and drives to Texas to meet the family she didn’t even know she had.

Problem?  First, Jess Calhoun is on her honeymoon, and she be gone for a few weeks.  Second, she is ambushed by an errant herd of cattle.  Third?  The oh-so-sexy sheriff who saves her is just as damaged as she is.  He is distanced from everyone and everything but his dog.  He likes things that way, too.  After making a life altering mistake when he was in charge of the canine unit in a big city, he has sworn off emotional entanglements.  He is happy being the sheriff of a small town, patrolling his county and keeping the law and the peace in his little corner of the world.  Life is quiet.  Life is calm.  Life couldn’t get any better.  Until he has to save Ellie from that errant mass of bovine stupidity.

What I liked best about this story is how both characters, despite their overwhelming fear of emotional, and in Ellie’s case, physical, contact,  both pushed each other to take risks.  These were baby steps, but each successful nudge pushed them closer together, until they had developed a strong bond, with trust firmly at the foundation.  Jed’s strength allowed Ellie to feel comfortable and content for the first time in her life.  Ellie’s wariness and vulnerability, coupled with her unbridled joy at finally discovering the courage to get out there and live, gave Jed a  much needed push to start living himself.  Even when he takes the overused plot devices to heart and tells Ellie that theirs is just a  temporary attachment, you know, to the depths of your soul, that Jed is only fooling himself.  Once he and Ellie begin to trust each other, you know that it will only be a matter of time, despite the rages and the denials, before they stop fighting and recognize how perfect they are for each other.  Add the unshakable approval of one traumatized police dog, and Jed and Ellie really had no chance to escape from that devious thing known as true love.  Their chance of escape?  Zero percent.

I immediately connected with the protagonists, and I constantly urged them to overcome their fears, to stop fighting against the inevitable tide that would eventually buffet them together.  Plot devices that normally drive me nuts worked here, without question.  And interwoven through everything was Deputy Dawg, that poor battered soul who needed nothing other than a warm pat and a kind word.  I think that this sliver of the story touched more more deeply than it would have otherwise, because I know how comforting and soothing a dog’s presence can be.  Now that it’s not there, I know how devastating it is when it’s not there.  At the end of this story, when all Ellie and Jed wanted was love and forgiveness, all they had to do was look to Deputy for an example of how that is done.  Nothing can bridge that chasm of unconditional love and forgiveness like a dog. 

I was occasionally jarred out of the story by some unfamiliar, and to my ears, awkward turns of phrase.  Both Ellie and Jed are supposed to be American, but they didn’t always  sound like it.  This is my one nitpick.  Nikki Logan is Australian, and every now and again, her characters sounded like they were too.  I wasn’t expecting this deep in the heart of Texas, so I do feel obligated to mention it. 

So, volume two in the Larkville Legacy has kept me engaged in the continuity of the series.  Curse you , Harlequin!  Check back for my review of the next book in the series, Taming the Brooding Cattleman.

Grade:  B+

Review was purchased from Amazon

Interview with Nikki Logan, Author of Slow Dance with the Sheriff

 

Nikki Logan is a veteran Harlequin Romance author.  Her latest release, Slow Dance with the Sheriff, is the second book in The Larkville Legacy series.  Eight authors collaborated on this continuity, and I thought it would be fun to chat with as many as possible as I make my way through the series.  I was thrilled when Nikki dropped by to talk about her book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Nikki Logan] Writer seeks reader who loves long walks on beach, toasty log cabins deep in forest & plenty of wildlife. GSOH an advantage.#AuthorPersonals

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Slow Dance with the Sheriff?

[Nikki Logan] This story is part of an eight-book series (we call it a ‘continuity’ because each story continues the central thread, adding to it in some way) based in fictional Larkville just outside of Austin, Texas (though they’re not all set there). My book is second in the series and features a never-left-New York ex Ballerina, Ellie, who comes to Larkville to personally check out the truth behind a letter she received from a woman claiming to be her half-sister. Ellie wants to suss out the truth before throwing her whole family into disarray. But, thanks to some hurtful and angry words exchanged with her mother, she leaves New York in an uncharacteristically rash fashion and arrives in Larkville only to find all the Calhouns away from the ranch for a couple of weeks. She has no choice but to accept the reluctant assistance of the town sheriff who cops the brunt of her barely contained anxiety about the downward vortex that is her life. But of course he’s gorgeous and gracious about it and she finds herself falling fast…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Slow Dance with the Sheriff is part of the Larkville Legacy series. Can you share how you and the other authors worked together to write these books?

[Nikki Logan] Getting eight authors from all corners of the globe together to figure out the finer details of such a long and complicated family relationship wasn’t easy. The eight of us primarily used an email loop to communicate and we started with the continuity ‘bible’ which is a number of documents sent to us by our editors which gave us our essential character outlines, descriptions, info about fictional Larkville and some suggestions on what made each character tick.  Each of us got that information at roughly the same time and then a few of us launched madly into fleshing it/our characters/the setting out via the loop. But, of course, each of us had a different place in the schedule and different deadlines. Although I was book # 2, my deadline was the first of everyone and so I had to write like a demon once we had locked down the basics and then try and stay across changes and developments as I wrote.  But I was well into my next book by the time the authors of the seventh and eighth books were starting to plan theirs.  It was staggered.

So that Google group and its archives came in really handy for going back through everything and getting it right.

The most fun (for me) was creating the world of Larkville.  I’m responsible for Nan’s Bunk’n’Grill, the Larkville Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Hollis being a woman :) Then it was up to each of us to insert enough of the ‘world’ into our stories. But of course not everyone got to set their books in Larkville so other authors had to try and extrapolate the ‘world’ and feed enough of it into their stories to make it nest neatly within the series.

The biggest challenge was taking a few-line outline dashed off by the publisher and bending it to fit my voice, my style of story and my interest. I’m really happy with the way the whole story worked out, it’s true to the outline provided but also true to me and characters I would have loved to write anyway. 

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Eleanor/Ellie?

[Nikki Logan] 3 words: On the cusp.

So much about her life is about to change for the better and she has no idea. But she’s taken her first real risk and it’s going to pay off big time.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Jed would never have in his bedroom?

[Nikki Logan] His firearm (because although he’s security conscious, being a Sheriff, he moved to Larkville to have a different kind of pace in his life, and keeping his gun in his bedroom would dishonour that intent).

His muddy boots (because his Gran raised him right and because he has a loft bedroom so that mud would track all up the stairs)

A phone (Bedrooms are for sleeping or recreation and Jed would think that being contactable wouldn’t fit with either of those things)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Ellie had a theme song, what would it be?

[Nikki Logan] “I Will Survive”.  She’s been through a lot, but she’s finding herself in Larkville and every bad thing that has happened to her has only made her stronger.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Nikki Logan] My father was an original ‘MadMen’ advertising exec type and one of the top creative directors/copywriters in his field, so the bulk of my creative genes came from him. His father (my grandfather) told the most spectacularly intricate, engaging stories that he just made up out of his head (or seemed to) and so clearly my father got it from him and his Welsh genes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Nikki Logan] Tea – refreshing the cup gives my eyes a break from the monitor and sipping a piping hot cup of tea helps me think

Silence – I write best to silence (including internet silence) and edit best to classical music.

My dogs – there’s something about their steady breathing and reassuring presence…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Nikki Logan] Reading is such a rushed and rare thing for me now… and it’s been a while since I read someone new (because when I do read its usually the latest installment from someone who already knocked off my socks a few years ago)… But I was totally blown away by seeing WAR HORSE in New York last year.  I picked it randomly when I had a free evening and wanted to see a NY show, and knew virtually nothing about it. It picked me up and transported me, breathless, to another world and I completely bought into every part of that experience. It was so engaging, so immersive so emotional and so visceral. Exactly all the things I enjoy about a good read. Except it wasn’t a read!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Nikki Logan] I find this impossible to answer. I grew up in a house always filled with books, and with a mother always propped up at the kitchen bench with a cuppa and a good book. I don’t remember when I started to read I just know I always have. I used to read whatever the school library had (I loved romance even then and would devour ‘Sweet Dreams’ romantic YA novels and also ‘choose your own ending’ stories) and then as I got older of course Mills & Boon (of which my mother had hundreds) and all my mum’s sci-fi/fantasy books (of which she also had hundreds, tho I was selective in what I read).

But to try and answer this I looked to my bookshelf to see what I still have from when I was very young. Two books stand out – one a book of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (the dark versions) which I still go back to even now for story ideas and another called “Gnomes” (Nuygen & Poortvliet) which is an anthropological examination of Gnomes as a different species. This book was such a haven at difficult times and transported me to a wonderful and mysterious place.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Nikki Logan] I’m not very good at refilling the well, I have to say. I work seven-days-a-week between writing and my day job so there isn’t a lot of down time. But I try to spend it with my man and my dogs. We like to all pile into the cruiser and go somewhere that we can all romp free together. Well, they romp and I wander sedately and catch up.  Movies, the lazy- (or busy-) woman’s book. And of course reading but there’s just no time…

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Nikki Logan] Through my website/blog (www.nikkilogan.com.au), or on my fanpage on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/NikkiLoganAuthor) predominantly. I try to reply to anyone who contacts me with questions or comments.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can order Slow Dance with the Sheriff in print or digital from the widget below.

 

Here is a list of the entire Larkville Legacy series, in order by release month. I have enjoyed the first two books in the series, so I plan to try and read all of them.    I love continuity series, so Harlequin once again hit my happy button.

The Cowboy Comes  Home by Patricia Thayer – JULY

Slow Dance with the Sheriff by Nikki Logan – AUGUST

Taming the Brooding Cattleman by Marion Lennox – SEPTEMBER

The Rancher’s Unexpected Family by Myrna Mackenzie – OCTOBER

His Larkville Cinderella by Melissa McClone – NOVEMBER

The Secret that Changed Everything by Lucy Gordon – DECEMBER

The Soldier’s Sweetheart by Soraya Lane – JANUARY

The Billionaire’s Baby SOS by Susan Meier – FEBRUARY

Here are all of the covers -

Lark Ville Legacy