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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Guest Author Interview: Marie Patrick

Today we are interviewing our own Marie Patrick, writer for Happily Ever After Thoughts and Historical Romance Author.

Alexis: Hi Marie, how nice to have a chance to interview you :-) I noticed that you enjoy writing Westerns. What is it about the old west that makes your heart race?

Marie: Hello, Alexis! I’m so thrilled to be here! To answer your question: What is it about the old west that makes my heart race? The short answer? Everything. I’ve had a love affair with cowboys and lawmen wearing shiny badges since I saw my first John Wayne movie (no, I’m not going to tell you how many years ago that was) but it wasn’t until I vacationed in Arizona that the desire to write about the old west hit me. And it hit me hard (it was a good thing I wasn’t driving at the time). The scenery outside my car window absolutely took my breath away and the visions passing before my eyes…incredible! I ‘saw’ stagecoaches and outlaws and the men responsible for bringing them to justice. I ‘saw’ saloon girls and cowboys.  I ‘saw’ it all in a flash. My heart pounded so hard, I thought it would burst through my chest. I looked at my husband (he wasn’t my husband at the time) and said, “I’m going to write about the old west.” He, of course, gave me that indulgent smile that said I was crazy but….the rest, as they say, is history.   

Alexis: Yes, our poor spouses know when to simply smile and nod :-) 

I absolutely love the cover of your newest release, Touch the Flame! Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?

Marie: Isn’t it a great cover? Gemini Judson did a fantastic job of taking my words and creating a beautiful picture. About the story, well….the Flame actually refers to a diamond, the Flame of Aphrodite, which is the catalyst for everything that happens. 

Legend says when the Flame is given and received with love, it will bless two souls with everlasting passion. Legend also says the infamous diamond can bring misery, obsession and death. SPENSER CHANNING knows nothing about the legend of the Flame but he does know when someone needs help. When he finds a woman on his ranch—battered, bruised and near death—with a fortune in diamonds hidden beneath her clothing, a bracelet bearing the name ‘REESA’, and no recollection of who she is, his natural instincts take over and he vows to protect her. 

Frightened by memories she doesn’t understand, afraid she has committed a horrible crime, REESA BEAUMONT fights her growing love for Spenser but dangers greater than forgotten memories await her, dangers made of flesh and bone and an obsession for the Flame.

Alexis: Where did you get the idea for this story?

Marie: Like many other writers, I play the “What If” game, but usually something sparks me. Actually, living in Arizona, a lot of things spark my imagination - from a single saguaro cactus standing high on a hill to a hawk soaring in lazy circles in a cloudless blue sky to how the streets shimmer beneath the hot summer sun.  For Touch the Flame, it was a sunset. The beautiful vibrant colors as the sun dipped into the horizon made it look like the sky was on fire. For a moment, I thought I could just reach out to touch those flames. Just like that, I had a title! And the bare bones of a plot. It wasn’t long before Spenser started talking to me - so loudly, in fact, I had to pull over into a parking lot and start jotting down notes in the little spiral notebook I carry around. 

Alexis: What are your favorite character traits of Reesa and Spenser?

Marie: For Spenser, it’s his capacity, despite treachery and betrayal, to remain a man who believes in a love that will last until he takes his last breath. It’s also his capacity for kindness and lending a helping hand. As for Reesa, it’s her sunny disposition, perhaps in spite of the circumstances she finds herself in.  She can’t remember a thing before Spenser finds her, but she’s making the best of it. 

Alexis: This book sounds so intriguing. Now, this is your second release. Was your first, Angel in the Moonlight, set in the same time period?

Marie:  Yes. I’m a bit of a history buff thanks to my freshman year history teacher who made the past come alive for me. My favorite period to write in is between 1840 and 1900. So many events happened during this time that changed the course of our history (of course, it doesn’t compare to what’s happening now) - the Civil War, railroads traversing the country, the gold rush and the people who experienced those events – oh, so many things and people to write about, so little time!

Alexis: Speaking of time, what can we expect next from you? Do you have any new releases coming or a work in progress?

Marie: No new releases as yet, but I’m hopeful for the two manuscripts I have completed.  Believe it or not, neither one of those are westerns. One is a fun romp filled with adventure, mystery and romance set in 1898 Galveston and the other is a sea-faring treasure hunt (as much as I love my cowboys, I have a weakness for pirates, too). I also have eight works in various stages of progress (when I get an idea, I have to write it down – never know where it might lead) but the main one I’m working on right now is another western. 

Alexis: Wow! With two completed and eight WIPs, I'm sure we'll be seeing more from you in the near future. Thank you so much for letting our readers know about your wonderful romances. I can't wait for your next release so we can do this again :-)

Marie: And thank you for having me. This was my very first interview and I’m so glad it was with Happily Ever After Thoughts! 

Alexis: Whoohoo! We were your first ;-) That means for our readers, this is the first ever chance to win Marie’s Touch the Flame, so be sure to leave a comment for her.  Winner will be announced on Wednesday.  May want to include your contact information in your comment or you can check the side column for your name on Wenesday.

For more information on Marie’s Romances go to 

Alexis: Check out this great excerpt from Touch the Flame.

“You need a woman, son.” Ryan Channing wiped at his mouth with the handkerchief he always carried. He spoke slowly, often softly, and struggled at times to find the right words, but not this time. Spenser wondered how many times he’d rehearsed his statement.

The invitation to the Baldwin’s annual barbecue, rodeo, and horserace shook in Ryan’s palsied, almost useless hand. Spenser’s blatant refusal to attend and look for a wife among his neighbors had sparked this confrontation. Again. Irritation and frustration gnawed at him as he stood in front of his father in the main entrance to the homestead and rehashed the same argument one more time.

“You need a woman,” Ryan repeated.

Spenser’s hands curled into fists and his stomach twisted with annoyance. His shoulders tensed and his back stiffened. The desire to tell Ryan to go to hell built up in the back of his throat and yet, he couldn’t utter the words. He never could. Not when he was younger, and certainly, not now.

Not only did the fear Ryan would suffer another incident stop him from saying the words, but simple respect did as well. Though the robust, bigger than Texas father he’d known was but a shell of his former self and the startling resemblance between them had faded, Spenser still owed Ryan the respect he deserved—and earned.                

Spenser ran his fingers through his hair and shifted his weight from one leg to the other, uncomfortable, eager to end the conversation, but Ryan wasn’t done. He shoved the invitation toward his son. Spenser refused to take it. The gold embossed card floated to the hardwood floor. “You’re a great one to give advice, Colonel. After Mama died—” 

“Not talkin’ ‘bout me.” Ryan’s voice rose an octave and hHHHHis mouth moved as he fought to make his body obey his mind. “You’re hard, Spense.  Need . . . woman to take . . . hardness from you.”

Spenser sighed as he picked up the fallen invitation and tossed it on the table beside him. “In case you’ve forgotten . . . Never mind.” He looked into his father’s eyes, so much like his own, and his resolve softened. He knew how Ryan struggled with the limitations of the apoplexy, which had left him partially paralyzed. Ryan’s eye drooped though the sparkle remained and the corner of his mouth sagged. Spenser relented. 

No matter how much they argued, he loved his father. With an effort born of that love, he pushed away his growing aggravation. “I will consider it, but this is the last we’ll discuss it.”

The old man nodded before he swiped at his mouth again.  

Spenser tilted his head. “You think you’ve won, don’t you, old man?”

Ryan said nothing but his thin chest puffed out.

“You may think it’s time, but I disagree. I have no desire to be put through hell again, nor do I have a desire to be put on display.”

“Won’t be hell.”  

Spenser cocked an eyebrow. Despite his efforts to remain calm, suspicion grew in the pit of his stomach. He swallowed as a sour taste reached his mouth. “What are you planning, old man?”
Ryan shrugged. His mouth moved but no words issued forth. 

Lips pressed into a thin line, Spenser tilted his head and stared at his father for a moment longer. He’d always prided himself on never backing down from anything but this was different. Without a word, he turned and walked away. Ryan chuckled lightly and Spenser stiffened in response to the sound but decided, for once, to ignore him. 

He needed to get away from his father’s presence, his father’s directives, before he finally did tell Ryan to go to hell. He needed time alone in the saddle. With Smoky by his side and his trusted mount, Bandit, beneath him, all his problems, even his father’s unreasonable demands to see him married again, seemed manageable. That’s where he needed to be right now -- on the open range with nothing but the wind sighing through the tall prairie grass.

 “I’m going for a ride,” he said to Katya as he passed the front parlor. The woman he’d known almost all his life hovered near the doorway, a dust rag in her hand. The piece of cloth was just a ruse. The gypsy woman was no housekeeper. In truth, she ruled this house and the men inside, a fact everyone acknowledged and accepted.

She’d no doubt heard the whole conversation. Is nothing private in my own home? 

“I’ll be home for dinner, but don’t hold it for me if I’m not.”

“He loves you.” She touched his arm as she spoke and gazed into his face. Her normally dark eyes appeared softer as she silently pleaded for understanding and patience, an expression Spenser knew well. He’d seen it often enough.

“He only wants the best for you.” 

“I know, Katya.” 

The woman gave a regal nod of her head and squeezed past him. She made her way to where Ryan stood, her hands upon her hips. “It’s time for a rest, old man.”

Spenser detected the genuine warmth in her tone and sighed.    

As his father’s eyes lit up, he wondered, not for the first time, if Katya and Ryan were lovers. Perhaps, in the past, but certainly not now, not since his illness. Ryan grasped the woman’s hand. Perhaps they had reached a point where physical intimacy no longer mattered as much. 

Spenser wished he’d had that kind of love with Sable, but she hadn’t wanted that . . . or him. Though he wished to deny his father’s words, he couldn’t. Sable had changed him with her many betrayals and lies, hardened him. He had no room in his heart for softness now . . . or a woman.    

The sour taste filled his mouth again. Spenser swallowed and turned away, pushing all thoughts of the woman who had been his wife to the back of his mind.  

He grabbed his hat from the hook on the wall, his worn leather gloves from the table and walked out the front door.  Smoky lay on the rag rug near the rocking chair, his muzzle resting on his front paws. His tail thumped the floorboards.

Spenser tugged on his gloves as he stood on the front porch, his eyes scanning the dynasty Ryan had built with nothing but sweat and a dream. Pride swelled his chest. Rock Springs Ranch remained one of the top breeders of Quarter Horses in Texas. The responsibility for keeping it that way fell on Spenser’s shoulders as neither of his brothers had an interest in Quarter Horses. They preferred to raise the best beef this side of the Mississippi and they were good at it. 

He glanced at the dog as he stepped off the front porch. “Come on, Smoky. Let’s go for a ride.”

The dog rose and jumped down the front steps. He pranced and yapped as his wet nose prodded Spenser’s hand. “All right, boy. Give me a minute.” 

He grinned as he adjusted his mount’s saddle. “How ‛bout you, Bandit? You ready for a ride?” The horse pawed at the ground as Spenser filled a battered canteen with water. He corked the metal bottle and reattached it to Bandit’s pommel.  

Untying Bandit’s reins from the porch railing, Spenser hooked his foot into the stirrup and swung his leg over the saddle. 

“Where ya goin’?” Spenser’s youngest brother, Jared, stepped into the shade of the porch. No doubt he’d heard the argument as well.  

“The canyon.”

“You shouldn’t let the old man rile you, Spense. You know he does it on purpose.”

Spenser grunted in response then grinned. “I thought his infirmity would change him--make him softer, more understanding.”

His brother chuckled with the absurdity of the idea. “You’re not serious, are you? It’d take more than an illness to make Pop soft.” Jared stepped off the porch and squinted into the blinding afternoon sunlight. “Ride it off like you always do.”  

“Plan to.” Spenser tugged his hat lower to block out the sun’s rays. “Let’s go, Bandit.” Nudging the stallion’s sides, he lightly tugged on the reins and headed south. 

As the homestead faded from sight, the tension eased in his shoulders, the sour taste left his mouth, and he smiled. He couldn’t help it. He’d been asserting his independence from his father for as long as he could remember, beginning when he first dared to go against Ryan’s wishes and joined the Army to fight in the Civil War. When the war ended, Spenser became a Texas Ranger, a job he relished, but a job Ryan thought beneath a Channing.  

His father’s sudden apoplexy had changed everything…and nothing. Though his body may have been ravaged, his mind remained as sharp as ever and Ryan Channing still tried to run every aspect of his children’s lives. 

His brothers, Luke and Jared, didn’t mind Ryan’s interference. They accepted it with good humor, appeasing the old man in order to avoid conflict. His sister, Sierra, didn’t mind either. 

I want the same things you want for me, Pop. I want a loving marriage and children. I thought I’d found that with Sable.

He nudged Bandit into a faster trot to outrun the memories and headed toward the little box canyon with its fresh water spring. No other part of the United States rivaled Texas for its uniqueness. The sky seemed bluer here, the grass taller, the rivers wilder. Having left Rock Springs for almost ten years, Spenser appreciated the beauty of the countryside even more.   

Lost in thought, he didn’t notice the vultures flying high overhead until a shadow passed in front of him. He looked up, amazed as always by their incredible wingspan.  

Vultures were common on the ranch. They were nature’s way of cleaning up after herself. Still, he should check. Perhaps, he could help ease an animal’s suffering.

“Find it, Smoky.”

The dog obeyed. In an instant, all Spenser saw of the black and white mutt was his tail end and the dust plume behind him as the dog disappeared over the edge of the box canyon. He kept Bandit to a steady pace until he reached the rim of the ravine.

Smoky stood over a sprawled figure at the bottom of the canyon, his frantic barks echoing off the canyon walls.  

“Good Lord! Who is that?” Spenser climbed off Bandit’s back, grabbed the canteen from the horse’s pommel, and made his way down the steep embankment with caution. His feet slid out from under him and he landed on his backside--hard--causing a small cascade of pebbles to tumble down to the canyon’s floor.  He carefully stood, dusted his clothes and continued. As he drew closer, details became clearer and he realized, by the clothing and the shape, a woman might have met her untimely end at the bottom of the canyon.

“Good boy, Smoky. Now back off.”              

He knelt beside the woman, pulled off his gloves and searched for a pulse beneath the high lace collar of her sapphire blue traveling suit. Alive, her heart beat slow but steady under his fingertips. 
He scanned the canyon wall and mumbled to himself, “Must have lost your footing.” 

But how had she gotten here?    

She lay on her stomach, as if she’d crawled to this spot and given up. Cool, life saving water sparkled in a pool ten feet from her, hidden behind dense brush, but she wouldn’t have known unless she’d lived here all her life.

Carefully, Spenser turned her over and sucked in his breath. Her face glowed deep, dark red, burned by the sun. A gash on her forehead oozed a thin trickle of blood.  

Removing the small, fashionable but useless hat from her head, Spenser revealed a wealth of golden hair that rivaled the sun in its brilliance. 

“Who are you? How did you get here?” 

She didn’t answer. He hadn’t expected her to. She balanced on the edge between life and death, the harsh sun having sapped all the moisture from her. Her lips were cracked, white and bleeding. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wet it from the canteen. Lightly, he dabbed her mouth.
“How long have you been here?”

Shredded in some spots, torn in others, the taffeta suit she wore could not be repaired. Heaven only knew what she had gone through before ending up here. 

He ran his hands along her body, feeling for broken bones and sighed with relief. He picked up her small, delicate hands.  All her nails were broken and bloody scratches marred her white skin. He wondered where her gloves were--she looked like a woman who would wear gloves--and how many times she had tried to crawl up the steep embankment.     

He held her feet and shook his head. She only wore one shoe, the sole of which had a huge hole, the heel broken. The stocking on her other foot had torn and rolled up her ankle, exposing her delicate skin to the harshness of the Texas countryside. The bottom of her foot had blistered. One very deep cut oozed red.

How far had she walked? And why?  

He tore a piece of her petticoat free and used it to wrap her foot as he looked around. The only tracks in the sand were his, Smoky’s and hers. Dabbing her lips with the wet handkerchief again, he said, “Open your eyes, sunshine.”

He smoothed the handkerchief over her face, carefully, so as not to hurt her. Small blisters fanned out from her eyes and spread around her mouth. Even her eyelids were sunburned.

Her lashes fluttered on her burned cheeks and her eyes opened. Spenser inhaled. Her eyes were beautiful--the color of amber with a slightly darker tawny rim. In their golden depths, he saw confusion, pain and deep-seated fear. He swallowed hard.

“Don’t hurt me,” she whispered, her voice so soft he had to lower his head to hear her. 

“I won’t hurt you.”

Her lashes lowered, covering those luminous golden orbs and she breathed more easily.

As Spenser lifted her, a powerful surge of protectiveness coursed through him. He could only hold her closer, next to his heart and gaze into her sunburned face. A jolt of recognition almost brought him to his knees and made his stomach quiver. 

It wasn’t the sight of her that brought this feeling of connection—it was the feel of her in his arms, as if he’d held her this way many times before. But how could that be? He’d never seen her before, and yet, the weight of her, the softness of her body next to his made him believe, in the deepest part of his heart where dreams still dared to take root, he had. “Don’t worry, sunshine. I’ll look after you.” 

He glanced at the dog. “Home, Smoky.”

Smoky scrambled up the side of the canyon and waited at the top, tail wagging.

Spenser thought about bringing Bandit down to the bottom of the canyon but decided against it. The walls were too steep. He couldn’t risk an injury to his horse, which would leave them stranded far from the homestead.   

Spenser picked the easiest path and started climbing, his progress impeded by the woman’s extra weight, although she weighed less than his fancy saddle. He couldn’t use his hands to help himself and still keep his hold on her. Relying solely on his sense of balance, he took carefully measured steps. Small pebbles slid beneath his feet, and twice, he almost tumbled to the canyon floor.  

His muscles cramped and perspiration stung his eyes, but Spenser managed to reach the edge of the canyon without killing either one of them. He panted from his efforts. “We made it.”

He held the precious bundle as if she were made of fine glass and climbed into the saddle. “Let’s get you home.”

Alexis: Don't forget, this is your first chance to win Touch the Flame simply by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: The Year of Living Scandalously by Julia London

Scandals are no easier hidden in the nineteenth century as they are today.  Julia London takes us to the nineteenth century English countryside where Keira Hannigan poses as her cousin to temporarily run Ashwood Estates.  

Fortunately for Keira, the slowness of historical communications gives her an opportunity to fix the crumbling estate.  The threats to her identity trickle in and make her uneasy and hopeful of her cousin’s quick return.

The first threat came in the form of Declan O’Connor, a dashing Earl from her past.  He knows who Kiera really is, yet she convinces him to give her time and not reveal her deceit. 

The more Declan agrees to cover Kiera’s activities, the more he has to fight off his attraction, as does she.  And they aren’t very good at keeping their hands to themselves.

As the business of the estate is corrected, more people are involved and the mystery of the missing jewels is reopened.  Many begin to question Keira’s validity.  Declan is now tied to the lies and his heart won’t allow him to recede. 

The free spirits of both leave them to wonder if they can ever continue the fragile and untimely relationship they’ve accidentally broached when they attempt an escape. 

Julia London builds a scandalous path for Kiera and Declan to follow.  The passion in their hearts and minds lead them to an exciting finish.  I immediately purchased four more of London’s novels after I regretfully read the last page.