Psyched for Romance

Sports Romance & Romantic Suspense With a Psychological Twist

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Last Refuge: Review and Giveaway

The Last Refuge (Dewey Andreas, #3)The Last Refuge by Ben Coes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Iran Has a Nuclear Bomb!

The Last Refuge
is a political thriller spanning from the US to Iran. The plot is intricate, plausible, and gripping. This is my first read by author Ben Coe but it won't be my last.

The story revolves around two men: Dewey Andreas, former US military, and Kohl Meir, Israeli special forces commander. Dewey is the whole package--hard, intelligent, and competent. Kohl, the grandson of Golda Meir, helped saved Dewey's life once. Now, Kohl's the one with his life on the chopping block, and only Dewey to save him.

Iranians kidnap Kohl in the US and secret him away to an Iranian prison, where they torture him with methods that will make your skin crawl. When the CIA finds out, they're furious:

"What is it with these f-ing Iranians and their hostages?" asked Calibrisi. "It's like an industry over there. It's the only thing they're good at."

Though humorous, that comment made me wonder if the author would paint all Iranians in a negative light. Then he describes the Iranian president's maniacal smile (that) crept like a small garter snake across his lips and my concern increased (great description, though!). But I liked how the author then makes a point that there are good men and women in every country despite the malfeasance of their leaders.

Dewey Andreas is so confident that he views any threat as a fun challenge. Upon learning that a needed weapons dealer is the same man who almost got him killed, Dewey actually grins. You can almost hear him say, "Bring it on." It's a good thing he's so feisty because he has to rescue Kohl from an impenetrable prison all the while a nuclear bomb sits hidden deep in Iran, waiting to blast Tel Aviv into oblivion. The pressure's on!

Dewey also has a keen sense of humor. I love what he writes to replace "Goodbye, Tel Aviv" on the bomb.

While the plot is A+, the characterization was a bit lacking for me. I was invested in Kohl's future but Dewey wasn't as easy to connect with for me. However, I haven't read the first two novels in this series, AND the suspense/thriller novels I read have more romance in them, so take this criticism with a grain of desert sand.

I'm in awe of the painstaking research this novel must have taken. Fans of political thrillers will love this taut, suspenseful story!

(I received an ARC from the publisher for a fair review.)

Did you know The Last Refuge is available as an audiobook too? Thanks to Macmillan Audio, here's a sample of this suspenseful novel!

View all my reviews

St. Martins Press is giving away a signed PRINT copy of The Last Refuge to a lucky US winner! All you need to do is leave a comment with your email address. Giveaway ends the day of the release of The Last Refuge: 7/3/12.

You're also welcome to join the Omnific Publishing Author Author Blog Bounce.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Blog Hop

Major props to Victoria Smith and Jaycee DeLorenzo for hosting the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Blog Hop!
Once I saw the instructions for this hop, I knew I had to join:

Interview a heroine of your manuscript, novel, or WIP by a fellow female counterpart also from one of your written works.  Your featured heroine can be interviewed by her best friend, a heroine from another one of your written works, a sister, the opportunities are endless!

My heroine is Sophie Taylor from The Conduct Series. She's an ex-psychologist who just got out of prison due to an improper relationship with her psychotherapy client, who turned out to be a Mafia man. Sophie is wary of trusting men until she meets fellow parolee Grant Madsen. Sparks fly between them!

Sophie's best friend from grad school, Kirsten Holland, interviews her today.

Kirsten: Hey, roomie!

Sophie: Hola, chica.

Kirsten: As you know, I coined the nickname "McSailor" for your boyfriend Grant Madsen. How would you describe him?

Sophie: You named him McSailor when you found out he used to be in the Navy. Too bad for Grant the name stuck! They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and Grant's eyes are beautiful, just like he is. His eyes are crystal blue--pure and shining. He's kind and gentle, and also very brave. Sometimes he's quiet but other times he shows his goofy side. Grant's smart, respectful, and polite.

Kirsten: I'd say...that man calls just about everyone "ma'am" or "sir"! What's the best date you've ever had?

Sophie: When Grant took me to the White Sox game then to a Mediterranean restaurant, it was pretty great. But really, my fondest memory of our time together wasn't even a date. It was one of our first nights working together on the architectural cruise ship, when Grant got liquored up on tequila. He was the docent for the cruise, and he was freaking hilarious on the mic. When he began singing Frank Sinatra, with his smooth, sexy voice, I knew he was something special. The alcohol let his guard down, and he was so carefree for once...I think I fell in love with him that night.

Kirsten: *sighs* You two are so cute together. I want my own McSailor! Okay, moving on...What's your biggest date horror story?

Sophie: *laughs* You're getting kind of personal, aren't you?

Kirsten: We're both shrinks...I know you can handle it.

Sophie: *glares* Did I ever tell you about the guy I dated who worked for my dad's company? Total druggie?

Kirsten: No! Spill it.

Sophie: His name was Derek. I met him when I was eighteen, and he was almost thirty.

Kirsten: Bet that pissed off your dad.

Sophie: No kidding. I think that was the whole point. Anyway, Derek took me to a party at his friend's place. When I saw people were doing cocaine, I freaked out. I asked him to take me home but he wouldn't--he was probably too trashed to drive anyway.

Kirsten: Jerk. What'd you do?

Sophie: Luckily, my dad was out of town for work, so my mom came and got me, yelling at me the whole time we drove home, but at least she didn't tell my dad.

Kirsten: Okay, last question. Boxers or briefs on your guy?

Sophie: Neither. I like my McSailor buck naked in my bed!


The Conduct Series includes With Good Behavior (#1) and Bad Behavior (#2). I'm currently writing On Best Behavior (#3), having a blast torturing Sophie and Grant!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

International Short Story Day

June 20th is International Short Story Day!

Do you like short stories? I tend to read and write novels, but one of my favorite reads is a collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri titled Interpreter of Maladies.

So when Omnific Publishing asked its authors if we wanted to write short stories for a charity anthology, I jumped at the chance. Besides trying to rein in my bloated word count, I also tried to stretch myself by writing a Young Adult short story from first person POV.

That story is Swim Recruit, available for FREE.

Not long after Abby Donahue’s family falls apart, she escapes on an airplane to Chicago for a recruiting trip. A talented high-school swimmer, Abby hopes to score both a college scholarship and some distance from her parents' recent divorce. But is this university for her?

Her first encounter with freshman swimmer Reese McGowan makes her nervous. He’s a tall backstroker with a mess of blond hair, glittering aquamarine eyes, and a suspension from the team for badmouthing the school to another recruit. As Abby unravels the mystery underlying Reese’s disdain, she begins to unlock her own hidden emotions about her father. Together Abby and Reese battle bullies on the team and inner demons, learning that flipper feet and fighting for family can actually be a good thing.

Traci from Goodreads had this to say about Swim Recruit: "It was surprisingly deep for such a short story, it had a good message of acceptance, and standing up for yourself and your beliefs."

Ana from Goodreads said "Jen, I love the simplicity and honesty with which you broach controversial subjects. You make it seem so easy to deconstruct a theme down to its more basic and important aspects."

Ooh, controversial subjects--my favorite!


Once I reached O’Hare’s baggage claim, I scanned the area until my eyes rested on a dark-haired man in a purple parka. His eyebrows lifted when I approached. “Abby Donahue?”

I shot him a nervous grin. “That’s me.”

He smiled back, reaching behind me for my bag. “Welcome to Chicago. I’m Eric Landon, the assistant coach. My car’s just a short walk from here if you want to follow me.”

On our trek to the parking garage, we dodged busy travelers, including a couple in the throes of PDA. I was simultaneously appalled and jealous when the guy groped the girl’s butt during their kiss.

I’d wanted a boyfriend my entire high school career, but a suitable one had yet to materialize. Looked like I was going to prom yet again with Anthony Jackson, a nice but nerdy boy who was one of the only seniors ahead of me in class rank.

I looked over to find Eric staring at me, and I realized I’d missed his question. “Uh, sorry?”

“I asked you how your flight was.”

“Good. My mom was freaking out ’cause we were supposed to get freezing rain, but I guess it held off or something.”

“That’s lucky.” Eric nodded. “We don’t get much rain here in the winter — too cold.”

As if on cue, I felt a blast of icy wind gust through the parking garage, and I eyed his Northwestern Swimming parka longingly while tugging up the zipper of my jacket. So this was the reason he willingly wore a coat that made him a shoe-in for Grimace. I wondered if Hamburglar was sneaking around here too. 


Friday, June 15, 2012

Love Struck Giveaway Hop (International)

Thank you to Laurielu from Bona Fide Reflections as well as Suz, Annie, Francesa, and Angela from Under the Covers for hosting the Love Struck Giveaway Hop!
Is there a book or a series that you have read which has left you completely smitten? A hero/heroine that makes other heroes/heroines pale in comparison to the feelings you have for your “true” love?
Yes! And that series is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. 

It's a historical romance taking place in Russia during WWII. The hero Alexander is soooo swoon-worthy. He's a tall, dark soldier (my favorite), quiet and brooding with a quick wit, and utterly in love with the heroine Tatiana.

“Tatiana said. "Go on with Dasha. She is right for you. She is a woman and I'm-" 
"Blind!", Alexander exclaimed. 
Tatiana stood, desolately failing in the battle of her heart. "Oh, Alexander. What do you want from me..."
"Everything", he whispered fiercely.

A bus came. The soldier turned away from her and walked toward it. Tatiana watched him. Even his walk was from another world; the step was too sure, the stride too long, yet somehow it all seemed right, looked right, felt right. It was like stumbling on a book you thought you had lost. Ah, yes, there it is.

Lady Jayne from Goodreads supplies photos of how she sees the characters in her reviews, and she thinks Henry Cavill would make a good Alexander. I have to agree. 

Tatiana: "Why did we spend two days fighting when we could have been doing this?"
Alexander: "That wasn't fighting, Tatiana. That was foreplay.”

Gah! Alexander is such an awesome book boyfriend.

I want YOU to read The Bronze Horseman, so I'm giving away an Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card of $10 to help you do just that. And since my novels feature tall, dark, and handsome military men, I'm also giving away an ebook of With Good Behavior. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL.
a Rafflecopter giveaway Please visit HERE to see the other participating blogs!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Five Ways to Keep Writing No Matter What

Readers, are you tired of waiting for your favorite author’s next book?

Writers, are you struggling to stick to your timeline?

I know I’m not progressing through my WIP On Best Behavior as quickly as I’d like.

Time for a helpful guest post from writer Samantha Gray!

Take it away, Samantha…

5 Ways to Keep Writing No Matter What

Writing is not for the faint of heart. We confront feelings that are powerful and sometimes very complicated. We bare our souls for the world to see. We offer this gift to the world, perhaps secretly terrified of rejection. No wonder so many writers are suicidal, or alcoholics, or dry up and become reclusive hermits, never to be heard from again. But it doesn't have to be that way. Below are some heartfelt suggestions for how to keep going in those moments where you just want to give up on your dream:

1. Drop what you're doing. No, really. If you're having a genuine morale problem, AKA writer's block, it's less important that you make progress on the particular project of the moment than it is that you recapture a sense of forward momentum and happy flow. That doesn't mean you stop writing. Quite the opposite: the whole point here is not to stall out, not to freeze like a deer in headlights. Rather, try writing something random, low-pressure, and above all, fun. There's no harm in a little side project. Who knows, maybe this little throwaway will even become your main project. Your block could be your heart telling you you're barking up the wrong tree.

2. Remember, NO ONE IS WATCHING. Your precious baby is yours alone for now, to nurse as you see fit. You get to decide when it finally gets released into the world, and that time hasn't come yet, so your piece can be as bad as it wants to be for now. Remember that bumper sticker slogan, "Work like you don't need the money, Love like you've never been hurt, Dance like no-one's watching"? Well, write like no one can see. Because they can't.

3. Think back to when you first fell in love with writing. What were you working on then? Try to find a way to reconnect with that feeling, and work that one-time inspiration back into what you're doing. What was it that you enjoyed most about it? Get back to those basics and you may find that what you're putting on the page is revitalized.

4. Reread your favorite book, something you purely love. Even if it's totally unrelated to your own writing goals, it may help you rediscover that feeling described above. Something totally different from your own project (science fiction instead of romance, poetry instead of fiction) may shake you out of your funk and offer new inspiration.

5. Take a walk. Sitting at your desk all day is simply not good for you, physically or mentally, especially at those times when you don't feel good about what you're doing. I describe this as an "occupational hazard" for writers and people think I'm joking, but it's true. Prolonged periods at a chair are bad for your back, your circulation, your digestion…and don't get me started on the bleary-eyed, discombobulated feeling I get from staring at a screen for hours on end. On that note, I'm out of here! Time to go get some fresh air. Happy scribbling!

Samantha Gray is a freelance writer based in Houston, Texas, who offers college advice to those interested in furthering their studies and careers. She can be reached for questions or comments at

Thank you, Samantha! I can definitely vouch for the boost that comes from taking a walk. Exercise increases cerebral blood flow, letting the creativity flow like liquid. Check out another post by Samantha about great YA books HERE.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

All Series, All Summer

Smash alerted me to an informal reading challenge this summer: the All Series, All Summer Challenge hosted by Amanda from On a Book Bender blog and Kelly from Reading the Paranormal blog.

The goal of the challenge is to make progress on or finish some series that you've started. It's an informal challenge...Kelly states “You’re welcome to join us. There is no sign up, no pressure, no check-ins, no anything except a driving need to have a reason to push these books to the top of our respective TBR piles."

Here are some series I plan to work on this summer (thereby making progress on the Romantic Suspense and YA Reading Challenges as well):

Black Ops by Cindy Gerard (Romantic Suspense):
3. Whisper No Lies
4. Feel the Heat
5. Risk No Secrets
6. With No Remorse
7. Last Man Standing (I have signed copies of the last two from RT!)

I-Team by Pamela Clare (Romantic Suspense):
1.5 Heaven Can't Wait

MacKinnon's Rangers by Pamela Clare (Historical Romance):
1. Surrender
2. Untamed
3. Defiant

Play by Play by Jaci Burton (Sports Romance)
1. The Perfect Play
2. Changing the Game
3. Taking a Shot

Divergent by Veronica Roth (YA Dystopian)
2. Insurgent

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (YA Contemporary)
2. Where She Went

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (YA Sports Romance)
2. Stealing Parker

Ember by Carol Oates (YA Paranormal)
1. Ember
2. Iridescent

Gabriel's Inferno by Sylvain Reynard (Adult Contemporary)
2. Gabriel's Rapture

Fifty Shades (Erotica)
1. Fifty Shades of Grey
2. Fifty Shades Darker
3. Fifty Shades Freed

Hanaford Park by Lisa Sanchez (Adult Paranormal)
3. Faythe Reclaimed

Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward (Adult Paranormal)
5. Lover Unbound
6. Lover Enshrined
7. Lover Avenged (this list is already too optimistic!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Insecure Writers Support Group

It's my first meeting of the Insecure Writers Support Group!

Me: Hi, everyone, I'm Jen.

Insecure Writers: Hiiii, Jen!

Me: (mumbles) I've been stalking my Goodreads author profile for almost two years now, ready to pounce on a new review.

Insecure Writers: *nod*

Are YOU a review whore? I know I am. A positive review makes my day. A negative review bums me out. Thankfully I'm learning not to react as strongly, but it's still a challenge.

How do you handle negative reviews? YA author Beth Revis gives some great advice for dealing with haters HERE. (And hear about her friend who *gasps* HATES PUPPIES).

Now go check out what the rest of the insecure writers have to say by visiting founding member Alex Cavanaugh's blog HERE.

Purpose of the Group: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

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