Judging for the 2020 W.W.A. Spur Awards

Judging the Spurs

It was a great honor to be asked to be a judge for the Western Writers of America’s 2020 Spur Awards, but I had no idea what I was signing up for. I envisioned hours of luxurious reading in one of my favorite genres, while leisurely sipping wine and taking bubble baths, and once the event opened to entries last August, for a while, a new book came in the mail every day or two and it felt a little bit like Christmas.

I began reading the first entry right off, and kept steadily working my way through them. The inflow trickled off mid-September, although there were a few later entries that didn’t come until November and December. The stack of books were large, but I’ve always been an avid reader and I felt confident that I could manage it easily.

Then, as often happens, life got in the way. I lost two dogs within a month and a half of one another, and in November, had a death in the family, and for a time my life was turned upside down. My work schedule received adjustments and travel arrangements were made for the viewing and services, and writing and school were shoved lower on the list of priorities. Suddenly, everything was up in the air and all my leisurely reading time disappeared like a magician’s rabbit. Abracadabra. Poof!

During the last part of December, I started trying to get back on track and found some reading time to begin trying to catch up on the Spur entries. At this point, the stack of books I had left to read seemed immense, and I began to wonder if maybe I should be worried about getting all of them read in time. I admit, I had to cram at the end and read every night until my eyes wouldn’t stay open, but I managed to read every entry and send in my judging choices before the deadline.

It was harder than I thought it would be to be a Spurs judge. Not because I ended up playing catch-up on the reading, but because there were some many really excellent stories submitted to the western romance category, and I had to narrow it down to the top five. Making the choices as to which were best was really tough. The opportunity to read some of the best westerns of 2019 made it worth every struggle. It was great!

I took my role as a Spur judge seriously. While reading I noted things like how well-crafted the story was, how prominent the elements of western and romance were in the story, how historically accurate the story was, and how well the story captured and held my interest, to base my choices on. Now that the winners have been announced, I am able to provide you with brief reviews of the ones that were my own personal favorites. All of the books reviewed below I found to be well written and historically accurate to their time period, and each would receive a five quill rating in my regular book reviews. They were my top picks and they include the winner in the romance category and one of the finalists.

 


MollyfarMollyfar, by Bonnie Hobbs: This is one of those stories that is just a fun read. It has strong western elements in a classic romance tale, but the unique and interesting characters are what carry the story.

Sometimes in the old west you had to grow up fast, and life wasn’t always kind, especially to members of the female persuasion. Molly finds herself on her own in the west at a young age, at a time when the choices for a girl on her own were very limited. She’s on her way to becoming a soiled dove for a life of squalor when she meets Wade and it’s love at first sight. Wade vows take care of Molly, so there will be no need for her to go down that road, but he is young and there are several obstacles preventing him from following through. Then Molly met Heeshe, the new amorphidite brothel owner and they saved each other, but there was always a place in her heart for Wade, if she could only admit it and let herself surrender to him.

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This New DayThis New Day, by Harlan Hague: This book made Finalist. It has the strong western element of a true pioneer tale with a sweet romance that just feels right. The story line draws the reader in and doesn’t let go.  It made me cry.

When Molly’s husband dies, there’s nothing left to go back to. They sold up all their worldly goods to make the trek across the mountains to Oregon, and she is determined to complete the journey with her two children. She meets hardship and heart ache along the way, and Micah, a mysterious rugged rider, who turns up just at the right moment to save her from Jeb, an unsavory member of their party, who has had his eye on Molly and grown tired of just watching. Soon Micah is riding with she and the children, and bedding down near their wagon at night, working his way into the children’s hearts, as well as her own, but she has to wonder where he goes when he rides off for days and then, reappears. She has doubts as to whether she is strong enough to make it at times, but soon finds she doesn’t want to make it without Micah.

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The Express BrideThe Express Bride, by Kimberly Woodhouse: This story has western and romance elements that are prominent. Likable characters make you care, and a fun and playful story line makes you want to keep reading. Jaquelin (Jack) is a strong, gritty female protagonist, who you can’t help but like.

Since her father died, Jack has run the Pony Express station in his stead. And why shouldn’t she? Even if she had to mislead to corporation heads a little, implying that she was male by signing her letter Jack instead of Jacquelin, she knows the workings inside and out, and the riders all like her and look to her with respect. Then Elijah Johnson looking for a mystery woman from the past arrives, along with a U.S. Treasury agent, Mr. Crowell, enlisted to help uncover a suspected conterfeiting ring operating in the area. As she unravels the mystery surrounding her own past, she ponders who she is, and who she wants to be, and struggles with the nagging feeling that Elijah Johnson may hold the key to revealing the truth.

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The Outlaw's LetterThe Outlaw’s Letter, by Angela Reines: A classic romance story with a strong western element and a hint of mystery. Good, solid story line that is everything a romance should be.

Harriette “Hetty” Osgood is just school teacher in Kiowa Wells, but when a dying man stumbles into her school house, she vows to deliver a letter to his brother, Grant Davis. Dressed as a boy for safer travel, she sets off on an adventure to find Davis, and crosses paths with Conover Boggs, who she sent to prison in the past, and would like nothing more than a chance to make her pay. Boggs catches up with her just as she catches up with Grant Davis, who has ridden with Boggs in the past. To save them both, they claim to be married to fool Boggs. They have little choice but to help one another, but Grant is on a quest to clear his name and leave his past behind him. Could they each be what the other is really looking for?

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A Slip on Golden StairsA Slip on Golden Stairs,  by Joanne Sundell: I actually reviewed this book before I was asked to be a judge. You can see my original review of this book here.

This paranormal western romance is really two romances, one in the present and one in the past, in one tragic searches for both love and riches. Sundell does an excellent job of weaving the past into the present in a tragic and heartfelt tale of lost love and possibilities.

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The Yeggma's ApprinticeThe Yeggman’s Apprentice, by C.K. Crigger: Winner of the western romance category. Great characters and a captivating plot that draws you in and keeps you reading. Light natural flowing romance within a western setting and a truly enjoyable read. 

Wilke thinks her first solo job in Butte, Montana will be a piece of cake. Simply, lift the ledgers for the designated accounts from the bank safe for the client. What could be easier? But things quickly go awry when she finds there are two sets of ledgers and they don’t tally. Suddenly, she finds herself being pursued by the shady lawyers who hired her uncle, who will go as far as murder to cover their tracks. When Hixson rides her back to her hotel on his motorbike, they discover her uncle dead, Wilke finds herself on her own and in need of getting out of town with the falsified documents.

Hix agrees to help her, but gets more than he bargains for, when the shady lawyer’s henchman is waiting at the train station. Wilke isn’t sure she can trust Hix, there are several signs that he might have a shady past and could be an outlaw, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. Hix has reasons of his own for wanting to get out of  Montana, but he finds that Wilke is full of surprises, as they try to evade the bad guys.

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Interview with erotic romance author Jade C. Jamison

Bullet

My author guest today makes her living writing erotic romance under a pen name, and prefers to display the cover of her bestselling novel, Bullet, the first book in her Rock Star Romance series, (see my review of Bullet), rather than an author photo in order to conceal her real identity. (When you like at it that way, authors can be kind of like superheroes, taking assumed identities. You’ve gotta admit that’s pretty cool.) We may not know who she is behind the book cover, but we do know that she’s written over fifty books to date, and when perusing them, one is sure to find one that’s just the preferred temperature, because she writes in them all, from sweet romance to sizzling hot erotica. Please welcome erotic romance author Jade C. Jamison.


Kaye: Why do you write erotic contemporary romance? Would you ever consider writing any other genre? If so, which one?

Jade: It took me forever to puzzle out exactly what genre I wrote.Back in 2013, the term “erotic romance” seemed to most capture what I wrote, but the “E” word is now becoming taboo.(I’m smiling as I write this.)Nowadays, the genre is being called “steamy contemporary romance,” although that may change yet again. But, anyway, I digress. Not only would I consider writing in other genres, I have. Within romance, I’ve written everything from romantic comedy to romantic suspense. Outside romance, I’ve written horror and nonfiction, but under another name, I’ve penned mystery, news writing, instructional pieces, academic literature, and even poetry.

Kaye: Does erotic romance come naturally to you? Why does it appeal to you to write in this genre?

Jade: I don’t know that writing romance comes naturally to me. Ten-plus years ago, I found that, no matter what I wrote, some aspect of romance became part of the story. So even though I have a tale to tell and even though the relationship is the key element in the story, making sure I have all the facets that make a romance satisfying to avid readers of the genre is not always easy, and it’s definitely not organic.

Why it appeals to me?  I haven’t a clue. I’m sure a psychologist would have a heyday with me.

Kaye: What is the most difficult part of writing erotic romance for you? What part is the most fun?

Jade: Sex scenes are, by far, the hardest. They easily become the most tedious part as a reader as well. From some of my conversations with other authors, I don’t believe I’m alone. You want to keep things fresh, so to speak, and non-repetitive while at the same time you want to keep readers emotionally engaged. It’s easy to mess that up in those sorts of scenes—so I put a lot of pressure on myself to write scenes that are emotional and engaging.

The most fun part is when a character surprises me.  I think I know where the story is going and then BAM!  She does something completely unexpected, but I know it’s working and there’s no way I’ll change it.

Kaye: Which of your stories is your favorite? Why?

Jade: Sorry if you’ve heard this from me before, but asking me to choose a favorite story is like asking me to choose a favorite child.That said, I do have some stories that I don’t like as well as others, but my lips are sealed. Some of the stories I like the least are reader favorites.

Kaye: Your sex scenes range in temperature from steamy, to sizzling, to blazing hot. What determines how hot the scenes get in each story?

Jade: Part of it depends on the story itself. In my bestselling book Bullet the sex scenes got hotter as the story moved on. That was one of the ways I let the reader know the main character was maturing. It mostly depends on what I think readers will expect. Am I billing the book as super steamy (like Finger Bang), or am I emphasizing the story itself (like Savage)? But, honestly, I always thought they were all pretty close in steaminess. I guess I’m too close to the forest!

Kaye: Do you prefer to write during the day, or are your stories so hot they can only be written at night?

Jade: I actually do almost all of my writing in the early morning, from about 5:30-6:30 am. It’s the only quiet time I have and I find I’m far more creative when my brain is fresh.

Kaye: You’ve written over fifty books. What is the writing achievement are you most proud of?

Jade: I don’t know that I’ve “achieved” anything as an author, other than sharing my stories with the world.I guess, though, that I’m currently proud of my growth as an author. I’ve really taken a step back in an effort to realize that being prolific isn’t nearly as important as transporting a reader to a different world—so I’m proud of not letting my pride stop me from learning!

Kaye: What is one thing your readers would never guess about you?

Jade: I enjoy playing Pokemon Go.I used to play Pokemon games with my kids when they were little, and now they have me playing this silly game on my phone!!!

Kaye: In 2019, you released books 3 and 4 from your Matchmaker collection. They are described as Reverse Harem Romances on their covers. I can see lots of potential for steamy action there. Would you like to talk a little about this story collection?

Matchmaker series

Jade: I’d taken a couple of marketing courses the year before, compelling me to “write to market”. So, I looked through Amazon’s top 100 contemporary romance books and found that Reverse Harem Romances were dominating at the time. At first, I thought that meant a literal harem, but with a woman surrounded by men. I discovered through my research that that’s not quite what Reverse Harem is all about. I like a challenge, so I decided to go for it. One of the courses I took is by one of the bestselling indie romance authors in the history of Amazon, and she advised writing a series with cliffhanger endings at the end of each book. That was another challenge. So, that’s the nuts and bolts of the series.

The story itself is about Claire, an actress struggling to make it in Hollywood. She tries out for a reality TV show called Matchmaker, hoping that if the right people see her, they might give her a chance as an actress. If nothing else, she’s bound to meet the love of her life. Her suitors are five gorgeous men who’ve been “guaranteed” to be a perfect match, but the audience gets to determine who stays and who goes. And, yes, there’s quite a bit of steam between the covers.

Kaye: I reviewed Heat: Book 1, which was really a short prelude to a larger story that will change the way you think about getting a message forever. But there is more to the story. Would you talk about Heat: The Complete Series?

Complete Heat

Jade: Heat was another challenge I couldn’t say no to.  Several years ago, I was approached by a publishing company in Australia about republishing one of my older series, and I did that with them.  While it never neared the level of success they’d promised, a year later they approached me about something new they were doing, inspired by stories James Patterson had been writing.  The basic premise for the romance stories was that you write a short but intense “intro,” followed by three more books, all following a particular formula—but very hot with cliffhangers at the end of each short book.  I really liked the idea, so I pitched what became Heat.  Unfortunately, it didn’t perform as well as I had hoped, so I took back my rights to it after a year and republished it.  

So what you read in the free first part, Heat: Book One, is the beginnings of a steamy romance between Sergio and Rachel.  Rachel is actually a character from Finger Bang, and I’d been inspired to write a story about her for a long time.  When I was approached by this publishing company, I thought her story might be perfect for the format they’d talked about.  Because it’s shorter and steamier, there’s not as much depth to the characters, but that wasn’t the idea behind the series.  It’s meant to be intense, somewhat shocking, and super steamy.  Fun.  No ugly crying, no heart-wrenching moments.  Just pure, unadulterated fun.  What you read in Heat: Book One is a prelude to the rest of the story.  If you enjoyed the first part, you’ll love the complete story. 

Kaye: What is next for Jade C. Jamison? What can your readers look forward to?

Jade: The biggest problem for me is I have so many things I want and need to write, and so little time.  I literally have over fifty book ideas outlined, but I’m currently working on a project. It’s a series called Small Town Secrets. I’ve taken about thirteen of my books off the shelves, and I’m re-purposing them. In an effort to be an even better writer, I’m rewriting eight of those books, but they are now all interconnected in this series. My review team has read the first one (Love and Lies) and loved it. I’m hoping to release six of those books in 2020.

I also have one book left in the Nicki Sosebee series. Book 12, Wake Up, ended on a cliffhanger, and so I can’t keep my readers waiting for too long. That book is fully plotted and I promise it will be satisfying! I just need to write it. But, I also have several other series I need to finish (Feverish, Codie Snow, Tangled Web), so we’ll see what I can tackle. I would love to write a lot more this year (like I said, fifty ideas and counting!) but I have a lot on my personal plate, so it all depends on how much I can get done in the time I have. I’d cross my fingers, but I can’t type while I do that!

Kaye: (See my review of Tangled Web)


I want to thank Jade for joining me here and sharing today. It has been a real pleasure. I learned a few things about writing erotic romance and hopefully my readers did, too. This interview is the perfect way to finish up February’s erotic romance. And thank all of my readers for reading and commenting on Writing to be Read. I hope you will all saddle up and join me again next month, when we plan to wrangle up the western genre. See you here.


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“Heat: book one”: You’ll never think of message the same way again

Heat

Heat: book one, by Jade C. Jamison is a prequel to her Heat: The Complete Series, which can be read in a single sitting. Jamison has a talent for drawing readers in and immersing them in the character, making them almost active participants in the story, and Heat is no exception. This brief tale is an introduction, featuring one of the most sensual messages ever imagined for the reader to relax and enjoy.

In Heat, we meet Rachel Donahue, a busy investment broker who needs to unwind at least once a week. And we meet Spike, a sexy and talented male masseuse who really knows how to make a girl feel really, really good. Maybe too good. What happens when Rachel meets her new client and realizes that Sergio and Spike are one and the same, and she is going t be working very closely with him, leaves the reader wanting more. You won’t be able to resist buying Heat: The Complete Series to find out the rest of the story.

Sizzling hot erotic romance that leaves readers longing for more, I give Heat: book one five quills.

Five Quills

Amazon Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Heat-Book-Jade-C-Jamison-ebook/dp/B07JRC8TP6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Heat+Jamison&qid=1583605811&s=books&sr=1-1


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Chatting with the Pros: Interview with contemporary romance author Amy Cecil

Chatting with the Pros

My author guest this month on “Chatting with the Pros” is a talented romance author of both historical and contemporary romance novels. Her Knights of Silence MC series tells the story of the sometimes violent and brutal world of motorcycle club life with characters who feel very human and vulnerable at times. The series is a tale of love and loyalty, and yes, there’s some tastefully written, but quite erotic sex scenes. (You can see my review of Sainte, the last book in the MC series.)  I also had the pleasure of  reviewing Ripper, which was one of the most cleverly crafted romances I’ve ever read. To turn a Jack the Ripper tale into an erotic romance takes some talent. Erotic romance author Amy Cecil did with a well crafted hand. I’m so pleased to be able to chat with her today. Please join me in welcoming her.


Amy Cecil - Erotic Romance Author

Kaye: Why do you write in the romance genre?  Why not science fiction, or fantasy or mystery?

Amy: I initially chose romance because that is what I have always read. I do not read science fiction and doubt that I could even write in that genre. As I wrote more books, I have intertwined other genres into them such as fantasy, romantic suspense and ever mystery. So even though I started with romance, I’ve always been open to other genres that interest me.

Kaye: What is the most difficult part of writing romance for you?  What is the most fun?

Amy: I would have to say the most difficult thing with romance for me is finding a relationship scenario that isn’t over saturated in the market. For all of us romance readers, we are always looking for something fresh. We want that happily ever after, but finding the angst to get to that point can be difficult.

And, the most fun part of romance for me is the banter between the couples. I love to bring snarky attitudes together and have a battle of the wits, so to speak.

Kaye: Your Knights of Silence MC series chronicles a motorcycle club over the course of several years.  As you read the series you get better acquainted with each of the members, which have well developed backstories that make the whole of the story seem very real and believable.  What drew you to these stories with these characters?

Amy: That’s a great question. And actually pretty funny how the series got to where it is now.  When I started, my focus was on Ice and Emma, childhood sweethearts that great apart who found each other again. It was gonna be one book.  When I got to about half way through the book, my PA at the time suggested that I release it, even though it has this huge cliffy. So I did, which then created book 2. That was supposed to be the end. But as I was writing these characters and their story lines grew, I realized I had more to say.  Never in a million years at the beginning did I think that Honey would be such a pivotal character in the series to warrant he own book. So the draw was Ice and Emma and the continuing development came with each book released from my mind.

Kaye: You recently released the last book in the Knights of Silence MC series, Sainte.  Can you talk a little about Sainte’s part of the Story?  Why was he chosen for the central focus character in the final book?

Amy: When the series started to lean toward Honey, I realized that male character that I had intended for her was completely wrong for her. She needed a saint, literally to save her from herself. And while Hawk was the most beloved character in the series, he did not have the mental strength to get Honey through.  And I just couldn’t let him sit around and watch her with another man. So, Hawk had to die and make room for Sainte. Sainte is a former mafia hit man who knew Ice when he was a kid. He is Emma’s cousin, which she didn’t know about. So he had a reason to stay with the MC from the beginning.  When he met Honey, he realizes quickly, she is the woman for him and he decides to stay and leave the mafia world. (Not that it is all that different. LOL). Sainte brings the story full circle, bringing the club the peace it has been wanting for a long time.

Kaye: As I mention in my review of Sainte, your characters are well developed with rich, believable backstories.  Where do you draw your characters?  How do you create with their stories?

Amy: As noted in questions 3 and 4 above, their stories come to me as I write them. I keep referring back to Honey, but she is a perfect example. When the series started, she was nothing, but the jealous ex-girlfriend. By the time we get to the third book, her story line develops and the reader sees she is the most complex character in the whole series.  She’s a recovering coke addict, struggling with her addiction every day. She wants love so bad she can taste it, but is terrified to grab the bull by the horns and take it when it’s offered to her. As the story grows, my characters grow and develop stories of their own.

Kaye: Although the series focuses on the male members, their “old ladies” play important roles as well, offering an abundance of strong, if flawed, female characters.  Why do the ladies play such an important role within the framework of your stories?

Amy: Well, you know the old saying, “there is a strong woman behind every man.” I wanted my female characters to be as strong as their male counterparts. Because these women are connected to the MC, they are surrounded by violence. They have to be strong to survive. Emma comes to the MC in ICE a very naïve young woman. By the end, she gives new meaning to the term “old lady” and could definitely have a patch of her own.

Kaye: Who is your favorite MC Character and why?

Amy: At first, I would have to say Caden/ICE all the way. And don’t get me wrong, I love him because he is the heart of the MC. He’s strong and protective and the kind of guy that when he holds you in his arms you feel safe. But then, Sainte came along. Sainte is everything that Ice is, but Sainte has that snarky personality that I love. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is and if he’s hated for it, he will just smile and walk away. Yes, definitely Sainte.

Kaye: The MC world is often dangerous and violent.  As a result, throughout the series several characters have had to die.  Is it difficult for you to kill off your darlings? Who was the hardest for you?

Amy: Several minor or past characters have died and frankly, I didn’t even bat an eye. When the realization hit me that I had to kill Hawk, that one was difficult. He was a major player in the story line and very much loved character by my readers. And believe me, I thought of several ways to keep him, but I just couldn’t get it to work with how I wanted the story to go. So he died. It was hard, but it would have been so much harder to kill Ice or Sainte, or even one of the girls.

Kaye: You also write historical romance.  Are those stories a bit tamer than you contemporary romances?

Amy: Yes, definitely.  My historical romances are Jane Austen FanFic and I think the hard core Jane Austen fans would have heart attacks if I made them as steamy as my contemporary romances.

Kaye: Your erotic scenes are done tastefully and in context for the story, yet you turn up the heat just enough to make them sizzle. How do you know how far to take your sex scenes?  How hot is too hot?

Amy: That’s an easy question. I think about what I like to read and go from there. I have read several books where every other page is a sex scene and that is just ridiculous. Many authors think sex is what sells your book, but I disagree. Readers want a story that they can sink their teeth into. They want to relate to their characters and that is really hard to do if they are screwing like bunnies the entire time.

I also believe that you want to leave the reader wanting for more in a particular scene. We all have an imagination and I believe that sometimes it is best to let the readers mind take over and make the sex in the book what they want.

Kaye: You are finished with the Knights of Silence.  What is next for Amy Cecil?  Is there a new series in the works?

Amy: Currently, I am working on a sequel to On Stranger Prides, which is a Pride and Prejudice variation titled On Familiar Prides. After that, I have a short story I wrote last year in an anthology about a WWI spy that I would like to develop into a full-length novel. As far as the Knights series goes, I definitely plan to expand on it. I currently have one spin-off series published, the Enemy Duet, but I also see others as well as a next generation series. I know for a fact, I can not stay away from my biker boys for very long, so definitely expect more in the future. I’m also working on making all my books available on audio, so that has kept me pretty busy as well.

Kaye: You are an award winning romance author.  What do you feel is your biggest writing accomplishment to date?

Amy: Wow, you really save the toughest for last. I always thought that my writing was measured by the number of reviews, or the awards won, or even that pretty “bestseller” orange banner you get from Amazon. And yes, I have lots of reviews, awards and have had a couple orange banners and I am thankful for every one of them. But when I really think about accomplishments in my writing, none of these apply. Sure, they are great and all, but what I am most proud of is my readers. And it’s not just because they read my books, but because of the people and the friendships I have developed with them. I have met some amazing people through this journey and I can say, it’s not the awards, or the reviews or the “bestseller” banners that keep me writing, it’s the readers.


I want to thank Amy for taking the time to share today on Writing to be Read.  Romance comes in many different shapes and sizes. In her Knights of Silence MC series, it comes in the form of big, tough bikers and their girls. Her characters are well developed and feel very realistic and relate-able so readers come to care about them, and her sex scenes have just the right amount of heat to make them erotic, but not feel over the top. It has been a pleasure chatting with her here and getting a glimpse into the workings of contemporary erotic romance series. Join us next month, when the theme will be the western genre and my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be Cherokee Parks.


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“Sainte”: End of a series or stand alone novel?

Sainte

When I requested to review this latest book in Amy Cecil’s Knights of Silence MC series, she was concerned that readers who hadn’t read the previous books wouldn’t know what was happening, since Sainte is the completion of the series. When I read the second book in the series, Ice on Fire, for review back in 2017, I had no problem following what was happening in the still new series, so she agreed to let me give it a go now, with the last book.

She needn’t have worried. With Sainte, I was immediately pulled into the story. Enough was revealed through dialog and character thoughts and memories to clue me in to many of the events referred to from the previous books and follow along with the action. Cecil’s superbly crafted use of first person, present tense, (not a small feat), allows the reader to have insight into character motivations, as well as providing needed information that helps the reader to keep pace with the story.

Cecil’s characters have depth and back story enough to carry the story. This book centers around two characters and one romance, but references to what has come before in the series involving the other members of the MC to get them to this point are skillfully woven into the story. After reading Sainte, I want to go back and read the rest to get better acquainted with members of the club who were not the main focus of this story.

Even though I’m wasn’t familiar with events referenced from earlier in the series, a little patience usually reveals more detail, and I was easily able to follow along. Do I know everything that happened in this series from this one book? No. Am I intrigued enough to read the rest of the series to find out? Yes, but I really feel it does fine as a stand alone novel, as well.

I’m getting older and it’s been a long time since I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish a book, but Amy Cecil managed to get me to do just that. Sainte is an excellent romance story. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Happily Ever Afters. I give it five quills.

Five Quills

Note: There is some erotica in this story, as there seems to be with all of Cecil’s works, but she handles the love scenes with tact and only puts them where they serve a purpose to move the story forward. Cecil’s romances are all class.

You can purchase Sainte here: https://www.amazon.com/Sainte-Knights-Silence-Amy-Cecil-ebook/dp/B0836P299N/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Sainte&qid=1579729548&s=books&sr=1-1 


Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


February: Turning Up the Heat with Erotic Romance

Romance

Why is Saint Valentine’s Day in February? Where I live, February is a cold month, not associated with love and warmth. So, Writing to be Read is turning up the heat this month by taking a look at erotic romance. Now, I’m not talking about erotica, which in my opinion is just sex for the sake of sex with no real story line and love has nothing to do with it, nor do plots. These stories can be rank and raunchy and downright smutty, but they are not erotic romance. (For more about the differences between romance, erotic romance and erotica see this article on The Productive Indie Fiction Writer.) I enjoy sex scenes like the best of them, but I’m also a sucker for the happily ever after.

Erotic romance features both romance and sex, and ranges in temperature from steamy to hot to sizzling. The romance story line usually carries the story, but the sexual elements keep the pages turning. This month we’re going to meet some erotic romance authors and take a look at some of their works. My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be romance author Amy Cecil, whose contemporary romance stories get pretty steamy, and guests for the supporting interviews are erotic romance authors Nicky F. Grant and Jade C. Jamison. I’ll also be reviewing Sainte, the last book in Amy Cecil’s Knights of Silence MC series, and Heat book 1, a prequel short to Heat: The Complete Series, by Jade C. Jamison.

Just as authors each have their different heat levels in which they like to write, as readers we all have our own temperature preferences, too. Let me know how hot you like it, to read or to write, in the comments. Then, join me as we turn up the heat and start warming things up with a look at erotic romance in February on Writing to be Read!


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Seeking out Christian fiction in September

Christian Fiction

In his 2012 Relevant article, “Where Did Good Christian Fiction Go?“, Micah Levi Conkling claims that Christian fiction has been marred by the Left Behind series and Amish fiction, and is very difficult to find. So, in September, we’ve been seeking out Christian fiction to see if Conklin’s claims are true. Is there really no good Christian fiction out there anymore?

To start off, I want to define what Christian fiction really is. It’s not really a genre. Not really, because as you’ve seen if you have joined me in my search, Christian fiction comes in many genres. The two books I reviewed from the Thanksgiving Books & Blessings collection, Texas Tears and Mail-Order Misfire, are both western romances, and I also had the pleasure of interviewing the author of each, Caryl McAdoo and Davalynn Spencer respectively. My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest, Angela Hunt writes historical fiction, historical romance, heart-warming tales of love and friendship, and children’s books that can all be classified as Christian fiction.

Christian fiction is really a category that other genres fall under. The aforementioned Left Behind series might fall under the science fantasy genre, given it’s futuristic, alternative universe setting. As Christian novels can be so varied, let’s take a look at what they have on common like the portrayal of Christian lifestyles, and an underlying message of a loving God. A book in virtually any genre could be considered Christian fiction if it has these two components, even if the message is subtle and remains in the background of the story. According to the Christy Awards website, the award is “designed to nurture and encourage creativity and quality in the writing and publishing of fiction written from a Christian worldview and showcase the diversity of genres.”

In spite of Conklin’s claims, not all Christian stories boldly shove the message of God down the readers throat. (Many children, and adults as well, turn tail and run from a story that give a hard push to moralistic messages, as is discussed in this month’s “Growing Bookworms” post.) I think the message in good Christian fiction is delivered subtly, in small doses, giving the reader the option to take it or leave it while still being able to enjoy the story.)

Christian fiction really has a bad rep in some circles, where any story  with no sex, no violence, no cursing, and no vice, it is believed that the reading of which might be comparable to eating white rice with no seasonings. Christian fiction, from my view, is a tale which portrays Christian beliefs and values in its character’s lifestyles. I think the historical may even be flavored a little more heavily with this, because in days of past Christian lifestyles were more prominent. That could explain why historicals and westerns, like those we’ve looked at here lend themselves so readily to the Christian aspects. I’m guessing that it would more difficult, although not impossible, to work Christian aspects into a futuristic work of science fiction or fantasy, but I have seen them worked into thrillers and mysteries, and they are easily worked into contemporary romance.

Most Christian fiction stories that I’ve read are heart-warming and inspirational, and I’ve walked away with a warm feeling at the story’s end, as if there might actually be hope left for this world, or for love, or humanity, depending on the individual story. In short, Christian fiction works are stories which are written for Christian readers. But you don’t have to be searching for something with Christian undertones to enjoy one if you come across one. A good, well-written Christian story lets the characters carry the reader through without being preachy and moralistic. The power of God shines through in the character’s lives.