As seen in the August issue of Uncaged Book Reviews
Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your Tea and Empathy series?
Welcome to the 26th century, where a small minority of humans are born with the ability to sense emotions, and they bond for life. There’s nothing more intimate than being an empath’s anchor, nor any larger responsibility. All the men in the series find love when they least expect it, and must wrestle with the staggering implications of making a lifelong commitment to having no privacy about their own feelings.
When we are in a romantic relationship with someone, we are vulnerable to them while simultaneously having power over their weaknesses. The series delves into this age-old dynamic through the lens of genetically engineered empathy.
Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?
I’ve been on a contemporary kick lately. Last month I released a novel, Pursuing Happiness, exploring the impacts of religious abuse and how those emotional scars can threaten an otherwise wonderful relationship. Now I’m writing a character with Generalized Anxiety Disorder who doesn’t think he’s going to find a partner willing to accept his struggles.
The sci-fi muse will return at some point, I’m sure. She always does, but in the meantime, I’m working with aspects of life which plenty of people face today.
Uncaged: What inspired you to write in the romance/erotica genre?
Romance is character-driven, and I am drawn to characters. I’m endlessly fascinated by people. There are billions of us on this planet, all busily going about our own unique lives with personal pain and triumphs. When all is said and done, we are inevitably mysterious to each other. For two people to find each other, fall in love, and build a lasting relationship is, to me, the ultimate mystery, and that’s what makes it so much fun to write.
Uncaged: Are you nervous, scared or excited (or all three) when you release a new book?
Two out of three: excited and nervous. It’s not the same with every book, though. The more of my heart and soul I’ve poured into a book, the more nervous I am about its release.
Of course, every book is important to me, and I hope each one is well-received. Some are more personal if I’ve drawn from my own experiences to create the characters, and those are the releases which cause more nerves. If readers don’t like a character I made up, that’s not fun, but it’s nowhere near as personally wounding as disliking a character with whom I identify.
Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them?
I do read them, though reviews are tricky for authors. A great one sends our spirits soaring, while a really bad one ruins an afternoon. Realistically, not everyone is going to love my book, and reviews are very subjective, so I tend to look more at the overall patterns. What do multiple people like about the book? I want to keep doing it. Is there something that repeatedly comes up as constructive criticism? There’s an area where I can improve in the future.
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
When His to Hold came out, one of my reviewers wanted me to “keep writing about this wonderful world she brought to life.” Mr. Pinkham felt the need to come out of his guitar room and learn what I was cheering about. The downstairs neighbor might also have wondered.
Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite?
I have stories in my head whether I write them or not, so I love bringing them to life and sending them out into the world for others to enjoy. It delights me when others find entertainment and/or food for thought in my words.
As far as less fun aspects go, editing can be a very humbling process. It’s important, because an author is very often too close to the story to see its flaws. A good editor is going to challenge me and the book will be better for it, but that requires stepping back from the story and letting someone else have say in a project which was, until that point, completely mine. It’s not always the easiest task, and egos have been known to be bruised in this way.
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
I love to read in multiple genres, so if I’m not working on writing a book, there’s a good chance I’m reading one. Besides that, I have fun with recreational photography.
There are many places which hold a special meaning for me, as I am a sentimental soul. Stonehenge stands out because I have never felt as connected to innumerable generations of human history as I did visiting that ancient site.
Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you?
My first adventures in world building started around age eight, when I turned my entire backyard into a village heavily based on Little House on the Prairie and populated with some additional characters I invented. Naturally, they all adored me.
Yes, I am an only child. 🙂
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
I hope you enjoy my books, and thanks for reading! I know you have tons of options, so it really makes my day when people choose me. =D
She’s usually writing more than one new book at a time, and frequently rushing out at the last minute because she got lost in her own fictional world.
His to Hold
Love can be found when you least expect it … if you take a leap of faith.
Cole Gallagher never intended to date an empath. Empaths bond for life, and they like to keep their bonded anchor happy, which is more responsibility and power over another person than anyone ought to have. Despite his lack of interest in being an anchor, Cole gets talked into meeting a coworker’s empath cousin, and he genuinely likes the man.
Aiden is everything Cole wants in a partner: charismatic, witty, cute, and a lot of fun. The catch is that he only has a few months to find an anchor, so Cole faces pressure to quickly make a lifelong commitment. When Aiden is kidnapped, Cole has to decide whether he will let his fears win and walk away, or take a chance on love.
“Those must be the Hagemann Gorges. I hear they have some spectacular diving holes. No sharks, either.”
“No. Just the odd electric eel.”
Cole winced. Sharks were almost always harmless and didn’t bother him. Electric eels, on the other hand, inspired a less-than-rational fear. In retrospect, reading how an electric eel could stop a man’s heart one night when he was seven hadn’t been his greatest idea.
“The truth comes out,” said Aiden, his tone gently teasing. “You’re only Mr. Fearless about sharks.”
Cole attempted to salvage his pride. “More like I’m only not Mr. Fearless about electric eels.”
This failed to convince Aiden. “Sure. Nothing else scares you.”
Fortunately, Cole appreciated a man who stood up for himself and was a touch on the sassy side. “What else is there in life to be afraid of, besides electric eels?”
“Deep water sharks, for one. Falling from great heights. Death. Dismemberment.”
“Well isn’t this cheerful.”
Aiden shrugged with a glint of mirth in his eyes. Damn, he was cute. “You asked.”
“Remind me not to do that again.”
They were headed toward Lemke Wildlife Reserve, according to the onscreen map. It was beautiful. A herd of bison grazed next to where the river meandered around a bend, across from where giant turtles sunned themselves and not far from a stately grove of prismatic vielefarbe trees.
Nevertheless, Cole was more interested in Aiden than the scenery. He gathered that Aiden felt the same way, if the frequent glances and smiles were anything to go by. The chemistry between them was almost palpable, so it wasn’t much of a risk to take Aiden’s hand when they stood for a better view.
“You do realize physical contact makes you an open book, empathically speaking.”
Actually, Cole hadn’t. He kept his grip anyway because he liked Aiden a lot and wanted to see if they were as good together as he thought they might be. Sure, it was still a little disarming to know how little privacy he had around Aiden, and he wasn’t ready to make any commitments, but there wasn’t anything malicious about Aiden’s empathy. It was simply part of him.
He gave the younger man’s hand a squeeze. “Me being an open book hasn’t scared you off, huh?”
“No.” Aiden gave him another smile and squeezed right back. “I’m sorry to be the one to inform you that you really aren’t a frightening guy, Cole.”
“You’re crushing my self-image.”
They chuckled together and went back to admiring the scenery, hands still entwined.
Alas, all good things came to an end, including the date. Cole started to slow his pace when they walked from the transit station to Aiden’s building, until he realized it was cruel to prolong the date at the expense of Aiden staying out longer and getting hit with emotions from dozens of people.
“I don’t know why you feel guilty, but I hope it’s not on my account,” said Aiden.
Cole just looked at him, unsure how to respond.
“I’m not trying to pry. Negative emotions aren’t especially pleasant for me, so if I can make you less guilty, we’ll both feel better.”
“Oh,” said Cole, who promptly berated himself for not having a better answer. He tried again, deciding that brutal honesty was likely the best approach. “I was slowing down to make this last longer, until I realized that’s not being fair to you.”
Aiden smiled. “That’s sweet, Cole. No need for guilt. I’m glad we’ve both enjoyed ourselves. I’m busy for the rest of this weekend, sadly. I have a paper to write. If the weather cooperates, would you like to go snorkeling next weekend?”
“Absolutely.” It was pretty much a dream date as far as Cole was concerned. He loved being in the water, and he definitely wanted to see Aiden again, empathy and all.
“I was nervous about renting a boat just for the two of us, so my uncle offered to let me take a security drone. He works for O’Leary Drones, and someone owed him a small favor.”
“Nervous about your safety?”
“Yes,” said Aiden. “Unbonded empaths have to worry about these things. There are empathy detectors that people can use to hone in on us.”
“Believe me, I know. It’s illegal, of course, but that doesn’t always mean much.”
“A security drone sounds good, then.” As they approached Aiden’s building Cole asked, “Bonded empaths are safer?”
“Good.” He didn’t like the idea of Aiden in danger. “I’m looking forward to next weekend.”
“That makes two of us. I’ll call when I’ve made the reservation if that’s fine with you.”
Aiden pressed his palm for the elevator to his floor. “In the meantime, I’ve got to finish this paper. My last paper as an undergrad.”
“You’re graduating soon?”
“In two weeks, yes.”
Cole wondered if he should plan on attending. Was it too soon? Nobody really enjoyed graduations, after all, and he’d only known Aiden for a week. The fact that he even wondered spoke volumes about how invested in Aiden he already was.
Aiden startled him out of this contemplation with a brief kiss on the lips. Barely a peck, really, and yet it was still enough to send sparks through his body.
“Thanks for today.”
“My pleasure. Talk to you soon.”
However reluctant he was for the date to end, it was time to head home when Aiden’s front door shut behind him. Cole made his way to the elevator, not entirely surprised when Patrick slipped in at the last second.
“You can’t imagine what it’s like to know your child’s whole future depends on someone else,” he said. “We would help Aiden leave a bad anchor, of course, but his ability to function in society would be limited.”
Cole decided to say what he suspected Patrick was thinking. “Unless this bad anchor had an unfortunate, fatal accident.”
The older man met his gaze without flinching. “Yes.”
It wasn’t a threat, really. More an unspoken statement of fact. Cole respected this. “Since he can tell if someone would be an exploitative anchor now, we must be talking about a scenario where power corrupts.”
“Any scenario,” said Patrick.
“You’re right, I can’t imagine being in your position right now. All I can tell you is that I’m interested in Aiden despite his empathy, not because of it.”
“It’s a big responsibility to be someone’s anchor, if you’re going to do it well. It’s daunting, to be honest.”
The answer seemed to please Patrick. “Yes, it is. It’s also a privilege. We want to see Aiden with someone who deserves his devotion.”
“I’m asking you, please, to not waste his time if you can’t honestly see yourself willing to make the commitment. Perhaps that’s unfair, but this is the hand he’s been dealt with his empathy developing late and quickly.”
“I’m still thinking about it,” said Cole. “I never planned on this, remember? What I can tell you is that I’m seriously considering it.” To his own great astonishment, no less.
Patrick pursed his lips. “That will do. For now.”
Cole had no idea how to respond to that statement. Fortunately, he didn’t need to, because Patrick changed the subject. “I suppose you have a train to catch. Will I be seeing you soon?”
Patrick nodded as the elevator doors opened. “Good. Have a pleasant evening, Cole.”
On the walk to the transit station Cole replayed the conversation in his head and concluded that Patrick liked him well enough, since he considered meeting again a good thing. He was just protective and probably felt pretty helpless other than to make sure his son’s prospective anchors weren’t complete bastards. Fair enough. Cole couldn’t blame him, even if it wasn’t much fun to be on the receiving end.
Anyway, if he cared what Patrick thought of him, it just went to show that he really was seriously considering being Aiden’s anchor, and somehow that thought didn’t seem as crazy as it once had.
A sweet quick read – with a feel good story. In a world where this message should be the norm, all wrapped up in a SciFi.
Cole is a good man, with the genuine concern for people and how the emphatic community is treated. Talked into meeting an empath, Aiden who needs an anchor very soon, Cole decides it wouldn’t hurt anything to meet him and talk to him. When one meeting turns into a series of dates, Cole can’t deny that he’s falling in love with Aiden. But when Aiden is kidnapped, is Cole too late to save him?
This book is short, so I won’t get into more, but it’s a sweet story of two people finding love where they least expect it and the message in this story just has me hoping that I will live long enough to see it come true. Reviewed by Cyrene