Monday, March 10, 2014

Rec'd romances: 'Tall, Dark and Alpha,' 'The Jade Temptress,' 'Open Door Marriage'

by Michelle Monkou)

Photo: TDA Authors

Tall, Dark and Alpha anthology

Ten stories under one cover. It's a mega-treat of deliciousness with Alpha men and their sexy women. Award-winning authors Randi Alexander, Koko Brown, Sam Cheever, Delaney Diamond, Eve Langlais, Afton Locke, Dawn Montgomery, Farrah Rochon, Paige Tyler and Eve Vaughn each roll out a story with their specific brand on this reader-face romance hook-up plot device.

For paranormal fans: From Afton Locke's blue marlin shape shifter who will do anything to be human again to Eve Langlais' vampire love to Sam Cheever's heroine of dark magic, the magic and romance go hand-in-hand.

Or there are the second chances at love with Delaney Diamond's sexy, former athlete and his former love, Eve Vaughn's reuniting of two divorcees, and Koko Brown's footballer and his sports agent. Nothing beats another opportunity to get things right so romance can blossom.

For those who like a little extra spice, Dawn Montgomery writes an erotic tale about Captain Na'varr and his executive officer, Brom, and their stowaway hacker, Raesa; and Paige Tyler's Cilla Garner has it bad for hot cops Hayes Prescott and Reed Lockwood. Va-va-va-voom!

For the sexy, sensual stories: Wrap up the romance reading delight with Farrah Rochon's Erica Cole, owner of Your Wildest Dreams event planning, and chocolatier Gavin Foster, and Randi Alexander's country music superstar/actor Chase Tanner and screenplay writer Reno Linden.

"The Jade Temptress" by Jeannie Lin.(Photo: Harlequin)

The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin

There's murder afoot in the Tang Dynasty. Jeannie Lin revisits Pingkang Li and its surroundings with the characters from The Lotus Palace to continue with intrigue and romance in The Jade Temptress. The rhythms of life during this period in history provide ample material for stories and colorful characters. At the hand of Lin and her creative imagination, The Jade Temptress invites reader to come in and fall in love with this place and its citizens.

Lin eloquently captures the thrust of her story: "In essence, Mingyu is an artist who specializes in invoking and manipulating emotion while Kaifeng is a man of logic who is searching for discrete answers. Their romance, for me, was at times as unpredictable as the mystery they had to solve."

A reading experience that is rich, rewarding and hypnotic.

Here's the blurb (courtesy of Harlequin):

Welcome to the infamous Pingkang Li--home of the celebrated Lotus Palace courtesans, and a place of beauty and treachery...

Charming and seductive, Mingyu is the most sought-after hostess in the pleasure quarter. She has all men wrapped around her finger--except Constable Wu Kaifeng, the one man she can't resist, the only man to have placed her in chains.

Wu Kaifeng's outwardly intimidating demeanor hides a reluctant, fierce attraction to beautiful Mingyu. But the passionate temptation she presents threatens to destroy them both when a powerful official is murdered and they find themselves on a deadly trail. Amid the chaos, a forbidden affair could change Mingyu's fate forever, for following her heart is bound to have consequences...

"The Awakening" by Shakir Rashaan.(Photo: Strebor Books)

The Awakening by Shakir Rashaan

Fasten your seat belts! The BDSM lifestyle plus a bit of mystery and drama make the erotic ride in Shakir Rashaan's The Awakening, book one of the Chronicles of the Nubian Underworld, a memorable one. Thank you for taking the time, through the various points of view, to share the lifestyle with sufficient detail to enlighten without bogging down the pace.

Rashaan writes with finesse to intertwine the large cast of characters with a layered plot that keeps you riveted from beginning to end. All senses are in play while reading his vivid prose. Here's a writer who definitely knows how to engage the reader and have them prepped for the next installment.

As the first book in the series, this great lift-off sets the tone for The Chronicles. Can't wait to continue the journey.

Here's the blurb (courtesy of Simon and Schuster):

Life seems well within the "Nubian Underworld" of the ATL, as Ramesses, his wife Neferterri, and their submissives are at the center of what can only be described as "paradise" by those who have seen the debauchery within.

Unfortunately, life is not always a bed of roses... sometimes the thorns must be felt.

All hell breaks loose when Ramesses and Neferterri begin losing their submissives and their mentor gets caught up in a sting operation that makes the local news and threatens to blow the lid off of the Atlanta Fetish community that thrives on the anonymity. Despite it all, everyone in the circle is there for one another, no matter the consequences.

"Open Door Marriage" by Naleighna Kai.(Photo: Brown Girls Publishing)

Open Door Marriage by Naleighna Kai

Open Door Marriage by Naleighna Kai takes an unusual proposal and makes it plausible with her creative touch. Kai deftly presents the point of view of each character in this complex equation. The characters' vulnerabilities unfold in an emotional, sometimes dark, sometimes hopeful, sometimes tragic (as in esteem) ways.

With lots of characters who create chaos, there is enough "meat on the bone" to engage a lively book club discussion.

Here's the blurb (courtesy of Brown Girls Publishing):

Reunited… A chance encounter lands NBA star Dallas Avery back in the arms of the woman of his dreams. A woman he hasn't seen in years. A woman he soon discovers just so happens to be his fiancĂ©e's aunt! But Dallas' fiancee, Tori, isn't ready to give up all that she's worked for, so she makes him a shocking offer – go through with the wedding and she'll still allow him to be with the one woman he now can't seem to do without. Dallas will get a family, something her much older aunt, Alicia can't give him. Tori will get the lifestyle she clamors. And Alicia will get the love she's longed for all her life. Everyone will get a little of what they want. . . and maybe a whole lot of what they don't. Be careful what you ask for… The details of the trio's love life play out in the tabloids and on talk shows, making Dallas the center of an NBA scandal. And eventually, the doors slam shut on this open marriage and Dallas is forced to make a choice to end the chaos. But moving on is easier than it looks and by the time all is said and done, secrets will be revealed, passions will be extinguished, and everyone's lives will be forever changed.


Michelle: How early was your ambition to be a writer?

Naleighna: Most authors grow up wanting to be a writer. That was not the case with me. I met this guying on the Internet, in the Spades room on the Microsoft gaming network. First we had a private chat, then he would send poetry, then he would send erotic poetry. Later he sent this two-paragraph short story of all the wonderfully wicked things he wanted to do to me. I sent back 10 pages of things he needed to brush up on and techniques he needed to learn. Those pages that I penned to him became chapters in my first novel. I self-published my first novel and continued writing. Then when it became a little challenging for independent authors to get into the major chains, I wanted a book deal with a major house.

I wrote Every Woman Needs a Wife in four days — four Fridays in a row in a little hole-in-the-wall on the Southside of Chicago, had it edited, gave away 50 free copies at Book Expo America, and received a book deal from an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Every Woman Needs a Wife went to press nine times within a six-month period and landed on the national best-sellers list. I learned a great deal and kind of stayed "industry silent" for seven years before printing 25 copies of a special edition of Open Door Marriage for The Cavalcade of Authors — an event that I host each year in Chicago. I was then picked up by Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley to be the first fiction novel to launch with their mega-publishing outfit called Brown Girls Publishing. Open Door Marriage cracked the top four in its genre on and continues to receive highly favorable reviews.

Michelle: What's the brainstorming process for Open Door Marriage?

Naleighna: What influenced me to explore the outcome of three unlikely people entering into an open relationship such as the one in this novel? Because I've had a front seat to one that — in my honest opinion — was the most painful intimate relationship that I had ever witnessed in my life. The only person who seemed to benefit was the man — who was not the primary breadwinner. Actually I never saw him slide in a crumb. The women brought home the bacon, the eggs, the grits, and even the plates, utensils and everything else that landed on the table.

It took nearly two decades for me to wise up and realize one basic thing: These folks are grown and you need to mind your business. The women chose to stay for whatever reason, regardless of his inability to maintain them financially; regardless of how unhappy they seemed or how unfair I thought it was. When I stopped seeing the legal wife as the "victim" in all of this, it drastically changed, not only how I perceived her, but also our friendship. Not that I didn't love her, but when I exercised my right to say "no" that I would no longer have anything to say about the relationship or find ways to support her as a means to make her happy for something that was making her miserable — I started putting my energy where it belonged — on me.

But what I also learned about myself is: No matter how much I love someone else, I will always love myself more. Hence, I no longer put Band-Aids on other people's self-inflicted relationship wounds. Am I saying that open marriages can't work? Absolutely not! What I'm saying is, that it should be something that is fair to everyone involved. If you like it, I love it. If you don't like, then pack your bags, pull up stakes and make another choice. A choice that's fair to you. Bottom line.

So the challenge with Open Door Marriage is that I wanted to flip the script.

Michelle: Who are role models that developed you whether in writing or as a person?

Naleighna: Earlier, I would have to say that late great Leslie "L.A." Banks and Octavia Butler. Not only were their life stories amazing, but their creative genius was awesome and inspiring. I was the publicist for L.A. Banks before her untimely demise and learning about her struggles, her strength and her passion were something that will affect me for the rest of my life. Octavia Butler's work was unconventionally good. Her writing was something I would love to emulate. Every word counted. Her style was classic and was something uniquely different and engaging. Now my mentors are Victoria Christopher Murray and ReShonda Tate Billingsley, who have millions of books sold between them. They understand drama, page-turning novels, and having the type of work that engages the reader on several different levels. They have elevated my writing to a quality that I've been trying to reach my entire writing career. I've had editors who have tightened up the grammar and content; but they have edged it to where motivation, pain and pleasure and other emotional internal conflicts drive my characters and give them life!

Michelle: What do you do for fun?

Naleighna: I love playing cards, Salsa dancing, Chicago Style Steppin', board games, cruising and fine dining. (Well, it doesn't have to be all that fine — just damn good.). I also find great enjoyment in literary events where I get to meet fellow book lovers and book clubs.

Michelle: Inspirational quote and message to your readers?

Naleighna: Loving yourself means knowing that who you are right now is "enough." Growing, loving, learning is all a part of it, but starting with accepting yourself now. You don't become "enough" when you lose weight. You don't become "enough" when you have a kajillion dollars in the bank. You don't become "enough" when you have the perfect mate. You don't become "enough" when you attain a certain "status" or "position." You become "enough" when you value yourself. You become "enough" when you know and recognize that your connection to the Creator is an absolute thing and that you are loved unconditionally. If nothing else, stand on this one truth — you are "enough" right now. — Naleighna Kai

Michelle Monkou celebrates her new Evernight urban fantasy digital release, Into the Pride. Her website is You can also connect with her on Facebook.