Monday, April 14, 2014

Love in Suspense: The Buzz About Jennifer Armentrout

(from usatoday.com
by Vilma Gonzales)


(Photo: Disney/Hyperion)


Romantic suspense junkies, have I got a fabulous fix for you! Don't Look Back, the latest novel from No. 1 New York Times and USA TODAY best-selling author Jennifer L. Armentrout (or JLA, as many dub her) is out Tuesday, and it's filled with the perfect balance of chilling suspense, tantalizing mystery and heartwarming romance. This is the kind of book where you sense an uncertain danger lurking in every dark corner, secrets deceptively threaded through the page to impart a sense of foreboding that keeps you on high alert as you work to unravel the mystery of the story. You find yourself trying to guess at the unrelenting questions that pound your thoughts … who, what, where, why and how?! I couldn't put it down. I had a million theories. And still, the heart-pounding climax surprised me so completely. It was awesome!

What it's about:

Don't Look Back begins with our protagonist, Samantha, walking. Stumbling. Bloodied and bruised. Vision and consciousness blurred. Nails bloodstained. Her thoughts, a dark void. She's been gone for four days, missing with her best friend, Cassie. At least that's what they tell her once she's found. There are no memories taking shape in the oblivion of her mind. Nothingness. Thankfully, she's alive, but Cassie is still missing. Surrounded by strangers — her family, her friends, her boyfriend — she finds that half of them don't even believe that she has amnesia, the other half expect her to snap out of it and get back to her normal self. But when there's nothing to pull from, all she can be is an empty shell, but one that's determined to figure out what happened the night she disappeared.

"I was stuck in this life I didn't remember, squeezed into the shell of this girl — Samantha Jo Franco — and the more I learned about her, the more I was starting to hate her."

As she tries to integrate back into her life and figure out what really happened, she learns that the person she was is actually pretty darn awful. Mean. Vicious. Superficial. Popular. Surrounded by the wealthy group of kids that ruled the school. She's got the IT boyfriend everyone desires, but she has no memory of him and no feelings for him either. The "new" Sam simply doesn't fit in her old life.

When flashes of bloodied scenes unexpectedly seize her and mysterious notes begin to appear, an all-consuming fear takes hold, blurring the boundaries of her lucidity. Sam begins to unravel and lose her already-slipping grasp on sanity. Was she going crazy? Was she imagining things? I felt so anxious right along with her, my heart pounding as each one of these scenes unfolded. With so many secrets hidden beneath the surface, anyone could be a culprit. And as the mystery takes another turn, she begins to question her own culpability.

"My memories were dangerous, but they were also the key to the truth."

The story revolves around untangling the mystery of what happened as well as Samantha coming into herself … understanding who she was, who she is now and who she has feelings for. Because suddenly it's not her boyfriend she thinks about, but rather, her brother's best friend, Carson Ortiz, who is also keeping secrets of his own.

Jennifer L. Armentrout proves she can dominate any genre. Whether it be New Adult romance, paranormal or now Young Adult romantic suspense, she is able to create gripping stories with undeniable chemistry between two protagonists, a combination that keeps us turning the pages and coming back for more.

I had the chance to ask Jennifer a few questions on this latest project …

Vilma: I loved reading this book! There are so many elements weaved into the story to make it quite the page-turner. What three words would best describe the novel?

Jennifer: Don't trust anyone.

Vilma: You write pretty diversely, mainly switching between paranormal and romance for varying age groups, but now with a suspense novel ready to release, how are you feeling? Was the experience of writing this book any different in any way?

Jennifer: It's pretty crazy to finally know this book is going to be in readers' hands. I wrote Don't Look Back in November 2011, and when I wrote the novel, it wasn't contracted, so there was a freedom in that — no expectations or anything like that. It was also my first contemporary novel I'd written and sold, which was to Disney/Hyperion in January of 2012. So it's super exciting to finally see the book out there, also a little anxiety-inducing. Of course, it has heavy romance, but it is so different from anything else I've written, much like Wait for You when that released.

Vilma: You've clearly embedded suspense in many of your books, particularly in series like Lux and Covenant, but this novel definitely sways more toward the more classic mystery/suspense genre. What inspired you to write this?

Jennifer: All the old school Young Adult novels inspired me. I grew up reading R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Richie Cusick, and so on. I loved how you never really knew who the "bad guys" were in their works and I wanted to capture that feeling with Don't Look Back.

Vilma: I seriously had about a million and one theories to what happens in the story and I still didn't see the end coming! Do you expect readers to figure it out and do you think that really matters in the experience of reading this book?

Jennifer: Very few people have actually told me they were able to guess who it was. No one at Disney was able to when it was on submission, but the funny thing was, I thought it was pretty obvious throughout the book. I don't think it affects the experience even if you can guess, because you get so entwined with what Sam is experiencing and feeling, you want her to figure it out.

Vilma: Do you enjoy reading suspense novels and do you have any favorites you can share with our readers?

Jennifer: Yes. I'm a bit more of a suspense reader on the adult side, but my favorites were the ones I grew up reading.

Vilma: You are a prolific author with many releases a year. What are you working on now and what's coming next?

Jennifer: Right now I'm actually working on a Young Adult book that's not contracted and I'm super excited to be working on something that hasn't sold. Like I said, there's a freedom in that you kind of miss. But I do have quite a bit coming out this year. On the New Adult and adult side, I have Tempting the Bodyguard coming May 12 and Stay With Me coming out Sept. 2. On the YA side, Opposition (the final Lux book) comes out Aug. 5, and Stone Cold Touch (the second book in the Dark Elements Series) comes out Oct. 28.

Read an excerpt from Don't Look Back on Vilma's Book Blog.

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A new sinfully sexy and suspenseful new series that unfolds in four volumes.

Rebecca hasn't seen or heard from her mob boss father in four years, but she's about to receive a message from him that will throw her life into chaos. Rebecca thought she left the crime family behind when she went into law enforcement. She never expected to be abducted by a sexy stranger. But this stranger makes an offer too tempting to refuse and soon Rebecca is pulled into one of the most ruthless vendettas of the century.

Knox Savage is the sexy billionaire CEO of Knox Security and a notorious playboy. What most don't know about Knox is that a large portion of his wealth is made helping high-profile criminals escape justice. He makes no judgments about guilt or innocence. And he doesn't do it for sentimental reasons. But he's about to take on a case that is going to get very personal.

Volumes 1 and 2 are available now.

Midnight Pursuits by Elle Kennedy

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Juliet Mason stands out as the master thief in a covert group of assassins and spies. Her latest mission is personal—and it's gone horribly wrong. Juliet may prefer to work alone, but when the rookie comes to her aid in snowy Eastern Europe, she can't deny they make a good team. But even up against a powerful enemy, their most challenging task yet may be fighting the passion between them.

Vilma Gonzalez is a blogger, reader, marketer, wife and mom. She has an insatiable appetite for happily ever afters and a deep love of the written word. She is also determined to keep the promise she made to her 16-year-old self to finish writing a book before she dies. You can find more about her and read full reviews at Vilma's Book Blog. Please e-mail Vilma at loveinsuspense@gmail.com about content related to this column. Due to the volume of mail, e-mails may not be answered personally, but all will be read.