Thrice to Thine

  • Y’all, the lovely Meredith Stoddard is back with the third book in her Once & Future series. I’ll try to keep this spoiler free, but I highly recommend you read all the books in her spellbinding collection. Interested? Take a peek at her Amazon page HERE to snag the whole series. So, without any more introduction, here’s my review of Thrice to Thine.
    • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
      Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romantic, Mystery
      Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

    Sarah has been looking for answers to her family’s secrets for years. Yet the more she searches, the more tangled they become. She doesn’t have much to work with, only her grandmother’s stories and some folklore. Luckily, she still has Dermot to help her, although he never thought he’d see her again, being with him is still a major distraction to her work, and his coworker Kirstie is less than hospitable to “the American.”

    More than anything, Sarah wants to find out what happened to her mother in the mysterious village in Scotland. Between a diary and some hazy dreams, she needs something more tangible, and her supernatural gift isn’t much help. She wants to tell Dermot about her abilities, but fears what would happen it came into the hands of James Stuart, who is growing a little too close for comfort. She can almost grasp the answers, but someone else may find them first.

    Ugh, book three and I still have so many questions! Poor Sarah may never find what she’s looking for, but I have hope that Stoddard will put me out of my misery in book four! At least I hope she does, because just like Sarah, I can almost taste the answers.

    The writing, as always, is simple, yet vivid. You really get a proper feeling for Scotland, between the stone buildings, rolling hills, and perfect Gaelic, it’s a picturesque view of an imperfect situation that has been decades in the making. I also enjoyed learning more about Sarah and Dermot, really diving into their backgrounds to get to the root of what draws them together. Overall, I suggest any fan of mysteries and fantasies should pick up this amazing series.

    Zombie, Undead, Walker…

    My horror favorite goes by many names and I get my fix however I can. When not reading and writing romance, I devour all things zombie (pun intended). So here are some of my favorite undead things for you to read and watch to really get you in the Halloween spirit.

    World War Z

    To be clear, I am not talking about the Brad Pitt movie that only had 2% of the book in it. To me, that doesn’t exist and I will deny that they are in any way related. I’m talking about the book by Max Brooks. Giving multiple testimonies from before, during, and after an outbreak, it’s sure to leave you a little uneasy.

    I also suggest the audiobook version, which features voices from such stars as Martin Scorsese, Simon Pegg, and Mark Hamill. My top three stories are the Chinese Submarine Admiral, the British castle expert, and the hired gun to the rich and famous on the private island.

    • Get the book HERE
    • Download the Audiobook HERE

    28 Days Later

    This has been an old favorite for years. Really, it’s a fantastic movie that I must have seen dozens of times, but still can’t get sick of. They’re not your stumbling zombies, but Olympic-style infected that will jump you like a lion does a sick gazelle.

    28 Weeks Later isn’t bad either, but nothing beats the original. Movie one really set the bar for the “rage” style zombies who hunt, sprint, and set traps for their prey.

    The Fall Series by Stephen CrossSet in England, this series follows groups of people trying to survive an outbreak that turns people into mindless zombies. I wish more people knew about the series, because the characters are very relatable, not all ex-Navy Seals with and A+in survival. They’re normal people who have never been camping and will probably die, like me.

    It’s easy to find a character in the varied cast that really resonates with you. As the series goes on, it’s easy to root for some while hope the others get what they deserve.

    • Pick up the series HERE

    What We BecomeThis Danish horror movie encapsulates real people in a situation where families are torn apart, figuratively and literally. It’s not gory, not in the way other movies are, but follows a neighborhood through a quarantine where some want to stay put and listen to the authorities, and others who want to run before whatever is scratching at the boarded up windows gets in.

    Watching the decline of civilization is an interesting thing, especially when it’s not a sudden break. There’s no wave of zombies decimating everything, it’s a slow burn of government restrictions and MREs.

    At the time of this post, this movie is on Netflix US.

    We’re AliveI’m new at the podcast thing, but I popped my cherry with We’re Alive, a well done production that reminded me of the radio shows our great-grandparents listened to. The cast is superb and they put in just enough back story to really get you to connect to the characters and worry over who will get bit.

    But as in real life, the other survivors may end up being the real threat. Well, between disease, evolving zombies, lack of clean drinking water, and a mysterious ground zero.

    Listen to it now for free on the Podcasts app.

    Train to BusanThis subtitled movie is a new one, an undead romp that it’s far more emotional than some horror movies are. It follows a divorced business man who has a strained relationship with his only daughter. So when she begs him to take her to her mother’s house, his guilt makes him agree. But when the train slows and the hysterical phone calls begin, the passengers know that something has gone terribly wrong.

    Fast paced and moving, this movie is one that belongs on your watch list. It left me wanting more and I hope they continue with another movie so we see what happens at the end of the line.

    At the time of this post, this movie is on Netflix US.

    The Deadlocked Series

    This series by A.R. Wise is one to get lost in this fall. It begins with an ordinary family man trying to get home and ends with his daughters wrapping up the books. Told in multiple points of views, you get plenty of different versions of the same story of survival.

    Upsetting and gory, this series ends nicely, wrapped up in a little bow. Nothing is left hanging and the story is satisfying in the way finished series ought to be.

    At the time of this posting, the first book in this series it’s free on Amazon.

    • Download this series HERE

    That’s it! The lucky seven zombie themed things that put me in the Halloween spirit. Is there something else you think belongs on this list? Let me know!

    After the Fall

    I love all things horror. The scarier something is, the more I’ll probably adore it, and horror books are no exception. So when Stephen Cross came to me with book two of The Fall Series, I jumped at it. It’s been forever since I’ve had a good zombie novel in my life and even longer since I reviewed book one, Surviving the Fall. So let’s chat about After the Fall

    Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

    Genre: Horror

    It’s been three months since the world went tits up, and eight groups of survivors are still alive…for now.

    We begin with Jack, the widowed father who has been at a holiday park, fighting to keep his daughter Annie alive since England fell into the hands of the dead. Pub owner Mac and his wife Angie are still holed up in their building, scraping by with raids into the village, where the zombies are growing restless. Adam, Harriet, and Arthur are still on the run, always working to stay out of danger. Five more pockets of people are still clinging to the small pieces of safety that they’ve managed to savage.

    Not always intersecting, each story highlights a different aspect of survival. There are intact families and single parents. Alongside soldiers, civilians try to adopt military standards to keep order. Some find safety within gates and walls, while others try to rest in tents and fields while constantly moving. While some people steal to eat, others just try not to get eaten. All of them, however, have one thing in common–the will to survive.

    Because all the characters are varied and diverse, almost all readers will find someone to connect to. For me, that’s Jack. While I’m not a widowed father, a man, or British, I can relate to his protectiveness toward his daughter and the lengths he goes to keep her from harm. Maybe you’re strong-willed like Mac. Maybe your first move would be to find a secluded island or hole up at home with canned food. Maybe you’d kill for those cans, or maybe you wouldn’t live long enough to consider it.

    Again, I was impressed with Cross’s work and the way he humanized the zombie apocalypse. I liked how, while there were a few military men around, most people didn’t know anything about surviving without grocery stores and electricity. I’m tired of everyone in apocalypse books knowing how to set snares and modify cars like a Mad Max ripoff. It’s just not realistic and I like realism with my zombies, as silly as that may sound.

    I want the human struggle to find clean water, the hopelessness or having another safe place overrun, the fumbling of trying to work a gun when you’ve never shot one. To me, that’s what people would truly be like. Keep your super spy ninjas with their gated, solar house and doctorate in emergency medicine out of this. I want you to show me how the average Joe would stay alive, something Cross delivered.

    If you love horror, zombies, stories that feel real, or just want to get pumped for Halloween, pick up After the Fall on Amazon now.

    The Forgotten

    Remember that audiobook I raved about a few weeks back? The one by Irina Shapiro that was so good, I was low key jealous I hadn’t thought of a story like that first? The one that was so amazing, I keep Facebook messaging her, begging her to write a screen play so I can watch a feature film? If not, take a peek back at The Lovers. But today I’m raving about The Forgotten, the second book in the Echoes from the Past series, narrated by Wendy Wolfson. As always, unless you’ve read/listened to book one, this review may contain spoilers.

    Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

    Genre: Historical Romance/Mystery

    Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️

    In 2014, Dr. Quinn Allenby’s life is falling into place in some aspects and falling apart in others. While her engagement to Gabe is like living in a dream and her newly forged relationship with her birth mother is off to a timid, yet warm start, the hunt for her biological father is still on and each candidate leaves something to be desired. But it’s not only her uncertain parentage that leaves her feeling uneasy. An accident leaves Gabe with a series of obstacles and trials that forces her to put her needs on the back burner to support him and take on a new role she wasn’t prepared for.

    Despite the whirlwind of her personal life, she needs to keep working on the Echoes from the Past television series. It brings her to a pair of skeletons, a woman and a young boy who had been buried face down in unholy ground. Whatever their crimes had been, it had been bad enough to cast shame over them for all eternity. Quinn has to use her gifts to find out who they were in life and how they ended up in the makeshift graves.

    In 1346, Petra has just buried her husband, who was a good provider, but an abusive man who had no kindness in his heart. She’s left to care for her son and two young daughters alone and she takes a position as a companion to a sharp, old woman she once served in her youth. Petra’s mother pushes her to remarry, but Petra had only loved one man in her youth, and he had left her pregnant and alone, leaving her to marry in haste to hide her growing belly. An eligible man now wants to marry her, but the reappearance of her first love clouds her mind and before long she’ll need to choose between a man she doesn’t love who can offer her the world, or the man she’s always loved that she can never be with, the father of her only son.

    Both Quinn and Petra are strong women who want to follow their hearts and find they true paths, but when their roads intersect in two different times, Quinn finds that Petra’s tale may be too much to bear.

    Shapiro has done it again. I listened to this book every spare minute and couldn’t get enough. When I was in Quinn’s car, driving through Scotland, I worried about Petra. And when I was following Petra to market in her seaside village, I wondered what Quinn was up to. It’s easy to get lost in the characters since you’re inserted so firmly into their minds. It also makes their tragedies more painful, but that’s what makes a story stick with you.

    At times, I wanted to shake Petra for her choices. As a historian, I understood firmly what her life would be like without a good husband and I wanted to push her into her wealthy suitor’s arms so she could finally have some peace. I wanted her son to get a good apprenticeship and her daughters have high dowries so they might pick their husbands. But she was in love, and although I didn’t want her to suffer for it, I knew she had to live her life her own way.

    This book is perfect for mystery lovers, history fans, people that want some thrills with their romance, peppered with dramatics. I’m waiting with baited breath for book three in audiobook, but since the book itself is already on Amazon, I might just jump the gun.

    For the Audiobook, click HERE

    For the ebook/paperback, Click HERE

    Covet

    Who here remembers Vice, a steamy little number by Rosanna Leo? Well, get ready to swoon because book two in the Vegas Sin Series, Covet, is here!

    Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Genre: Contemporary Romance

    Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

    Dana’s fiancé crushed her in the worst way possible; over a stale muffin in a hospital cafeteria after she’s given a painful diagnosis. So she sashays away like Diana Ross and goes to drown her sorrows in a local bar. As the saying goes, the best way to get over a man is to get under another and her new friend at the bar, Alex, fits the bill.

    Las Vegas developer Alex has a bit of a reputation and a bit of a following, so he gives a fake last name when he meets Dana, and they share an hour together that rocks his world. But when he goes back to find her, his Cinderella is gone and she doesn’t even leave a slipper behind. Months later, he’s still wondering what became of the girl with the midnight eyes that haunt his daydreams.

    When their paths do cross, it might take more than a few glasses of white and a few minutes of privacy to pick up where they left off. They’re both carrying their own heavy baggage, but if they can learn to let go, they might just be okay.

    As you know, I’ve already rated this book a 6/6 on the Slipper Scale. It was hot, hot, hot, sweet, dramatic, and hot. But it didn’t just make me blush, it made me think and feel, something that not every book can do.

    I felt for poor Dana, left by a man mere minutes after being told her chances of having a child were down to almost nothing. And I felt for poor Alex, hounded by the press after a tragedy that basically forced him to move across the country. They had complex backstories that didn’t weigh down the story, but humanized the characters.

    But their chemistry was electric. Their banter and the little ways they interacted made their relationship believable and fun. Their passionate climb out of the darkness has that perfect spin that makes you remember what you love about romance novels.

    Her Invisible Soldier

    For once I’m late in the Grace Risata game, but I’m glad to be back in the reading race with Her Invisible Solider: A Military Romance With a Twist. It’s a steamy novel with a good message and even better characters.

    Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

    Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Genre: Interracial Military Romance

    Working in the billing and insurance office at a dental practice pays the bills, but Alyce’s job calls for more than paperwork. All employees are expected to volunteer every month to give back to the community. Sounds great, but Alyce doesn’t seem to fit in well with the places she’s tried to help out at, mostly because of her big mouth. Her last resort is with a group that helps veterans get back on their feet and she hopes her tough love approach will be just what the doctor ordered.

    Dixon has been scarred, literally and figuratively, by his time in the military. He’s jaded, angry, and struggles with PTSD. He’s scared off every other volunteer, making him the biggest challenge the group has ever seen, but he meets his match with Alyce, who doesn’t take any nonsense off anyone and isn’t scared of a man with a few sharp edges.

    As Dixon tries to stonewall, insult, and ignore Alyce into quitting, she only digs in her heels and tells him where to put it. When two strong willed, sharp tongued people are forced together, something’s bound to happen…but your money should be on Alyce coming out on top.

    Firstly, I adored Alyce. She’s funny, sassy, and so human, she might be a real person. The stuff that comes out of her mouth is so natural and relatable, you can instantly get into her head, which is a wild place to be.

    The relationship between Dixon and Alyce was a slow build, rising from some anger-tinted ashes to turn into something hot and passionate. The rawness with how they communicated and interacted with each other had a good insight to some of the ways PTSD affects relationships. In fact, I thought how Risata approached the topic of PTSD was tasteful and informative. She didn’t “fetishize” the thought of a woman fixing a man how some authors do, which says a lot about how she tackles difficult topics in her work.

    Overall, I found this book funny, heartwarming, and hotter than hell. If you’re looking for a read that checks all the boxes, look no further than Her Invisible Soldier.

    The Lovers

    Every so often you come upon a book you know will be an all time favorite. As you go through it, you want to keep reading, yet don’t want it to end. And as an author, you’re both enamored with the story and almost jealous you didn’t think of it first! I found that with the audiobook The Lovers: Echos From the Past by Irina Shapiro, read by Wendy Wolfson.

    Heat Level: ❤️❤️

    Genre: Historical/Contemporary Romantic Drama

    Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

    In 1665 Elise de Laseppes has been biding her time, waiting to announce her secret betrothal to a common lad to her father. But one morning, her father calls for her, telling her to prepare for her wedding to Lord Asher. Lord Asher is rich, widowed, twice her age, and able to save the de Laseppes from ruin. While she wants nothing more than to run away with the boy who promises her the world, she can’t. Her two little sisters depend on her to keep the family afloat, even if they don’t fully understand it. So she leaves her childhood home to become the literal lady of the manor. But her well-bred husband hides more than one secret and Elise will be tasked with not only saving her family, but herself as her husband strives to get an heir.

    In 2013 London, Dr. Quinn Allenby is straight off a nasty breakup and home from a successful archeological trip to Jerusalem when she receives a new task. A pair of skeletons was found in a chest, a makeshift coffin with evidence to show that neither person was dead when they were left alone in the dark. She’s approached by a producer who wants her to head a historical drama show, featuring the mysterious skeleton, and implores her to find the true story by any means necessary. Using her special skills, Quinn sets off to give them back their identities. But as she works to discover the skeletons’ pasts, her own comes into clearer focus.

    Two women, centuries apart, brought together by chance and a blue brooch that holds the secret behind the hidden chest.

    One of the hardest parts about writing reviews is that sometimes you need to leave out some of the best parts, as to not spoil anything. All I can say is that Quinn has certain abilities that ties her to Elise in a way she can’t fully explain. As more of Elise’s life is revealed, the deeper Quinn’s character development goes. She lives her life alongside Elise’s past in a seamless way that Shapiro should be congratulated for. It’s difficult to time hop without confusing readers or muddling the stories, but everything is crystal clear in this book by the end.

    As a historian, I love to take note of the bits and pieces in all historicals I read. Shapiro’s book was a a fine example of a well researched piece. The food, clothing, ailments, and accessories such as birthing chairs and plague doctors were slipped in naturally, setting up the time period without it being forced. Still, Elise and her loved ones had personalities that transcended time.

    The narration of The Lovers was wonderful. Wolfson’s voice was clear and easy to get lost in. The pace was perfect and the slight changes in the characters through their own voices wasn’t overdone or cartoonish as some are. Usually I limit my audiobook listening to car rides and dog walks, but I found myself listening to this one almost nonstop until the end.

    Overall, if you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. I could see it as a movie with the same thrilling, dramatic feel as The Da Vinci Code or Tulip Fever. In ebook, paperback, or audiobook, this is the perfect read for lovers of thrillers, romance, and mysteries.

    • For the ebook click HERE
    • For the audiobook click HERE
    • For the paperback click HERE

    The Silent Woman

    I’ve been on a historical kick lately, finding myself looking for the corseted gowns, gentleman callers, and times of days gone by. Well, instead of hunkering down with the latest in heaving bosoms and kilted men, I picked up The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas.

    Genre: Historical Fiction

    Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

    When we meet Cat Carlisle in 1937, she’s in her fine Kensington home, wondering when love had snuck out of her marriage to Benton. It may have been after the miscarriages, or after he took a mistress, but either way, it was gone. She had tried to fit into Benton’s high society world, but his sister has always despised her and the rules of their life was stifling. But it was nothing like what was happing in Germany, where Benton’s distant cousin Michael had just escaped from, having to leave his imprisoned wife behind.

    As Cat tries to find some light in her loveless, monotonous, life, she has taken a small job with a man named Reginald. She uses her Carlisle connections to deliver letters for him across the city. She doesn’t care what she carries, as she needs to money and something to do. But when someone tries to steal one of her mysterious envelopes, Cat begins to suspect there’s something more to the notes, and soon she’s asked to step deeper into the unknown. Will she weather the storm unscathed or will the far-off whispers of war come closer than she ever dared think?

    My summary does not do this book justice, but it’s so hard to create one when every small detail is like a breadcrumb leading to something big. Thomas paints a picture of pre-war life, down to the last vestiges of high society expectations and the dark beer of the Germans. Immersing yourself in a historical is truly part of the charm of reading and Thomas embraces it.

    I liked poor Cat, pitying her loveless, childless marriage and her inability to escape from the bonds of the Carlisle household. She’s kind to the servants and long for both her own identity and a bit of human compassion that isn’t just in the form of people feeling sorry for her. As you read, you really want to find a bit of happiness. But it’s hard to want her to completely retire to the quiet life when it becomes very clear that Cat Carlisle is about to step into a world far more exciting and dangerous than anything she has ever known.

    I highly recommend this book to both lovers of historical fiction and those that have an interest in pre-war Europe as a whole. And when the book is only $0.99, how can you not pick up a copy? Get yours HERE and see what’s in store for Cat.

    The Cocky Cockers

    There comes a time in our lives where we look for something new, something that bends the rules, something that is sure to ruffle some people’s rooster tails. Introducing The Cocky Cockers in all its cocky glory!

    What do you get when you cross cocky heroes and heroines with Cocker Spaniels? Why, Cocky Cockers, of course.

    All the stories in this anthology feature a Cocker Spaniel and a happily-ever-after (or happy-for-now) ending. How they get there? Well, that’s all the fun!

    Warning: The stories in this anthology run the gamut from G to NC-17 ratings and include examples of nearly every subgenre–including contemporary, historical, paranormal, and steampunk–as well as m/f, m/m, and f/f pairings.

    Proceeds from this anthology will first be used to defray any legal costs associated with its publication, and secondarily donated to the Romance Writers of America’s Benevolence Fund.

    Amazon US Preorder link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DLHHBNC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1528472929&sr=8-2&keywords=%22The+Cocky+Cockers%22

    Contributors:

    Shiloh Walker https://www.shilohwalker.com/website/

    Jackie Barbosa, Editor http://www.jackiebarbosa.com

    Sela Carsen http://selacarsen.com/

    Tom Eden http://www.tomeden.com/

    Anne Gaston https://annegaston.com/

    Missy Jane https://authormissyjane.wordpress.com/

    Sadie Jay https://sadiejaywrites.wixsite.com/relationships

    Kinsey Holly, Editor http://kinseyholley.com/

    John Jacobson, Editor

    Taryn Kincaid https://tarynkincaid.com/

    Lucy Kinsley and Tara Song

    Rachael Kerr

    Tara Kennedy http://www.talkapedia.com

    Mia Koutras http://www.facebook.com/mia.koutras

    L.J. LaBarthe https://www.ljlabarthe.com/

    Elise Logan https://twitter.com/Elise_Logan

    Carrie Lomax https://carrielomax.com/

    Mara Malins https://twitter.com/MaraMalins

    Heather Massey http://heathermassey.com

    Siobhan Muir https://www.siobhanmuir.com/

    Marie Piper http://www.mariepiper.com/

    Joanne Renaud http://joannerenaud.tumblr.com/

    Dominique Rothford http://dominiquerothford.com/

    Selene Grace Silver http://selenegracesilver.com/

    Naomi Tajedler http://www.naomi-tajedler.com

    Emily Veinglory https://veinglory.blogspot.com/

    Jules Voigt https://philosophersden.wordpress.com/

    Jody Wallace http://jodywallace.com/

    Mary Winter https://marywinter.com/

    Julia Wolf http://juliawolfwrites.com/

    So pour yourself a glass of whiskey, give towards the good fight, and answer the siren song of the cock. After all, it’s cheaper than a cop of coffee, so what do you have to lose? No, really. It’s literally cheaper than a Grande Cafe Latte from Starbucks. Total steal.

    Queen’s Innocence

    Today, we’re going to be exploring a book with a much darker theme than most we share. But often, the books with the harshest look at reality are the ones most important to read. After all, is there anything more frightening in the world than the things that we, as humans, do to one another?

    I was recently approached by author D. Odell Benson concerning her novel Queen’s Innocence, a realistic look at the practice and aftermath of human trafficking in the life of one girl. While this book holds subject matter that may be difficult to read, perhaps after learning a bit about its author and how she created Aaliyah in Queen’s Innocence, you’ll add it to your reading list.

    Aaliyah was born into a loving family with two parents, a full toy box, and the carefree innocence that children inherently have. But when her father crosses the line and assaults her, Aaliyah’s life if turned upside down and the once promising trajectory veers sharply off course.

    She rapidly slips through the cracks, the police and foster care failing her at every turn. She passes through the hands of doctors and case workers, warehoused and ignored. When it does come time for freedom, she leaves the system only to be forced into a new type of system, one where women are a commodity to be bought, sold, and abused.

    But as Aaliyah grows and is faced with the ability to retake her power, there are those who don’t wish to lose out on the money she can earn them. Can she break free of years of bondage, or will Aaliyah become yet another statistic?

    I’m sorry to leave the description on such a cliffhanger, but Aaliyah’s journey is the book. Unless you can walk beside her and really take in all the trials of her teens and adult life, you can hardly appreciate the work Benson has created. Still, Aaliyah’s story isn’t just words on a page, it’s the end result of months of research and true stories that are reflected on the pages.

    Human trafficking isn’t just something that exists on the fringes of society in seedy motels and back alleyways. It happens in the penthouses in New York City, the farmlands of Iowa, the split level home next door, and the streets of your own town. This includes my own area, no matter how quiet my middle class, suburban streets now are.

    I was born in Atlantic City, which hasn’t had the best reputation. If you’re out on Pacific Avenue at night, you might see “the girls” strolling the sidewalk, trying to make eye contact with the bachelor parties as they walk to yet another strip club. You might see a man parked down one darkened street, watching “his girls” and ensuring they don’t leave the fold, collecting his cut after ever job. For people born in my area, that’s just part of casino life, but many of those women don’t choose to be there. Drug addiction, mental illness, abusive relationships, and even poverty brings the human traffickers. And once you’ve been taken into that life, it’s often difficult, if not dangerous, to leave.

    Now that we’ve discussed the book and why I found this novel particularly engaging, let’s get to know D. Odell Benson and find out what brought her to write Queen’s Innocence.

    1. Tell us a little about yourself and your journey toward becoming a published author.

    I am an introvert that is generally the life of the party/event. I believe that being nice to people will cost me nothing, so I make sure I offer a smile when I can. Considering life has not expiration date, I live with my heart on my sleeve, even towards strangers, loving unconditionally. That’s the most important thing about me, well that’s what I would like to believe.

    My journey truly started in 2013. I was working full-time on my Master’s Degree coupled with full-time employment; but still felt that I could do more, which doesn’t happen often. See, I have ADD (attention deficit disorder) so focusing on one thing has always been a challenge for me; but, for some reason I was able to write in pure tunnel vision. The joy and adrenaline that came from the first five chapters gave me a lease on life that I have never felt before and one I refuse to live without. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve written thousands of short stories and poems throughout the years, but writing a novel is a total different beast and I love it.

    2. What inspired you to write Queen’s Innocence?

    The inspiration to write Queen’s Innocence came from my own daughter. A toddler doesn’t see or understand the dangers around them. Everything is fun, bright, and peaceful. These are innocent souls that we as adults are supposed to care for and keep safe; but how do you keep your child or the children around you safe when no one speaks of the dangers. I want people to speak on these dangers. I feel that Society as a whole has gotten into this “mind your business” phase and it’s more damaging to the younger children that didn’t ask to be here.

    3. What was the inspiration behind the character of Aaliyah?

    Aaliyah is you or me or even the girl next door. The things she did during the day, playing with dolls and sitting in front of the television waiting for her favorite show. This is typical child behavior. I thought about myself as a child, and incorporated my two oldest nieces and was able to see the innocence even at that age. I want people to see that Aaliyah can be any child, male or female. In a single parent home or a home with two parents. A happy thriving child can be a victim too. It’s not just “bad” or low poverty areas, Aaliyah is in every household, good, bad, or indifferent.

    4. Your biography states that you were born in Philadelphia (this makes us almost neighbors!) did the city of your birth lend any inspiration to your work?

    Yes, a lot of my work either starts here, ends up here, or crosses path with the City of Brotherly Love in some way. The inspiration for Queen’s Innocence and Philadelphia conjoins by the hopefulness of neighbors. Abuelo is anyone’s father or grandfather. I grew up on Bellevue Street in North Philadelphia where there was always a man somewhere telling you not to do something or will provide us with something we needed in order to keep our game going. Older men generally are essential to urban communities.

    5. Aaliyah seems to “bounce back” from things fairly quickly for having been through so much, including the assault and drug addiction, so much so that her wit is sharper than one might expect for a young, abused teen. Why did you decide to make her such a resilient character?

    Growing up in the City you see at a young age that things can go horribly wrong. You can either allow it to consume you or you can consume it and move forward. Not all “victims” remain victims, more times than not they become victorious; because in them, is something stronger, deeper, something that they were given at birth. The ability to recognize the World’s truths but the understanding that you and only you  can show someone else that it’s okay to hurt, to cry, to lash out, but time waits for no one; not even the victim. Aaliyah saw first hand what giving up looks like. Most women forced into human trafficking can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes the drugs forced on them is the one thing keeping them. Being resilient comes with seeing the “what if”. Aaliyah’s thought is that of a person that sees the bigger picture, help someone else to move on. See, she has her rock, she has the person that showed her even through her own doubt that he would be there, he would protect her. Not all victims will get that, Aaliyah knew this much because if it weren’t for Elijah, King (aka Lee) would have sold her back into what he rescued her from.

    6. Much of the content of the book was fairly graphic. Did you find that difficult to write and research?

    It was hard, it made me cry at points, completely breakdown in others, and wanted to throw the entire storyline out. That’s when it hit me, if I can have these feelings, if I can go through the thoughts and visuals of being sold off, raped, and drugged; why not show others that this is real. That this really happens to people and it’s not all flowers and unicorns. Life is hard, it’s breathtaking, unbearable, scary, the thought itself is scary and deep down I hurt. I hurt in a place that I want others to feel. I want others to feel as hopeless as I did when I was writing, rewriting, and reading. I want others to get into this fight and help because the hurt deep down is too much to bear for one person.

    7. How much research did you do into the topics of human trafficking, foster care, mental health, childbirth, and drug addiction before beginning your project?

    I started research on prostitution, that’s when my eyes were wide open for the first time. It took me a few months to do the research needed for human trafficking and about a month to speak to some people that are in the field of prostitution, and how they got to where they are today.

    8. In your opinion, how can the public work to end human trafficking?

    Speak up, stop minding your business, be observant of people and vehicles that are not normally there. Our biggest issue in society is that we moved away from the term, “it takes a village to raise a child.” If you’re not willing to be that voice, I understand. There’s a website www.wearethorn.org it’s ran by a group of individuals that are passionate about helping those abused. If fighting against human trafficking is too much, donate to the organization above. I am not affiliated with this organization in any way, but a portion of my earnings from Queen’s Innocence will be donated to help them in their quest to make the World a tad bit better.

    9. How long did it take you to write Queen’s Innocence?

    With research and mental breakdowns, it took about ten months. I actually started this book and a few others on Facebook. I thought it was something different and wanted to pull people together by offering parts of my books for free.

    10. What do you want readers to take away from this book?

    That human trafficking is real. It can take place in the hood, the suburbs, and even those places where millions are spent just on lawn care. There’s no monetary gauge on where and who can be taken. I don’t want to put fear into people and make them not want to do things, I just want people to be more mindful of their surroundings, mindful of the children that may yell out for help. Don’t mind your business, let your voice be heard, and possibly save a life.

    11. Do you have any plans to continue Aaliyah’s story?

    As of right now, I don’t plan to continue Aaliyah’s story. I want to leave her off as being an inspiration to others, a victorious survivor.

    12. Readers might think that Aaliyah has allowed the negative parts of her life to take over the rest, for example when she recounted the rape and subsequent abuses at her wedding speech. What are your thoughts?

    We grow by our mistakes, by our journey no matter how bumpy it is or terrifying the truth is, we grow. When there’s something to this magnitude, talking it out is the best way. Others wouldn’t be able to know they aren’t alone if Aaliyah doesn’t speak on it. Her pain can be someone else’s salvation.

    13. What books, if any, do you have planned to tackle next?

    I am looking to release Married Assassin on June 2nd during Bookcon. I will be at the event for a workshop and a few panels but I will not be on display this year.

    Overall, I found this book to be engaging and raw. It was difficult to read at times, due to the harsh subject matter, but I find that that’s what makes it an important work. While parts were dramatized in a “Lifetime Movie” way that made them almost unbelievable, the themes were universally understandable across the board. I recommend this book to any reader over the age of 18 who wants to learn more about clawing your way back to the light.

    To keep up to date with all D. Odell Benson’s work, order one of her books and learn more about her, please visit her at any of her platforms: