The Charmer In Chaps by Julia London is a heartwarming novel. This relationship story emphasizes the need for a little more acceptance in society today, as both the main female and male characters struggle with handicaps.
Luca Prince has grown up without a care in the world or so it seems. He is part of Texas’ high society where his family is regarded as one of the wealthiest in the state. Contrast that with Ella Kendall
who is working two jobs and struggling to make ends meet. They have grown up in different worlds, the have and the have nots. Currently, Ella has exactly three things to her name: a dog, a pig, and the rundown house she just inherited from her grandmother.
A chance meeting brings Luca and Ella together, but he has no idea she was a high school classmate of his who had a deep crush. Wanting to get to know her more, he decides to help her repair the house. But she knows him as a flirting womanizer cowboy.
Having lived in foster homes all her life, she has built walls and barriers to hide her feelings and emotions. What makes the story so enduring is watching how both must overcome life’s challenges, open up their hearts, and begin to trust each other.
This was an uplifting story where readers root for the likeable characters to overcome their own handicaps. An added bonus is London’s trademark witty character banter.
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story?
Julia London: I wanted to write about a Dallas type of family who falls on hard times. I thought what would happen if you yank out
all the wealth from underneath the Ewings. I hope the readers like the characters and want to learn more about them.
EC: You also delve into high school crushes?
Who didn’t have one in high school? Most everyone can relate. Remember how we covered our books with the brown paper grocery bags? A lot of people wrote on those covers about what they fantasized. Then later in life they would
dream of running into that person they had a crush on. I had my character Ella go from being on the fringe to having found herself.
EC: Dyslexia plays an important role in the book?
JL: I thought how hard it would be for someone who could not read as an adult. I would think they would not be able to talk about their problem. I know some authors who said they have this. For me, it
is remarkable that they overcame it and are able to read, but also became a writer.
EC: Foster care is also highlighted?
JL: I have some experience with
my extended family. As with Ella I know of children put in foster care because of drug problems. Here in Texas, meth is a big problem, and foster care is exploding. While I was researching this book, I found out that children were sleeping
in the foster care offices because there was nowhere for them to go.
EC: It was interesting how you explored the have’s and have nots?
There is the issue of class within our society, which I touched on the fringe. People can be judgmental about other people. Luca did not always get how his wealth looked to Ella, but she also did not always get how her poverty looked to him.
EC: Why the ecology factor?
JL: Ranches in Texas are going in that direction because it is so cost prohibitive. The cattle industry and farming have
fallen on hard times. Some have turned the land back into an oasis. I am personally interested in that and thought it a good interest for Luca. Today, people are trying different ecological approaches instead of mass production, which has
basically killed family farming. There is also the issue that happened here after the hurricane. Not only horses, but cattle became feral. Those big ranches sometimes cannot find their livestock. I thought it interesting that there are now
wild Mustangs running around Texas.
EC: Cordelia Prince, the mom was an interesting secondary character?
JL: She interests me the most, maybe because we are
the same age. Also, she is widowed and I am divorced. I have many of the same feelings as she does, but hopefully I am a lot nicer. I do admire her since she says what is on her mind and never sugar coats it. She straight talks, which
gets her into trouble. I wanted to make the family realistic and did not want to make the mother 100% supportive. I have a lot of friends who have different types of relationships with their mothers. Some say my mom is my best friend and others
say I have not talked with her in years. I hope Cordelia is seen as a mom with faults, but someone who loves her children.
EC: How would you describe Ella?
A loner who is trying to find her way. She is framing her own path slowly and methodically without having any real foundation in her life. She is practical, quiet, responsible, and is very guarded. I had this quote of how she has built a
“border wall that is 30 feet high.”
EC: How would you describe Luca?
JL: Overly confident. Basically, what is not to like since he
is gorgeous and has an outgoing personality. But he also has a very sensitive side. He presents himself to the world as a fun playboy, but is hiding something. Not everything is as it seems. With Ella, he has found his soul mate and wants
to be with her for the long haul.
EC: What about your next book?
JL: It is titled Devil In The Saddle and is about Luca’s twin
sister Hallie. She has just broken off her expensive high society wedding after she found her fiancé cheating on her. Now she is floating around and questions who she is. It comes out in November. With this series, I want to
explore how the Prince family with all its faults impacts each child. I come from a very big family so there is a lot to draw upon regarding relationship issues.
Living Lies by Natalie Walters brings to life the characters with an emotionally charged story. With thrilling suspense, threads
of romance, and important messages about removing the stigma of mental health and depression this book seems to have it all, including an action-packed crime mystery.
The crime revolves around murder, drugs, art, and dealing with mental health issues. Lane Walton, widower at the age of twenty-eight, journeys
back to her hometown in hopes of a new start for herself and her young son, Noah. The small Southern town of Walton, Georgia would seem like the place to begin again. She is hopeful she can overcome her depression
and to find acceptance. But life gets in the way, which happens after Lane discovers a dead woman. Needing to work with Walton's newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder, Lane hopes that
saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.
Struggling with depression she
wishes the illness will not define her. Although depression affects countless people there is also a stigma surrounding it, in which many people suffer in silence. Her family’s lack of understanding isolates her further, making it harder for her to overcome
the feeling that she is flawed. It’s a battle that often occurs daily and can be triggered unexpectedly. This is why she can connect with a Viet Nam veteran, Miguel Roa, who is also suffering, but from PTSD. Also very potent is how readers share their journey and experiences, and are reminded how unfairly Viet Nam veterans were treated when they returned.
This story has no shortage of action intertwined with messages about PTSD and depression. Readers will understand the harsh realities of life in this nail-biting crime
Elise Cooper: Why the military angle?
Natalie Walters: I have a heart for those who are serving, since I am a military spouse for twenty-two years.
I wasn’t just an author researching the military or law enforcement livelihood. I was the wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, and niece drawing details from personal history that have shaped me as a person
that includes the hardships they have gone through. I wanted a military influence in my story, which is why I made the main male character, Deputy Charles Lynch, a former Marine.
EC: Did you know anyone who fought in Vietnam?
NW: I have three uncles who fought
in the Vietnam War. One was injured and one is still haunted by memories. It’s not a war that I see often written about, and I used my character, Miguel Roa, to shed light on some of the more tragic effects of the war that I discovered through articles,
documentaries, and family history.
EC: How did you come up with the mystery?
NW: I wanted something that would force Lane to reveal her truth. I used art since it helps those who suffer
but can also be a catalyst for a crime. I reached out to a friend who works in the DEA. He gave me information of how people can smuggle drugs.
EC: Depression almost seems like a character in the book?
NW: At the time I was thinking of the story, our daughter was suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts, and cutting. We never thought we would
have to experience something like this in our lives. Writing this book became therapy for me. I pulled and drew upon from what was happening to our family and hopefully
made it authentic to the story.
EC: How would you describe Lane?
NW: An introvert who grew up in a Southern socialite family with a tender heart. She grew up with depression but tries to keep it a secret because
of the stigma surrounding it. She has internal strength that keeps her going as she fights to survive it daily. On good days she is not thinking about it, but on bad days
it kind of manifests itself into her life. It sometimes gets to a point where it can be devastating.
EC: Did you live in a small town?
NW: Lane Kent’s story actually started in Northern Virginia, where our family
was living when I first began writing her story. It wasn’t until our family was reassigned to Coastal Georgia that I really began to see the setting for Living Lies come to life. We once lived in a small town in Georgia twenty miles south of
Savannah. I used the atmosphere to make the setting for this book. I wanted to make it realistic to the coastal Georgia region.
EC: How would you describe the relationship?
Lane has some resistance because of her past. Charlie is very supportive of her. This allows Lane to open up with him. They
help each other to gain confidence.
EC: How would you describe Charlie?
NW: Encouraging, steadfast, devoted, and loyal.
EC: The fathers seem a little harsh?
NW: They were a bit hard on the characters. They were rigid. I based Charlie’s dad on the fact he was a Marine. My dad was also a Marine and he had pretty rigid guidelines. Regarding Lane’s
father, I based him on the mixed feedback we got from friends and family. Through her father, I wanted to show how it is a struggle for a lot of people to deal with depression.
They need to learn they need patience instead of narrow mindedness. I had him transition as he recognizes that it is a treatable disease.
EC: What do you want the readers to get out of the book?
NW: An entertaining
story with a good mystery. I want to remind those who might be suffering from depression or anxiety that they are not alone. They are seen, and have purpose, a reason to fight and live. My daughter did not want to tell anyone because she did not want to be
a burden. But no one should have to struggle by themselves. Everyone has to be open, honest, and compassionate. The reality is that many of us do not have perfect lives. I hope this story stays with readers long after they finished the book.
EC: The next
NW: It is titled, Deadly Deceit. The story will feature Deputy Ryan Frost
and the reporter Vivian DeMarco. Vivian has a person die in front of her, and then works with Ryan to find out what happened. They are a lighter couple than Lane and Charlie
and like to play off one another. It comes out the end of the year.
Double Exposure by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the creators of the TV series, “Smallville,” brings to life a unique storyline. Set in the 1960s to make the story believable, they explore
the question, what if Hitler did not die in the bunker, and is still alive?
The plot begins with
a KGB Russian agent, turned CIA asset, smuggling a film canister over the Berlin Wall. Because the East Germans shot the agent as well as the canister the CIA now needs help in attempting to repair it. They turn to David Toland, a decorated Korean War veteran, who wanted to leave his combat days behind him. Now the Director of Preservation for the Library of Congress's National Film Archive, he is asked to restore the film by CIA Agent
Lana Welles. The film shows Hitler is still alive, well, and dangerous. Because there are those that want to restore the Third Reich, Welles and Toland put their lives in danger as they attempt to pursue Hitler all
over the world. Traveling to Russia for clues, they are saved by Simon Lean who is masquerading as a best-selling author. They join forces in their pursuit to find Hitler and to end his attempt at regaining power.
The novel is action-packed as the characters journey around the globe from Washington DC to Europe to South America. Betrayals,
lies, deceptions, and deceits are at the heart of the story. David realizes that not everyone is who or what they are, learning that trust is a rare commodity with all the many traitors and moles.
Elise Cooper: Since you both are screenwriters why didn’t
you try to make a movie?
Alfred Gough and Miles Millar: We initially imagined Double Exposure as a movie, but as soon as we started breaking the outline, it became clear that the scope of the story was too big and would be more suited to a novel with the period setting, the
globetrotting locations, and the elaborate action set-pieces. Although Double Exposure is our first novel, we came to it after spending the entirety of our professional
lives as screenwriters. We approached the story exactly the same way we would if we had been writing a movie or TV pilot. Like any great movie thriller, we wanted the narrative to have a propulsive drive. We loved the idea of starting with a real historical
event and then using it as a jumping off point to spin our own wild, globe-trotting yarn.
EC: You are the creators of “Smallville,”
the TV series about the life of Clark Kent before Superman?
AGMM: We were not huge comic book fans, but were fans of the superhero
film, “Superman,” starring Christopher Reeve and directed by Richard Donner. We got the perspective from it, and with the TV series tried to stay true to the spirit, even as today’s Superheroes have become corporatized. When we started there
was no Marvel universe. What we tried to do is dramatize the emotions of Clark Kent regarding how and why he became a hero. It was right after 9/11 where the mood of the
country shifted and embraced Superman. It was the right show at the right time. He was the defender of America, which has been redefined and reinterpreted for every generation
EC: Why the 1960s?
AGMM: Film restoration at the time was fairly new. When the Internet and technology is taken away the world is opened up more. There is not the crutch of the computer, cell phones, Google Maps, and DNA. The hero is challenged more.
you both movie fans considering you included the classics “King Kong,” “The Great Dictator,” and the “Nun’s Story?”
AGMM: We are both die-hard movie buffs and have dedicated our professional lives to the art form. We first met at USC Film School and hit it off because we shared the same taste in movies. We wanted to write
a book with movie references. It was a fun element of this story because we infused David’s job into the story. We hope readers caught all the references.
EC: How would you describe David?
AGMM: David Toland’s skill as a film restoration seemed unique, and was one that hadn’t been explored before in either a novel or a movie. We imagined him as the Indiana Jones of film restoration. He is conflicted about his
life as a soldier so he escaped to this job so he does not have to deal with the real world. Now he is put in a situation that has world altering consequences.
EC: So what film personality describes David?
AGMM: He is a combination of Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, and William Holden. He has the quality of being the “every man” until he is pushed and then has
an edge to him.
EC: How would you describe Lana?
AGMM: She plays things close to the vest and is very serious. She
has to conform to being a woman in a man’s world. We wanted her to be the one to drive the plot. She is a strong female character who is mysterious and keeps David guessing.
what film personality describes Lana?
AGMM: She is a combination of Lauren Bacall, Veronica Lake, and Rita
Hayworth. Lana has plenty of attitude and is strong, feminine, and smart.
EC: How would you describe Simon?
AGMM: Self-serving, in it for himself. The best party guest. A mercenary without much moral compass.
EC: So what film personality describes Simon?
A combination of David Niven, Alec Guinness, and Peter O’ Toole. He is English and a scene stealing character.
EC: Why all the different settings?
AGMM: It is
a globe-trotting adventure story. We wanted to use the Hitchcockian glamor and tone. Hopefully, readers take the journey with the characters who went from Washington DC to Russia
to Europe to South America. Remember many Nazis went to Spain and South America on submarines.
Can you explain the quote, “Films lie to tell the truth?”
AGMM: Everything about a movie
is manipulation. The story has a cast of characters, and particular scenes. Putting it all together
is for the emotional response.
EC: Is there
going to be another book?
AGMM: We would love to continue David’s story in a series of
novels. The jumping off point will have David restoring a piece of film that launches him on another unexpected adventure. We have already written the outlines to two follow-ups, but we obviously need to wait and see the reaction to Double Exposure.
Unbroken Cowboy by Maisey Yates is a strong relationship story. It delves into family connections, forgiveness, and moving on to make a new life for oneself after a curveball is thrown.
Dane Parker was considered one of the best rodeo bull riders until he received a devastating injury. His injures put him in a very dependent position
and he hates that his life has been altered forever. While recovering he is living in close proximity to Beatrix (Bea) Leighton who he has for years considered a good friend, almost like a kid sister. Her feelings have always been the direct opposite
where she has had a crush on him for years. Knowing he needs care, Bea treats him like one of her wounded animals that she has rescued and cared for. Thinking that Dane needs something purposeful to get him out of his self-pity she enlists his help in
building an animal sanctuary. Spending time with her, talking and discussing matters, Dane starts realizing that his feelings are evolving to look at her as a woman instead of a young girl.
Bea has always been a sweet and caring person who takes care of all the wounded, animals and humans alike. She is there to nurse all back to health. These quirky habits and independent strength drew Dane closer
to her. He went from being a playboy that would flirt with anything, to being head over heels in love with Bea.
This series brings to life
characters that readers will root for.
Elise Cooper: You included a lot of past family members in the story?
Maisey Yates: As the series grows it is natural to include others. Given the nature of the “forbidden attraction” between Bea and Dane the family interaction is a very important
component. Readers can see on the page how deep the connections actually are.
EC: You explore someone who has a life
MY: Yes. He has to deal with the fact that once he recovers his life will not look as it did before. Dane has to figure out a different place
to put his values. I read a terrible story once because it taught a terrible lesson, that no one can recover from an injury that changes your life. People do not lose value because their abilities have changed. A better story is one that
teaches to love oneself for who you are and that people should love you regardless of your abilities.
EC: There were
a lot of animal analogies?
MY: Bea sees the world through her animals. She understands animals more than people because it is her natural “head space.”
Throughout the book she tried to relate Dane to her dogs. Her old herding dog Mabel needed a something to do when she could no longer herd. Bea knew Dane also needs a job that could keep him busy. I love animals a lot also, but not as much
as Bea. When Dane made the comparison to her being like a retriever she did not mind because she likes dogs and her natural reaction is to appreciate animals. Bea has a lot of connections with her animals.
EC: How would you describe Bea?
MY: She is quiet and has resilience. In previous books,
she was a secondary character. It was OK to write her as funny and a little off-base, but once I made her the heroine I had to add more layers. I actually had to get into her head. It is a little bit mystical to be in the zone with the characters.
She does not make a fuss and quietly goes about her business. People think she is a push over, but she has a quiet strength and stubbornness. They always underestimate her. Bea is an observer so she knows more about the people around her than the people
know of her. Everybody is a little surprised when she decides to assert herself.
EC: You do not have cookie cutter
MY: What all of them have in common is their optimism and strength, but in different ways. McKenna is a survivor, scraper, and unbreakable. Lindy
is everybody’s older sister, and has more self-awareness. Jamie thinks she is bullet proof and has a false sense of confidence. I think Jamie is the most vulnerable. She is like a stereotypic Millennial.
EC: How would you describe Dane?
MY: I think he was wounded even before
the accident. He always needed to prove something. He has a lot of ego and thinks of himself as tough. After his injury, he needs to figure out how to feel good about himself.
EC: How would you describe the relationship?
MY: I like the romance between the younger woman and older man.
I knew I was going to put them together a long time ago. She is making Dane see things about the world he took for granted. I think she is teaching him more than he is teaching her. He might be more worldly and know more about sex,
but he doesn’t know about emotions and feelings, which she is creating in him. I think they both understand each other on a deep level. On the surface, they seem like complete opposites, but they really aren’t.
EC: Do you know anybody that has this type of relationship?
think it is my wish fulfillment where the weird girl gets the hot guy. My husband is eight years older than me. He was the guy who all the teenage girls had a crush on. I thought he would never notice me. But here we are married. I
love the underdog type of story. The characters in this series have a lot of depth that will draw readers to them. People will enjoy that family members of past books are present throughout and do not just make cameo appearances.
EC: Jamie and Bea are both virgins?
MY: Yes in their
early twenties. They are both confident in their own way. They are not similar in the way they respond to things. Since their books are back to back I wanted to make sure that their stories are different. They are so dissimilar the
way they react and go about doing things.
EC: Pain plays a role in the story?
MY: I have not dealt with it personally but do have friends with lifelong chronic conditions. A friend of mine who heads a non-profit organization has neuro fibromatosis with 1000 non-cancerous tumors. It causes her
a lot of pain. I wanted to honor her a little. Being in pain all the time is not a small thing. I put in this quote, “His thigh was throbbing…he would take some Tylenol. Something that wouldn’t knock him out, but might
take the edge off. That better be enough, or he was going to break his leg off and chuck it over a mountain.”
MY: The next “Gold Valley Novel,” comes out in June, titled Cowboy To The Core. It is Jamie’s and Gabe’s story. Then
there is Lone Wolf Cowboy in July and Christmas Redemption in September. I have signed a contract for six more books. There will be a different ranch and different siblings. I am also writing a women’s fiction story
that is set in Oregon and has some romance. It is about a grandmother, two adult daughters, and a granddaughter who live in a bed and breakfast lighthouse. In February, The Year of The Cowboy comes out that I co-authored with three other
writers about a season at this grandmother’s farmhouse. It reads like one story.
Blood Oath by Linda Fairstein has Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper returning to work after taking a hiatus to recover from double personal traumas. She has no time to ease back into a routine because she is
presented with a very formidable case.
As the chief of the Special Victims Bureau Alexandra (Alex) oversees and prosecutes sexual assault, domestic violence,
child abuse, and related murder cases. After returning to work she is presented with a case by a young woman who has come forward to claim she was assaulted ten years ago, when she was just 14 years old. The name of her attacker comes as a huge surprise to
Alex, a respected colleague and someone she knows well. Alex, along with NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace must decide if the now twenty-four-year-old victim, Lucy Jenner, is telling the truth.
Besides this devastating accusation Alex must deal with a Judge who she has had scrapes with in the past. His separated wife is suing him for a divorce and is accusing him of choking her and being abusive in
Alexandra also faces a tragedy when her friend, Francie Fain, collapses on the street on the way to Alexandra’s welcome back party.
At first it seems a tragic accident, but soon it begins to look more like attempted murder. Alex and her boyfriend Mike Chapman question what led to her friend’s current condition.
History is always weaved into the story whether through a Final Jeopardy question where Alex, Mercer, and Chapman generally stop whatever they are doing to watch on TV and make their own wagers regarding the correct answer, or historical
architectural and cultural landmarks in New York. The Tombs, the city prison, and the “Bridge of Sighs,” pictured on the book cover, and New York City medical research facility, Rockefeller University, becomes a part of the story.
This plot has non-stop action where all three incidents come together in a thrilling and riveting conclusion. It is nice to see a prosecutor and the police work together
to bring justice to those who experienced violence.
Elise Cooper: Do you ever use your own cases?
Fairstein: No. I never use any of my own cases but do pull stories from real cases. The villain in this story is based on someone who is real, a man I know personally. I was on the board of a non-profit organization and served alongside
this very distinguished gentleman. Three years ago, someone came forward to say he had molested her twenty years ago.
EC: Why write about it now?
LF: The seed for this one came from a tragic story involving a powerful man I knew well, who had done something terrible in his young professional life. I was haunted by the victims’ perspective, and by his
downfall. I could not imagine the profound impact of his actions on his victim who said her life was derailed. I couldn’t shake the whole idea of it, so I got to work creating my fictional version of a similar case.
EC: New York City appears to be a character in your book?
LF: Yes. In this book, I concentrated on Rockefeller University.
At a dinner, I met a very interesting person who is a visionary scientist. He works there. As detective Mike Chapman would say, “It is not a university in the sense we think of it.” It is actually the country’s largest medical
EC: Did you tour it?
LF: I was invited to give a DNA lecture there. After
I spoke to the scientists, I was able to take a tour of this 100-year-old campus. It has very unusual dark corners and underground tunnels. Of course, I had to embellish it when I made it a safe house.
EC: You also speak of “The Bridge of Sighs?”
LF: This was my working title, but my publisher didn’t want to use it. She said
if you have to explain your title it is not good. The original is in Venice. As someone walked across from the Emperor’s Palace to the prison the last sight they see is the window on the bridge. They would sigh on the way in. An historical
tidbit; here in New York there is bridge to the Tombs prison from the Manhattan Criminal Courts and the nickname of that passageway is the Bridge of Sighs. I also noticed that there is a little bridge from the quarantined area of the Rockefeller Institute
to the Founders area that looks like the Bridge of Sighs. You can see it on the book jacket.
EC: I am curious, can authors pick their book titles?
LF: The publisher has the power to kill the title, part of their marketing power. But best-selling authors can be a part of the process.
EC: How did you get the title Blood Oath?
LF: I was thinking about a new title when my stepson come home with a gift. He and my husband drank
from a bottle of bourbon called “Blood Oath” that was in this fancy little box. I thought this is the perfect name for this title. I then googled Blood Oath and all its meanings. I thought this is a perfect way to take it from the real-life
case to the fictionalized story. I created my own reason for the victim, Lucy, to stay silent.
EC: Do prosecutors, while interviewing victims,
have a witness with them?
LF: I always made it a rule, since I was burned as a young prosecutor. Sometimes people being interviewed would say, ‘I never said that, or I forgot to mention
he had a knife.’ I trained all my young lawyers to have a witness. It can be dangerous for the case both ways. Either something was left out or something was added in. I never wanted to use the detective on the case because there could be controversy.
I remember once the detective said, ‘she told me she had nothing to drink. Now she is telling you she had three drinks.’ By having someone else there it protects the witness and the prosecutor.
EC: How would you describe the victim, Lucy?
LF: Vulnerable in every way. Young, very much alone. The predator had a good sense that she could
be groomed, which I detailed in the book. The bad guy knew how to read her.
EC: As a reader, I wondered if I liked Lucy?
LF: This is what Alex is going through: can she trust Lucy? Does she trust Lucy enough? Even Lucy’s aunt said she lies. As a prosecutor Alex had to decide if Lucy is telling white lies and if so, would she lie about
the bigger things?
EC: How would you describe Alex?
LF: She is tough, sarcastic,
and strong. In Devils’ Bridge, an earlier book, I wanted to test myself to see if I could write from the detective’s perspective. I had Alex kidnapped and held for five days. She has PTSD in the following books. Now, she is back. I
know fans will be happy because they wanted this. I am determined to bring her back strong.
EC: How would you describe your fictional bad guy?
LF: Vain, incredibly egotistical, self-centered, and very smart. The real guy was so arrogant and full of himself. Because of what he did I found him to have no redeeming qualities other than his intelligence.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
LF: The working title is The Graveyard.
Murder takes Alex to some really remote and desolate parts of the city.