Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book Plug Blog Tour: Love Overboard Series




Welcome to Alpha Heroes' stop on the Book Plug blog tour for the Love Overboard series, a fun new series from the writing team of Andrea K. Stein and Sawyer Stone.

First I'll give you a quick review for Way Too Deep and Up Too Close. The third book is also out but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. (I'm really digging the character descriptions for it, though).  Along with the reviews you'll find blurbs for all three books, AND an excerpt from Way Too Deep; plus good extras like author bios and buy links.  I will apologize in advance that the formatting is a bit wonky in places -- the HTML was provided to me and I was not able to totally debug the spots where it conflicted with my template. I think everything should be readable if not perfectly pretty.

Title: Way Too Deep and Up Too Close
Series: Love Overboard
Author: Andrea K. Stein and Sawyer Stone
Publisher: Muirgen® Publishing, LLC
Release Date: May 2
Reviewing: e-copy directly from the authors

Reason for reading: Friendly with Sawyer


The Short Answer

Quirky characters and influences from reality TV make these splashy rom-coms a lot of fun. A dash of suspense keeps the pages turning, and at no time do these books take themselves too seriously.  Although I'm not anything like an expert on sailing, there's a love for and an authority about this topic that shines through the pages. The reader can really imagine themselves on the boat with the characters.

On a sample size of two, I would say these guys behave a little less like what I expect from romance heroes, and a little more like a real dude with real insecurities and a realistic contemporary masculine viewpoint. At times I would've liked a little more rose-colored fiction and a little less real-feeling awkwardness, but it's also refreshing in its way. If you like your heroes a little dorky, ahoy matey, these books are for you.


I will say that I wasn't too keen on the love scenes. It's a hard thing to critique; what one person loves will completely turn off someone else. I'm just not doing great with their style.
 


Way Too Deep

Captain Lindsay is a great heroine - intrepid, adventurous, uber-confident but a little rough around the edges. I really liked the interplay with the polished, maybe a little spoiled celebrity chef hero.  There are also a lot of secondary characters in this book, adding to the madcap, anything-could-happen feel. I am particularly intrigued by a shadowy secret-agent-like character; I can't decide if I love him or hate him. Little of both, I think!

What really sings about Way Too Deep is how the main characters go into their zone when they are doing what they love. When Lindsay is sailing through challenging waters, and when Alton is up to his elbows in chopping and sauteing, they go into that state of "flow," and the reader gets to experience that vicariously. If you haven't heard of it, there's a great Ted Talk by the researcher that coined the term-- well worth a watch.  I also really liked how the Lindsay and Alton compromise on what their ideal life would be like once they get past their hurdles.

On the downside, there is kind of a lot going on in this book -- side plots and literal side trips that sometimes feel a little bit wandery. There's a fairly extended chunk in the beginning where each of them speculate that the other might be gay-- NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT-- that felt a little clunky to me.

Blurb:

Captain Lindsay Fisher has committed the unthinkable in the tight little world of superyachting. She's lost not one but two ships under her command. She takes chances, she’s a little too abrasive, and, oh yeah, she’s taken swearing like a sailor to a whole new level.

Celebrity Chef Alton Maura earned the acclaimed “Kitchen God” title and basked in the international limelight for years until his affairs with his kitchen staff landed him twice in a poisonous stew.

When Lindsay and Alton are thrown together on an uneasy cruise through the Grenadines, sparks fly. She doesn’t like his shoes or his attitude. He can’t believe a woman who looks that good in a captain’s uniform can be such a hard ass. This is their last chance to prove themselves, but the worst thing you can do when trying to save your career is to fall in love…WAY TOO DEEP.



Up Too Close
In this title, we start to see how tight knit the sailing world can be. Several side characters from Way Too Deep return for their moment on center stage and they have a whole raft of other problems. This one didn't work quite as well for me; the conflict seemed a bit forced and the several reveals of CeCe's "secret" (which was instantly and painfully obvious) were awfully over the top. I think the characters lacked a clear anchor, which was what I particularly liked about WTD. This book might be better viewed as a coming of age story for both hero and heroine, with their sail across the Atlantic serving as a metaphor for their journey to a certain maturity. The portrayal of CeCe's family is vivid and rollicking, and the sailing adventure a thrill a minute, and the elderly dog has some adorable moments, but I didn't love these characters, unfortunately.

Blurb:
CeCe Ahlstrom, massage therapist to the rich and famous, is done with men. Her last rich boyfriend tried to kill her on an ill-fated cruise through the Grenadines. Now she’s determined to get on with her life but can’t find the funds to get to her next spa gig in Portugal.

Then along comes notorious womanizer Captain Rene Baudouin. He’s hell on the hearts of women, he can handle any storm at sea, yet he might have met his match in a leaky old boat. He needs a first mate crazy enough to help crew the wreck knows as the Tourbillon across the Atlantic.

Destiny draws CeCe And Rene together, but things are not what they seem. Rene struggles with a family secret that could destroy his future and CeCe will have to face a truth not even she knows yet.

Out on the open sea, Rene and CeCe soon find themselves…UP TOO CLOSE.





Rania Elsaeid is the brilliant engineer aboard the 115-foot yacht, the Bonnie Blue. She’s also a deadly, well-trained security guard. She keeps her cool when everything around her heats up.

Morris “Moj” Johnston, internationally famous music producer, is on a much-needed vacation cruise through the islands of the Indian Ocean. He’s not looking for love but trying to heal a broken heart.

When Moj meets Rania, everything changes. Suddenly they find themselves on the run from pirates, lost on a deserted island, and dangerously close to going…OUT TOO FAR.
TEASER: 

Way Too Deep (Love Overboard Series Book 1)
CHAPTER ONE

48°37’17”N, 20°12’20”W
Aboard the Boadicea
One Day Southwest of Falmouth
Captain Lindsay Fisher jolted awake to thundering pain centered over a golfball-sized knot on the right side of her forehead. Hot, sticky blood trickled from a gash on her scalp.
The cabin lights were out, but in the gloom she could hear the roar of seawater cascading along the floor of her starboard aft cabin. She’d fallen into her bunk a few hours before encased in foul weather gear -- and a life jacket.
The ship was in a severe list. Dazed and still barefooted, she used handholds to make her way to the main saloon. The dim glow from the overhead deck bevels illuminated water pouring through the galley from the forward cabin. Shit. The custom glass top over the owner’s cabin had shattered.
The sixty-four-foot Hallberg-Rassy must have done a full roll. Lindsay had been asleep on the floor of her cabin and had probably smacked her head sometime during the spin.
They were sinking. Fast. And her first mate, her uncle Tommy, had been on watch at the helm.
She ignored the stuttering of her heart and snatched the ditch bag carabineer, clipped to the galley counter rail. She nearly collided with her second crewman in a race to the top deck.
“Jim, deploy the life raft. Now.” she shouted, shoving the bag at him.
“Got it,” he yelled, and pounded up the companionway ahead of her.
She hauled herself up, two steps at a time, and called out, “Tommy.” She didn’t wait for an answer but hit the top deck running.
The wreckage above sickened her. Anything not tied down was gone. The rigging still stood, but the sails were soaked, twisted and ripped. The top quarter of the mast had broken off.
A late, fierce storm, at least Force 11, was kicking up monster size waves, and sixty-knot winds whipped the surface water into a roiling mist. Airborne spray and foam narrowed visibility to nearly zero.
The earlier weather faxes she’d checked had shown the storm passing west of them. Mother Ocean must have changed her mind.
Tommy. I have to get to him.
Lindsay exhaled hard at the sight of the lifeboat valise still lashed to the safety rail. Her third crewman Jim worked at the straps to free the big rubber inflatable, the only thing between them and the frigid North Atlantic waters.
When the huge raft was prepped, he would splash the lifeboat into the savage waves battering the broken yacht. He’d already attached the raft’s painter to the ship to keep it from blowing overboard. When the ship sank, the emergency tether would break free.
The steep tilt of the deck meant she had only minutes to call for help and find her first mate before the yacht plummeted to the bottom of the sea.
She punched the DSC button on the waterproof radio strapped on her chest to broadcast their GPS coordinates. Then she pushed transmit and spoke calmly.
“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is Captain Lindsay Fisher on the Boadicea, Boadicea, Boadicea. We’re a day southwest of Falmouth at 48°37’17”N, 20°12’20”W, and sinking. The ship has rolled with three passengers aboard. One crew member possibly overboard. We are deploying the lifeboat and EPIRB beacon.”
She waited a minute and repeated the plea while crossing to the wheel where Tommy should be.
They were still less than two hundred miles out of the English Channel. If she didn’t get a response soon from the Brits, she hoped another nearby ship listening to Channel 16 would relay her call for help.
When she reached the stern behind the wheel, the only sign of Tommy was a taut portion of his six-foot safety tether. Lindsay squinted through the spray peppering her face like needles. The strap wound down the backside of the wallowing yacht and disappeared into the black waves.
There was still tension on the line. She heaved up on the tether, but the weight on the other end wouldn’t budge. She didn’t dare divert Jim from getting the life raft ready.
Lindsay heaved again on the strap, this time using her whole body weight but lost her grip when her bare feet slipped on the wave-soaked deck. No dice.
She stood for a moment, scanned the waves around the ship, and then plunged into the cold seawater. The towering waves pounded her senseless like a mass of ice mallets pelting her back. Breathe. Focus.
The roll had knocked out their running lights, and the water below the surface was as black as an oil slick. She clutched her lifeline, still clipped to the ship’s jack line, with one hand while groping along the hull beneath the waves searching for Tommy. She swept a 180-degree arc before realizing his tether was stuck on a piece of the swim ladder twisted during the yacht’s violent revolution. Dammit.
The tension on the end of the line wasn’t Tommy.
She unclipped her safety line and left her life jacket on the ladder to begin a frantic free swim along the keel beneath the hull. The creaks and whines of the straining ship shrieked in her ears. Not much time left.
Lindsay resurfaced, gasped in a few breaths, and dived again to the bottom of the keel. Huge thrashing waves exacerbated the wallowing motion of the ship, and the black water threatened to suck her into the claustrophobic darkness.
Her hands and feet were numb, and she wanted nothing more than to close her eyes and let the frigid water take her.
No. She wouldn’t give in to the cold, but she was out of options. One more dive was all her body had left.
She was all in, no backup plan. In a flash, something brushed against her hand. A fish? Not bloody likely this close to the surface in a storm.
She made a wild grab and grasped a sleeve of her uncle’s foul weather gear. His life vest must have hooked onto a protruding piece of a sensor on the keel during the roll.
She pulled with her last surge of strength, and his body broke free. Kicking them both to the surface, she hung on to his life vest and gave silent thanks for her barefoot state. Sea boots would have filled and pulled her down.
The doomed yacht’s loud groans and creaks filled the air when she came up, gulping breaths. They were out of time.
But there, the big yellow raft bobbed in the water, surrounded by the wake of the sinking ship.
Jim’s face in the low light was grim, the most beautiful sight she’d ever seen. He’d found them with the battery-operated spotlight. The EPIRB’s beacon flashed behind him as he thrashed through the waves. He grasped Tommy by his jacket and pulled him aboard, then extended a hand to Lindsay.
Once inside the small canopied raft, she rolled her uncle to his back and leaned over his chest, listening for breathing. The screaming winds and rain pelting the raft’s rubber top made hearing next to impossible.
Her frozen fingers were useless. She couldn’t use them to detect a pulse, so instead she looked for a rise in his chest. Nothing. She started compressions and after only two or three, Tommy jerked to life and slapped her hands away.
“You tryin’ to kill me or what?” He took the bucket Jim shoved toward him, and in a matter of seconds, puked up seawater. “Son of a--.”
“He’s back,” Lindsay said, her voice ragged with relief and exhaustion. Painful needles of feeling returned to her fingers and toes. She collapsed onto the inflated rubber floor and stared at the peaked roof.
Her career was over.




Andrea K. Stein’s daddy was a trucker, her momma was an artist, and she's a scribbler. The stories just spilled out—the pony escaped, the window magically shattered. Not her fault. Twenty years as a journalist couldn't stifle the yarns. Yacht delivery up and down the Caribbean only increased the flow. Now those tales celebrate romance on the high seas. As a sailing captain and instructor since 1996, she's logged nearly 30,000 miles to destinations around the world. She now lives in the Rocky Mountains and is the author of four historical sailing romances available on Amazon.com.





Sawyer Stone grew up dreaming of far-off cities and far-flung continents even though those exotic locations seemed way out of reach. But the dreams of travel and love never left. It wasn’t long before Sawyer walked the alleys of Istanbul, watched the sunsets from the island of Santorini, trekked the Himalayas, and dove through shipwrecks in the Andaman Sea. Now, while still traveling, Sawyer writes all kinds of books under all kinds of names. The world needs more stories about quirky characters falling in love.



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Monday, May 8, 2017

Did you miss me?

Yikes, that might be my longest blog break so far.  I didn't mean to let so much time go by!  How about we let bygones be bygones, now that I'm showing up in your feed again, and I'm breaking the ice here with some Monday commentary:

  1. Sally Yates is a hero for our times.
  2. France voted for sanity. I maybe didn't expect that, but I'm grateful that it happened.
  3. I'd like to avoid politics, but I cannot. We're soaking in it.
  4. I really really really wanted to go to RT but we're buying a new HVAC system instead. This is my adult face:
  5. My laptop is on its last legs. Keys. Disk. Whatever, it's dying. I have a fancy new tablet thing to replace it but I hate change and I haven't moved all my accounts and the keyboard does weird things if I type too fast and waaaah.
  6. I still have kids and they seem to expect me to do things for them.
  7. I still have a job and they also seem to expect me to do things.
So blogging's been taking a little backseat.  But I haven't given up!  I just got all my ducks lined up to attend this year's Reading Until Dawn Con in Denver and I cannot wait.  It's just the break I need.  Authors! Games! Pillowforts! And my favorite thing, Cards Against Humanity.

AND!!  RustCity Book Con is happening again this year and I am going!  Once again I'll be featuring some progressive flash fiction which will undoubtedly take some interesting twists and turns.  If you aren't signed up for the conference, you should be!

Speaking of awesome author/reader meetups, I have a review coming up for a new author duo and their Love Overboard series of connected romances with a sailing theme. I met one of the authors at the last RUDC and had so much fun, I can't miss anything they write. Ahoy!

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Yeah, so I haven't written a blog post since the election.  Social media has been nearly unbearable for me, and my reading has been divided between diving into my favorite escape, reading think-pieces on politics, and mindlessly playing solitaire puzzle games on my phone.

So I've been reading, a lot, but I have not been very present in the online community.  Ramping back into that always takes a bit of energy. But I'm going to try!

A few highlights - my favorites from the last couple months:

I have a big (for me) home project in process: I'm switching my office for my daughter's bedroom. That might not sound like much, but my office is packed full of 10 years worth of partially finished craft projects, girl scout projects, scrapbooking and quilting supplies. Both rooms needed painting, and finding space to hold all the STUFF while the swap is in progress has been painful. Bottom line is, I figured it was a good time to try audio books. I went with a YA series, thinking my daughter might like to listen along, and chose Kresley Cole's Arcana series. OMG this is good. I started it around Thanksgiving and yeah, something post-apocalyptic seemed just right. It verges on too violent for me, with some really f*cked-up torture scenes, but the story is like, steel bear-trap gripping, and I love the characters. I'm caught up in the series; the next isn't due out until next summer, and I can't get it out of my head. It's a very compelling love-triangle premise, so if you hate those, this is going to be a conundrum for you.

I figured that I owed it to myself to read a few sure things, so I grabbed books in Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires, and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series. I am not caught up there yet which makes me happy in a weird sort of way, because I can pick up another EXCELLENT book any time I want.

Last year about this time, I got my first taste of a Rachel Caine series, and it was awesome, so I decided to dive into the Weather Wardens. Well, I read the first book and loved it. Hmm, picking up the next book in that series might be just the thing for my first 2017 read.

Amid my towering stacks of book swag from RT16 and other cons, I found two Rebecca Zanetti titles, from two different series. I am on a bit of a post-apocalyptic kick right now, so I gotta say, the Scorpius series is hitting all the right notes for me. Forgotten Sins was also really good, but I have to say the hero skirted the alph-hole line pretty close for me.

Last for today, J. R. Ward's Blood Vow lived up to all my expectations. I'm really happy with the spinoff series.

Look at that -- all my favorites were paranormals. I do have a few contemps and historicals I could talk about, but I'll save those for another time.


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