Book Excerpt: BEHIND THE MASK by Linda Joyce

Behind_The_Mask  jpegBEHIND THE MASK by Linda Joyce / Spicy Contemporary Romance / Released May 17 by Word Works Press

This part of the scene begins with Bill, Chaz’s business partner, trying to pry information from Chaz about a certain woman…Chalise Boudreau.

“So, we’ll invite the mayor to be the guest of honor at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the ship. Back to the woman. The New York model.”

“I told you.”

“She made plenty of money at one time. Why is she here?” Billy asked. “No offense, but Ascension has two classes of people—the wealthy and the help. Then, there are the transient tourists. I know she doesn’t fit into one of those pockets.”

“You’re a snob.”

Billy shrugged. “You’ve always known that about me.”

“Chalise has history here. Her family was once the richest in town. Her father built the mansion that’s now Boudreau B&B. But while Mrs. Boudreau has never said, I’m guessing he left a river of debt, which is why she went from socialite to businesswoman. Her mother has developed a soft spot for me, wanting to right an old wrong, she says. No idea what she means, but I’m going with it. We’re making headway with local society through Mrs. Boudreau’s connections as the Chamber President. And, as I said before, Chalise Boudreau is my ticket to respectability. Remember, I come from a family who wasn’t good enough to clean the shoes of those you label ‘the help.’ And you’re wrong about Ascension. There is a thriving middle class, and they’re our target market. They’re the heartbeat of this place. Not the society rich.”

“So what’s your plan, dude? She’s refused to take your calls. You sent a bouquet of flowers. She sent them back. How do you plan to get beyond the moat surrounding her? What the hell did you do to her in the past?”

Chaz rose. “Nothing.” He raised a warning eyebrow. “You work your plan. I’ll work mine. But just so we’re clear, she’s off limits to you.”

He turned and strode out of Billy’s office with the ring of his business partner’s laughter following him down the hall. “I’ll get to the bottom of this thing between the two of you,” he shouted. “I’m good at solving puzzles.”

Chaz was done playing nice with Chalise. His once bad-boy reputation had attracted her, drew her to him like a fish to bait when she was still in high school. The aloofness she showed to the world was a façade. Behind it beat the heart of a do-gooder, raising money for a variety of charities and even volunteering at the animal shelter. She’d let down her royal guard for the tough guy who skirted the law and thumbed his nose at rules. On to plan B. He could revive a bit of his bad-boy ways, throw in a bit of finesse—whatever it took to get Chalise’s undivided attention. Ten years ago, she’d taken his heart, cut him out of her life, and yet, it still only beat for her.

“Princess,” he said, reaching his office chair and settling into it. “I’ve got a deal for you. One you won’t be able to refuse.”

Interview with Linda Joyce

Linda_Joyce_0342Tell us about your new release.

BEHIND THE MASK is a novella set in fictional Ascension, Louisiana. It has all the flavors of southern love story of two people who are reunited after suffering broken hearts years ago. I’m told by several readers, the love scene is not to be missed. Someone even said it is the steamiest of all the love scenes in all my books, but…I think I had little to do with it. I think it’s all about the long, smoldering attraction between Chalise Boudreau and Chaz Riboucheaux. Let’s blame it on them. hehe

What led you to write this book?

I went to Mardi Gras in 2013. My hubby had never been before and I wanted to be sure he had THE best time. Just taking in the sights, sounds, and scents…suddenly, the characters came to me. It was as though they pulled up chairs to our table at Café Du Monde when we were having hot chocolate and beignets. Chalise and Chaz started talking to me. Yes, my husband has gotten use to my brand of crazy…or at least he lets me think he has.

Behind_The_Mask  jpegDid you have an interesting experience in the research of this book?

Absolutely, though I didn’t know it at the time. A surprise trip, a gift from my husband, to Donaldsonville, Louisiana, became the seed-bed for sprouting all the ideas for BEHIND THE MASK.

On Valentine’s Day about eight years ago, I received an envelope. Inside was a plane ticket from Kansas City to New Orleans. Of course, I thought we were headed home, but my Hero had other ideas. After landing in NOLA, hubby rented a car and drove us to Bittersweet Plantation, owned by Chef John Folse and his wife—if you ever get the chance to go, don’t miss it! While we were there, we met the famous artist Alvin Batiste and purchased a painting. We saw photos of a sinking pirate ship and had many locals tell us the story behind the photos. Then, in May of 2013, I was asked to write a few short stories for a romance magazine. This year, I took the characters and the setting from the short story to write a novella with Chalise and Chaz.

How important is setting to your story?

Undeniably critical. In all my novels, setting is a character. Check out my book covers. They show how much I love setting. It influences so much about a reader’s experience. I want readers to see, feel, smell, and hear the elements of each setting. Also, I’ve been accused of making people hungry since I usually have food in each of my stories. If readers were to cook the dishes mentioned in my stories, it might make their reading experience even more powerful. Or at least, I can hope.

Which is more important characters or setting?

Please don’t make me choose. Please. There is no story without characters, but characters require a setting. Setting is almost always plays a part in the external conflict of my characters. Biloxi in Bayou Beckons doesn’t have to shovel sunshine ever, but Lia in Her Heart’s Desire sure has to shovel snow in the wintertime.

Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?

I don’t base my main characters on anyone I know in real life—because my main characters usually come to me fully formed and then, I must learn about what makes them tick. What their fears and desires are. My characters talk to me. We have conversations, sometimes at inopportune times—like when I’m in the shower.

Earlier this year, I spoke at a mixed writers group—writers of many different genres—and a young man, an attorney, approached me afterward with fear flickering in his eyes.

Him: “You said your characters talk to you. Do you actually hear voices like I’m talking to you now? No, it really is just your imagination, right?”

Me: “Well, if hearing them speak is just my imagination, then that’s news to me.”

Him: “No, really, you actually hear voices?”

Me: grinning, I shrugged.

The answer is YES! I hear voices talking to me. But I don’t want to scare people with my truth, so I let them use their imagination about what’s real.

Do you people watch for character inspiration?

My secondary characters are often based on people I know…know is a relative term. A chance meeting somewhere. I watch everywhere. If someone strikes me as amusing or interesting, I ask if I can take their picture. This helps me communicate the essence of their personality when I begin to write a new character. Like the nearly-seventy-year-old lady in the grocery store in Cincinnati with big “southern hair,” white jeans, red-white-and-blue flag shirt, and stilettos.

Or in Port Aransas, Texas, the woman who owned a everything-pink shop. Everything, including her car and her hair, this was long before the current trend of hair highlighting, was pink. I have a woman’s fiction story in mind, and Miss Pink will be a strong secondary character in that book someday.

Do you have a favorite fictional character by another author you’d like to meet?

My birthday is Christmas Eve, so I think I’ve already met the best character there is to meet—Santa Clause. At least that’s the story that was suggested to me about how I arrived in my family. But truthfully, every book I read, in my mind, I’ve met and lived with those characters. I have a rich internal landscape with lots of book friends.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

I want readers to feel as though my female characters are women they would want as friends. Someone who is strong and carries on in the face of great adversity. Someone who is willing to look at their life and make changes to be a better person. Someone loyal. Someone kind. Someone flawed, but rich in integrity.

Do you have an interesting quirk about your personality that you’d like to share?

I count things. I didn’t know this was an OCD trait until I read a Reader’s Digest story about a boy who counted telephone poles as he rode in the back seat of the family car. I find my brain starts counting and then my conscious mind suddenly realizes it—usually this behavior appears when I’m under the most stress. Everywhere I look, I see patterns and I count them.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Sadly, it’s been a very long four years. My momma had lung cancer, and after a four-year battle, died in May. Following her, in June, were two of my three fur babies, Masterpiece Renoir and Gentleman Jack. So for four years, I’ve had to fit writing in between all the needs of my family. I’m a reader, so I read something every day. I also enjoy painting and cooking. I love jazz and the blues—Chris Botti and Tab Benoit are “my guys.” I’m also big romantic comedy movie fan…and no, I’ve never written a romantic comedy, but maybe someday.

Which book impacted you as a teenager?

It wasn’t a book, it was an author—Kathleen Woodiwiss. I was in a finance class in college and a classmate finished a book and handed it to me. That’s when I got hooked on romance. And I enjoy feeding my addiction to this day.

Do you read the same genre you write?

I write contemporary romance and women’s fiction. I do read the same genre I write, just not while I’m writing. When I’m writing, crafting, and creating a new novel, I read historical, self-help, and inspirational non-fiction.

What is #1 on your bucket list?

Here’s a secret. I don’t have one. A bucket list that is. The most important things in life to me are love, music, good farm-to-table food, family, and my fur babies. I am so blessed to have all of that…everything else is gravy. But if you twist my arm, I’d love to spend a summer at Yellowstone National Park working in one of the gift shops for the summer and camping in a motorhome. (Don’t have the motorhome, so maybe that’s on my non-existent bucket list?)

Have you ever written a scene that ‘creeped’ you out?

I took a writing class with Nancy Knight. We had to write a synopsis for a horror story. There were 9 people in the class, of those, three were men. I wrote a synopsis for The Rose, which was based on a nightmare I had a couple of years after my brother was killed in a plane crash. In the class, each student had to read their synopsis aloud. When I finished, one of the men said, “Damn! The quiet ones will always get you.” I found his statement rather funny. I don’t think anyone had ever considered me quiet before.

Do you have a favorite writing place or writing rituals?

When I first started writing, I did. I had a favorite chair, would light a favorite candle, would turn on some classical music and beg my three four-legged boys to “let momma write.” But when I moved from Kansas back to the south and family matters took control of my life, I learned to write when and where I’m able. Noise-cancelling headsets became a good friend. I’ve written in the middle of the night sitting in a recliner next to Momma’s bed in the hospital, in the room where she took chemo therapy, in the truck with my husband driving down the road on a trip between Atlanta and Largo, Florida. When your fingers itch to type and your head’s going to explode, you learn to adapt.

Do you have a reoccurring theme to your books?

Kinda, sorta? Most of my stories deal with second chances. Second chances at love. Second chances to make amends. Second chances to prove loyalty. I guess I’m looking for second chances in my life.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading What a Duke Desires by Sabrina Jefferies, How to Read the Akashic Records by Linda Howe, and a back log of Writer’s Digest magazines. If you want a book to help you through life, I highly recommend Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you want a book on how to improve your relationships, try Dr. John Gray’s Men, Women and Relationships. If you want a romance, send me an email and I’ll make lots of suggestions.

What social media do you participate in?

I’m learning periscope—only done it one. I’m happy with Skype for book clubs. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and I have a blog on my website. Oh, and there’s my YouTube Channel! Video interviews with that special southern setting.



Twitter: @LJWriter


Amazon author page:





What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

“What do you enjoy about meeting readers?” First of all, I am an introvert. I appear “talky” because it’s my coping strategy when I’m nervous. However, I do love meeting readers because I love connecting with people. I grew up Air Force and lived in many places. My parents gave us the gift of travel wherever we lived, so I’ve seen many places. Meeting someone new and finding out that we have a book in common is wonderful, but finding out that we have more in common is fabulous—like a love of place, or music, or food, or animals. I hope that after people meet me, they walk away thinking that we will stay in touch and be friends.

What’s next for you?

I am sooo excited! I have four—yes, four—novellas in production right now. My Fleur de Lis series will have a companion series—Fleur de Lis Brides—coming out soon. It’s a trilogy. Each novella will release as an eBook novella, and when the third novella is released, a print version will be available that includes all three stories. The titles are simple: Branna: Fleur de Lis Brides, book one, Biloxi: Fleur de Lis Brides, book two, and Camilla: Fleur de Lis Brides, book three.

At the same time, I am thrilled to have Christmas Bells as a novella in the Love & Grace anthology. The book will release on September 1st. For the first 90 days, ALL sales are donated to Gracepoint, which is a school that specializes in helping students with dyslexia. After 90 days, I will get my rights back, and I’ll self-publish the book in time for Christmas. Christmas Bells is a sweet romance. Here’s the blurb:

After grieving the loss of her husband and son, TV host Morgan Marshall is ready to embrace life again. But she won’t risk a relationship with the father of her favorite cooking student, Avery, since the girl’s happiness is more important than her own.

Advertising executive Alex Blake never thought another woman could pique his interest after losing his wife to cancer. Yet every time he’s in Morgan’s presence, she brings sunlight into the room. Plus, she’s a role model for his daughter, always assuring Avery that dyslexia can’t hold her back. But if he asks Morgan for a date and then she refuses a second one, the person he loves the most, Avery, could get hurt the worst because she adores Morgan.

When Alex is injured in a fall Morgan insists on caring for him and Avery. As they share holiday fun, Avery topples Morgan’s beloved crystal bell collection, shattering it to pieces. Through it all, they discover love of one another is more priceless than any object money can buy. Love rings in the air at Christmastime.

Review: ISOLATION by Mary Anna Evans

51syBAw0r7L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ISOLATION (Faye Longchamp series) by Mary Anna Evans

Mystery / Poisoned Pen Press

This was my first Faye Longchamp book, and I assure you that I will go back to read the previous books. Archaeology, ancient plantation histories, Native American expertise, a grieving mother, and the surprise return of an estranged parent from prison unleash a fascinating tale of deceit on the isolated Florida island of Joyeuse. Distraught after the death of her daughter, Faye spends her days and nights wandering the island, aimlessly digging holes for artifacts, but when she accidently digs into an old tank that releases a noxious fluid, EPA arrives and finds elevated amounts of arsenic in the soil. Throw in a wealthy “Yankee” convinced that his Civil War ancestor was a prisoner on the island, imprisoned by Cally Stanton, who he calls a crazy woman. Faye ignores the man and the geologist he hires, refusing to tell them that Cally was her great-great-grandmother, a former slave who owned Joyeuse Island. Faye has Cally’s unpublished memoir which alludes to a Civil War officer on the island. Faye emerges from her cocoon of grief determined to discover the evil that has moved onto the island when her good friend is murdered. In the process, she places her family in danger and unearths far more than she ever imagined.

Review: ADRENALINE by John Benedict

51zQZAmYwxL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ADRENALINE by  John Benedict

Createspace Mystery/Thriller

When Dr. Doug Landry, an anesthesiologist at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, is investigated for a series of suspicious deaths that occur shortly after anesthesia is administered, he enters the fight of his life. Who is sabotaging the anesthesia department and why? The book is jammed packed with subplots that will keep you on your toes, as you struggle to dissect each one. If you like medical suspense with hefty doses of sexual tension, desperation, ghastly patient suffering, and lawyers filling the corridors, Benedict’s book is a good read. Fast paced, the book may require you to put it down occasionally to catch your breath.

Writing Craft: Don’t let that research show! by Karen Harper


Since 1982, I’ve been published with over 70 novels, both historicals set in England and U.S.-set contemporary romantic suspense. I love to take my readers to interesting places and bring in fascinating careers for the hero or heroine. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s to not let the research I love to do stand out. It has to be smoothly stirred into plot, characters or setting.

When I wrote my Amish-set rom/sus novels, I worked hard to blend in Amish beliefs and their way of life. My readers would have rolled their eyes at the very least if I had let some character spout their traditions, so this is where the old (and important!) saying, ‘Show, not tell’ comes in.

I’ve tackled a heroine who worked in the ginseng trade, one who was a deep sea diver (which I definitely am not!) and numerous heroes who may be lawyers, arson investigators or small town sheriffs. Even an obstetrician who was in a struggle with a midwife! And here, I was “only” a high school English teacher.

But working research into a book gets even more dangerous when I write my historical novels focusing on the lives of real women, such as Queen Elizabeth I. I had to be extra careful and (I hope!) clever when I wrote my Edwardian novel, THE ROYAL NANNY, which is out this month. After putting in three years of intensive reading about the late Victorians and Edwardians, I had to be very selective of what to share.

Although I had been to England many times, I made a special trip to visit places that would help me with this Downton Abbey era novel: The Victoria and Albert Museum and Buckingham Palace. (No, Her Majesty was not in.) This is the first historical setting I’ve used where I can see photos—even some YouTube videos—which make the characters come much more alive than studying the old portraits of my characters “hanging out” in museums.

So I was especially excited about the research work I’d done, but…

With THE ROYAL NANNY, I really concentrated on my rules to not hit the reader over the head with research I was proud of and loved doing. Just as it was forbidden in the Victorian age to show a flash of ankle or “limb,” I tried to remember these don’t guidelines:

–Don’t put research in dialogue unless it’s short and necessary. Beware, because it will usually should fakey. In other words, I can’t have young Bertie (of The King’s Speech) say, “I just love living here at Sandringham which Grannie Victoria bought for her son to keep him out of trouble.” Work this into the author’s voice or narration. Or at least have an outsider ask for information before someone answers.

–Don’t put big chunks of research together. Readers today don’t want to read four paragraphs straight of description unless it is absolutely necessary to the story. Break it up.

–Don’t copy research. Of course, even if you really liked a piece of research, rework it to make it your own. Not only could it be plagiarism otherwise, but key points need to be selected and written to fit the story.

–Don’t let a modern voice or word creep in. I sometimes go crazy when the copy editor who is reading for each little detail, asks, “Are you sure this word (or book title or whatever) was in use in 1885?” But she is right to ask.

Research is like the perfume of a novel. However much of it you have on your dresser, however much you love the scent, its romantic name or the ad promoting it, just a touch in the right place goes a long way. If the book is fiction, even based on reality, avoid spilling too much out at once or your story will be overpowering and not seductive.

Karen Harper HP

Book Excerpt: TRUE COUNTRY HERO by Darlene Panzera

Eonly_9780062394729_CoverMONTANA HEARTS:  TRUE COUNTRY HERO by Darlene Panzera

Sweet Contemporary Romance / Released June 28th by Avon Impulse

Jace grinned as she walked away. The blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty was interested in him even if she didn’t give him her number. He could tell by the way her eyes widened and her lips parted when she gazed at him with that cautious yet yearning expression, which had several beats of his heart tripping all over each other.

He leaned his arms on the rail of the crowded rodeo arena as one of the bronco riders shot out of the gate. The noise level from the stands rose with cheers, applause, and whistles as the buckin’ cowboy struggled to remain saddled. But as impressive as the wrangler’s ride was, Jace found more pleasure watching Delaney.

She stood to the side of the announcer’s box, her camera raised to her eye and her hands twisting the round lens back and forth to make adjustments as she snapped photo after photo. Her friend Sammy Jo stood beside her, and despite the fact that both women’s attention was fixed on the excitement going on in front of them, their differences stood out like salt and pepper.

While Sammy Jo had hair almost as dark as his own, Delaney’s long tresses were a light blond, like a sweeping halo of sunshine. Sammy Jo certainly had the curves, but Delaney’s slim figure appeared more graceful when she moved, which he found more attractive. And while Sammy Jo posed confidently in front of the camera lens, giving the rider in the arena a thumbs-up, Delaney appeared more comfortable behind it.

He didn’t relish the media attention or ask to take pictures with every new woman he met but something curiously sweet about the camerawoman had tugged at him the moment he saw her. Maybe it was the attentive way she went about her work, as if she truly cared about the quality or was passionate about the subject matter. Jace had hoped it had been the latter. He pulled up the photo of the two of them together on his cell phone and glanced at the smile she’d flashed at the last second. He may have acted like an attention-seeking fool, but he didn’t regret it for one moment.

Not for that shot.

And if she wouldn’t give him her phone number, he’d find another way to get to know her better.

Giveaway -2 Honeychurch Hall Mysteries

The Book Breeze is giving away two hardcover mysteries to delight Downton Abbey fans by Hannah Dennison – A KILLER BALL AT HONEYCHURCH HALL and DEADLY DESIRES AT HONEYCHURCH HALL.  Giveaway runs from July 18 to July 31, 2016.  Tell your friends!

61QJhJ2c+FL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_A KILLER BALL AT HONEYCHURCH HALL by Hannah Dennison / Mystery / Released May 3, 2016 by Minotaur Books.

In this captivating new mystery our heroine Kat Stanford stumbles upon a hidden room in an abandoned wing at Honeychurch Hall.  However, Kat’s initial excitement soon ends in horror.  There, lying on the cold, stone floor, Kat comes across the body of a young woman dress in an Egyptian toga and wearing a tawdry fairground trinket around her broken neck.

Suspicion falls on some of those who live at the Hall – both upstairs and down – and even those who are just passing through.  Kat uses her knowledge of antiques and sleuthing to discover that secret trysts and cads from the past point to the murderer.

61ZgJX7tIJL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_DEADLY DESIRES AT HONEYCHURCH HALL by Hannah Dennison / Mystery / Released May 2015 by Minotaur Books.

When the body of a transport minister is discovered on the grounds of Honeychurch Hall, suspicion about his unusual demise naturally falls on the folks in the village.  After all, who could possibly want a high-speed train line built in their front yard?

News of the murder soon reaches Trudy Wynne, the nemesis of our heroine, Kat Stanford.  A ruthless tabloid journalist and the ex-wife of Kat’s discarded lover, Trudy is out for revenge.  She is also interested in exposing – and humiliating – Kat’s mother, Iris, who is secretly the international bestselling romance writer Krystalle Storn.

As the body count begins to build, Kat becomes inextricably embroiled in the ensuing scandal.  Is the minister’s death the result of a local vendetta, or could it be connected to her mother’s unusual (to say the least) past?


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway contest runs from July 18 to July 31, 2016.  Tell your friends!

Books mailed to U.S. addresses only.