Interview with Belle Calhoune, author of “Adored”

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

Please welcome Belle Calhoune to the blog today.

She’s here to talk about her book, Adored.

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About the Book:

 This series centers around seven brothers and one sister raised by Penelope and Jude Donahue in the idyllic Florida seaside town of Pelican Bay. A blended family of adopted and biological siblings, the Donahue clan always have each other’s backs as they face life’s challenges and search for love. A spin-off of the Cape Cod Donahue brothers, the Pelican Bay clan are their southern cousins.

Caleb Donahue is a chef who has recently achieved his life’s dream of opening his own bistro, The Blue Bayou. Adopted by the Donahue family of Pelican Bay, Caleb’s past is a bit murky. He’s stuffed down the memories of his biological mother and the circumstances leading to his adoption by the Donahue family.

Addie Fontaine steps into his life when he least expects it. Daughter of a wealthy businessman, Sebastian Fontaine, Addie is attempting to prove herself to her father by making inroads in the business world. When her father gives her his partnership in the Blue Bayou, Addie ends up working side by side with Caleb. Addie is determined to step up and live her life out loud, while Caleb is determined to make his bistro a success.

When love comes calling, will Addie and Caleb be able to reach out for the love of a lifetime?

Book purchase link: Amazon

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About the Author: 

 Belle Calhoune grew up in a small town in Massachusetts as one of five children. Although her mother was a doctor and her father a biologist, Belle never gravitated toward science. Growing up across the street from a public library was a huge influence on her life and fueled her love of romance novels. Belle is the author of nine Harlequin Love Inspired novels with a tenth hitting the shelves in March of 2018. She has Indie published the popular and best-selling inspirational romance series, Seven Brides, Seven Brothers. The Secrets of Savannah and Pelican Bay are both spin-offs of her debut series. Belle loves writing romance and crafting happily-ever-afters. When she’s not wrangling her two high maintenance dogs or spending time with her husband and two daughters, Belle enjoys travel and exploring new places.

Follow Belle on Twitter

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Interview with Belle Calhoune about her book, Adored:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Belle: I have been writing about children adopted through the foster care system for several years now. This series is a spin-off of my original “Seven Brides, Seven Brothers” series where all seven children were adopted from foster care. With Adored, I wanted to create a love story between two people who came from vastly different backgrounds and experiences, yet both yearned for a soft place to fall. The desire to love and be loved is universal.

Alexis: What is the significance of your book’s title “Adored”?

Belle: To be honest, I love the idea of two people adoring one another. Adored is such a powerful state of being. To be adored! I also love the Prince song “Adore” so that sentiment of being so richly loved resonated with me. And I think it resonated with Caleb and Addie.

Alexis: Paint of picture of this story’s setting (Pelican Bay) with words.

Belle: Pelican Bay is a small, seaside town in beautiful, sunny Florida. Known for sunsets, dolphin sightings, and stunning vistas, Pelican Bay is a little bit of paradise.

Alexis: Describe the ethnic and racial makeup of your hero Caleb and your heroine Addie.

Belle: Both Caleb and Addie are African-American.

Alexis: What is about Caleb that makes him the perfect hero for this story?

Belle: Despite his difficult origins, Caleb has a huge heart. He views the world through an optimistic lens and he has a lot of love to bestow on a woman. He is dependable and loyal, loving and strong.

Alexis: What is it about Addie that makes her a good heroine in this story?

Belle: Addie, much like Caleb, has suffered huge losses in her life, particularly the death of her twin sister, Tabitha. Despite that tremendous loss, Addie never gives up on the idea of her own personal happy ending. She lives each day with hope and an open heart.

Alexis: What draws Caleb and Addie to each other?

Belle: They are thrust together for work purposes, but soon find that there is an attraction neither anticipated. Although their backgrounds are very different, they are very similar in what they want for their lives. Faith. Family. Forever.

Alexis: How—and when—do Caleb and Addie they realize that they’re the perfect romantic match?

Belle: I think it’s a gradual realization. For Caleb, Addie is a source of support and she provides him with immeasurable companionship as he unravels the mystery of his past. For Addie, Caleb is the person who helps her grow and change, both emotionally and with regards to stepping outside of her comfort zone. I think both realize that their lives are better with each other in it. At that moment, they know it’s love.

Alexis: Did you research bistros to write this story? I see that the main focus is on Caleb who is a chef and business owner of a bistro. So if you visited bistros, please share details.

Belle: Because I live an hour outside of New York City, I have the good fortune of being able to visit the city often. They have the most wonderful bistros there. I have also been fortunate to travel to Paris on two occasions. Paris has very unique and delightful bistros that offer the most wonderful food in the world.

Alexis: What role does race play in this story…or does it?

Belle: It doesn’t really, other than I enjoy portraying diverse characters as I experience them in real life. Addie is the daughter of a successful businessman while Caleb was adopted into a very loving and warm family. His birth mother loved him tremendously but circumstances were not kind to them. I strive to portray my diverse characters as intelligent, hard-working, God-fearing people who love with all their heart and soul.

Alexis: Do you think that we need more stories like yours in the Christian book markets, stories that feature diverse characters? Why or why not?

Belle: I absolutely think that the Christian market is lacking in diverse characters and stories. The market should reflect the world we inhabit, and sadly, that is not the case at the moment. Diverse authors have so much to give to this genre and they should be afforded the opportunity to shine and tell their stories. It’s 2017 and we still need diverse books.

Alexis: Do you write about your personal experiences related to what you’ve experienced as a woman writer of color, in your stories? Why or why not?

Belle: I have been very fortunate as a writer of color. I have wonderful fans and my stories have been embraced by my wonderful readership. I have written about things that have happened to me as a person of color. When I was a child my family lived in a predominantly white town in Massachusetts. We were one of the first, if not the first, families of African American descent to live there. There were racist incidents against my family, which was devastating since my parents were such loving, hard-working professional people. Several boys racially harassed me in my class for years. It was very scary as a child who had no way to fight back against prejudice. I wrote about this in one of my books in the Secrets of Savannah series. My heroine was able to face her tormentor as an adult. It felt cathartic since I have never been able to do that.

Alexis: How would you describe your view of the world and do you write your characters according to that view? Or do you create them based on imagination or watching people in real-life?

Belle: As writers, I think we always inject ourselves into our works. It’s impossible not to. I believe that we are all humans and it doesn’t matter what color or race we are. People are people. Love is love. God made us all and His command is to love one another. I think I inject that philosophy into all of my novels.

Alexis: What would you say was the most difficult part of writing this story? Explain.

Belle: I tend to get very emotional about my prologues. The reality is that kids end up in foster care for very sad and tragic reasons, whether it’s neglect, drug abuse, abandonment or other reasons. I can’t shy away from it. But when I actually do the prologue and place the child in the scenario it hurts. I have a very tender heart, so it’s not easy. But readers do love the prologues because they get a glimpse into the background of the now adult characters. It makes the readers love the character even more because their journey has been so epic.

Alexis: If you could do dinner with Caleb and Addie at the bistro, what would you order and what would be the focus of your conversation?

Belle: I would love to hear both Caleb and Addie discuss their childhoods. Caleb has the memories of his biological mother that he has repressed for many years, but he also has the memories of his adoptive family, the Donahues. Addie has been raised in luxury, but her parents went through a painful divorce and she lost her twin sister. I would like to hear them talk about these life-altering moments. And I would order a French sandwich, Croque-Monsieur with a side of grilled Kale. I would order sparkling water and chocolate mousse for dessert.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Belle! Do you have any closing comments?

Belle: Thank you for inviting me to be your guest. The questions were very thought-provoking and interesting. Blessings.

*Interviewed by Alexis A. Goring

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Book Review: Adored by Belle Calhoune

Happy Friday, Reader Friends!

Today, we’ve got a book to recommend that you read over the weekend.

Enjoy my review of Adored (Seven Brides Seven Brothers Pelican Bay Book 2), a book written by Belle Calhoune.

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About the Book:

 This series centers around seven brothers and one sister raised by Penelope and Jude Donahue in the idyllic Florida seaside town of Pelican Bay. A blended family of adopted and biological siblings, the Donahue clan always have each other’s backs as they face life’s challenges and search for love. A spin-off of the Cape Cod Donahue brothers, the Pelican Bay clan are their southern cousins.

Caleb Donahue is a chef who has recently achieved his life’s dream of opening his own bistro, The Blue Bayou. Adopted by the Donahue family of Pelican Bay, Caleb’s past is a bit murky. He’s stuffed down the memories of his biological mother and the circumstances leading to his adoption by the Donahue family.

Addie Fontaine steps into his life when he least expects it. Daughter of a wealthy businessman, Sebastian Fontaine, Addie is attempting to prove herself to her father by making inroads in the business world. When her father gives her his partnership in the Blue Bayou, Addie ends up working side by side with Caleb. Addie is determined to step up and live her life out loud, while Caleb is determined to make his bistro a success.

When love comes calling, will Addie and Caleb be able to reach out for the love of a lifetime?

Book purchase link: Amazon

~*~

My Review:

“Adored” by Belle Calhoune is a sweet story.

The story centers on Addie Fontaine, Caleb Donahue, and their families.

The setting for this story is true to its idyllic description of Pelican Bay, which in this story is a seaside town in Florida.

Caleb is going through a rough patch in life until Addie walks into his life and brings a fresh breath of air. Though their initial meeting was a bit rocky because of Addie’s father, Sebastian Fontaine. He is the famous wealthy businessman known for being ruthless and has his sights set on Caleb’s bistro, The Blue Bayou. But Addie and Caleb manage to work together to save Caleb’s bistro and in the process, they fall in love.

No love story is worth its weight in gold without conflict and this story has plenty! It’s filled with family drama, traumatic memories from Caleb’s past, plot twists and moments where you are sitting on the edge of your seat hoping that there’s still hope of a happily-ever-after.

The plot is drawn out very well but some of the drama went from high to low too quickly. It almost felt like one moment they were mad at each other and then in the next second, they were kissing. However, some may argue that’s true to real-life.

The characters are creative in their nature and likable. As a reader, I found myself rooting for Addie and Caleb’s love story from the start because they seemed like a good match—the type where one is weak the other is strong and visa versa. The personalities of Addie and Caleb along with their different approaches to business, and outlook on life created the perfect balance not only in their private lives but in their work experience.

It only took two days for me to read this story from start to finish. The author’s storytelling style will sweep you off your feet, drop you into the center of her fictional story world and keep you entertained until you reach “The End”…once there, you may not want to return to the real world!

Overall, this was a wonderful story worth a rating of at least 4-stars.

*Reviewed by Alexis A. Goring

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Book Spotlight: Love’s Second Chance by Cindy Flores Martinez

Happy Wednesday, Diverse Reader Friends!

We’re featuring a new book today. Love’s Second Chance is a book that was written by accomplished author/screenwriter Cindy Flores Martinez.

Enjoy her book spotlight!

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About the book: 

Can two broken hearts find healing together?

Brad McIntyre is much too young to feel so disillusioned with his life as a deputy sheriff. Esperanza De La Cruz has left the only home she has ever known to work at Sweet Grove’s daycare. When someone steals her car, Deputy McIntyre comes to the rescue.

There’s an instant attraction between them, but they’re both broken on the inside. Her father is in prison for intoxicated manslaughter and she’s afraid that Brad won’t want to be with her because of it.

He’s thinking of leaving the only career he’s ever known but pretends that everything is fine. His desperate prayers seem to go unanswered.

When they start spending time together and their feelings for each other begin to grow stronger, things become even more complicated. When the truth comes out, will it pull them apart or will they find a second chance at love and in life together?

Buy the book on Amazon

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About the Author: Cindy Flores Martinez is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes Christian romance. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Her debut novel, Mail-Order Groom, started as a screenplay and movie project, which she shopped around Hollywood, New York, and other parts of the world. You can learn more about her at www.cindyfloresmartinez.com.

Follow Cindy: Facebook ~ Twitter

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Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring “Worth a Thousand Words”

Please extend a warm welcome to a familiar face here on our blog!

Journalist Stacy Hawkins Adams returns to answer my questions about book number two in her Jubilant Soul Series, Worth a Thousand Words.

Enjoy!

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About the book:

 Life has always gone Indigo Burns’s way. She’s smart, pretty, and talented, and she knows exactly what she wants. A photography internship at her hometown’s local newspaper is the next step in her well-laid plans for her future. But her long-term goals are put to the test when her boyfriend Brian proposes–two years before he’s supposed to and in front of all the guests at her college graduation party. Too concerned about his feelings to say no, she heartily agrees, but inside she’s cringing.

Indigo knows in her heart that she’s not prepared to sacrifice her dreams to become Brian’s wife–not before she has achieved any of them. Will she find the answers among family and friends in Jubilant, Texas? Or will the picture-perfect life she dreams of be left behind?

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N ~ CBD

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Author Bio: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist, and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book.

She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family.

Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book, Worth a Thousand Words:

Alexis: What was the inspiration behind the title of this book?

Stacy: Worth a Thousand Words is a metaphor for how the truth is worth a thousand words. The main characters in this novel had to choose between living their lives to please others or finding the courage to stand in their own truths.

Alexis: Indigo is a very artsy, unique name for a heroine. How did you imagine her name? What is she like? Describe her personality, passion, career goals and dreams of her heart.

Stacy: I’m always on the hunt for intriguing character names – whether I find them in articles or overhear them in conversations. I don’t quite recall how I discovered this particular name, but when I heard it, I fell in love, and when it was time to create a young character who was vibrant and arts-oriented (via her photography), this name seemed perfect.

Indigo is a recent college grad beloved by her family, including her favorite older cousin Rachelle, who is the main character in The Someday List, the first novel in my Jubilant Soul series. She is eager to launch a career as a photographer and see the world, so she is caught off guard when her handsome boyfriend – who her parents consider to be “a good catch” – proposes at her graduation party before she even has a chance to experience independence. While she says yes to the proposal to save face, her heart is screaming something else, and she must decide which path to take.

Alexis: Why would her boyfriend Brian’s proposal interfere with her carefully constructed life plans?

Stacy: In part because she is so young that her plans simply include being excited about the possibilities life could offer. By choosing to follow Brian in following his dream, she might always wonder if she had compromised her own. And truthfully, Indigo has to decide whether the love she feels for Brian is truly deep enough to spend the rest of her life with him, or just convenient and pleasing to her parents.

Alexis: Does Indigo love Brian? It looks like her heart didn’t want to say “yes”.

Stacy: As I mentioned above, she does, but even she is not sure if it’s an enduring, God-ordained love. They make a picture-perfect couple, but beyond the surface, are they really compatible, and meant to help each other flourish in their purpose and dreams? The fact that Indigo seems less than thrilled by the proposal and the impending wedding plans makes her wonder.

Alexis: Why does Indigo fear marriage and settling down with Brian?

Stacy: Because she’s so young. There’s so much to learn about herself and life and her purpose. She doesn’t know how to articulate this, but what she’s feeling is the question of “Is there something more?” And the fact that she’s asking herself this in various ways is her clue that there probably is something more, or at least something different, for her.

Alexis: What were the challenges unique to writing this story?

Stacy: This was a fun book to write because it allowed me to explore the inner thoughts, hopes, and fears of two young adult characters (in their early 20s), at a pivotal time in their lives. The only challenge was trying to tell the story without giving away Brian’s struggles too early and also those of a few other characters. I also sought to write about the issues they were facing in a balanced way so that readers could decide for themselves whose side to take.

Alexis: What were the most rewarding parts of writing this novel?

Stacy: Showing the humanity of all of the characters, even when they made choices that I knew readers might question or find frustrating. My goal was to show their motivation for their choices so that when readers put down the book and considered the choices of people around them, they might begin to extend a little more grace.

Alexis: As a real-life journalist, was it easy for you to write the scenes where Indigo takes pictures with her professional camera? Why or why not?

Stacy: Yes – having worked in newsrooms with great professional photographers was a bonus. I was able to pull from those experiences to make Indigo’s summer job realistic.

Alexis: As an author of color, do you feel like you need to write about characters that look like you and share your experiences? Or do you write stories about characters that are not of color too? Explain.

Stacy: I write about the humanity of all characters because, at the end of the day, we all care about the same things and about people we love. We all want to be safe, happy, loved and fulfilled, and we all can grow from a personal relationship with God. With that in mind, it’s a pleasure to write about characters of color who reflect this, because this is who I am, and many people I know. At the same time, I’ve heard from readers of all backgrounds that they’ve found my stories relatable, and that they were surprised once they started reading how they sometimes forgot that the characters “happened” to be African American.

I don’t take those comments to mean that there’s anything wrong with having characters who are people of color; instead, I believe what they’re saying is that the stories were relevant to them, no matter what the characters looked like. And yes – I often include characters in my books who are not African American, because we live in a multi-cultural world, and this helps the book feel more true-to-life.

I also try to show that true friendship, grace, love, and caring can be more powerful than any surface or cultural differences; we just have to open our hearts and eyes to this and truly see the other person.

Alexis: What do you want your readers to remember most about this story?

Stacy: I want readers to remember that trusting the truths in your heart is the best path to take, in every aspect of your life.

Each of the primary characters in this novel experienced a peace beyond understanding when they embraced this reality and stood tall in who they felt called to be and in what they felt led to do. This doesn’t mean it was always easy or that the path was always clear; but because they were honoring what they felt was right, they knew they would be okay. They trusted that God’s hand on their lives was the best roadmap to follow to their joy.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Stacy! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Stacy: Thanks for the opportunity to share with your readers about my novel Worth a Thousand Words. I loved writing this book and I hope they will find it inspiring, eye-opening and thought-provoking. I’d love to receive feedback on my social media pages. In the meantime, I wish everyone reading this all my best.

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Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

Book Review: Unmasked Heart

Book title: Unmasked Heart

Author: Vanessa Riley

Number of pages: 412

Book blurb: Shy, nearsighted caregiver, Gaia Telfair always wondered why her father treated her a little differently than her siblings, but she never guessed she couldn’t claim his love because of a family secret, her illicit birth. With everything she knows to be true evaporating before her spectacles, can the mulatto passing for white survive being exposed and shunned by the powerful duke who has taken an interest in her?Ex-warrior, William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, will do anything to protect his mute daughter from his late wife’s scandals. With a blackmailer at large, hiding in a small village near the cliffs of Devonshire seems the best option, particularly since he can gain help from the talented Miss Telfair, who has the ability to help children learn to speak.

Ex-warrior, William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, will do anything to protect his mute daughter from his late wife’s scandals. With a blackmailer at large, hiding in a small village near the cliffs of Devonshire seems the best option, particularly since he can gain help from the talented Miss Telfair, who has the ability to help children learn to speak.

If only he could do a better job at shielding his heart from the young lady, whose honest hazel eyes see through his jests as her tender lips challenge his desire to remain a single man. Unmasked Heart is the first Challenge of the Soul Regency novel.

Book purchase links: AmazonBAM!B&N

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My Thoughts:

Sadness, sweetness and true beauty were poetically woven throughout this story with the perfect title for its content.

The story is called Unmasked Heart and the author Vanessa Riley is a true authority on all things regency romance. She skillfully and flawlessly paints vivid pictures in every scene featuring characters of color.

The heroine Gaia Telfair is what people back then (and now) would call a “mulatto” which means that she is a mix of White and Black blood/heritage/lineage. Due to her mixed blood, her skin is a bit darker than her White family members and she’s very self-conscious about it. She even stays out of the sun for a month prior to a fancy masquerade ball so that she appears paler and closer to the skin color that was accepted by society at that time which was a milky white complexion.

Gaia’s father spun the story about her skin color from her birth to be socially acceptable. He said that she had Spanish ancestry and for a while, that lie worked…until Gaia discovered the truth.

The author knows how to peel back the layers in this story like a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef would expertly peel back the layers of an onion. Every layer reveals something new about the hero and heroine of this story. It’s so well done and intriguing that the reader will keep turning the page until they reach the end. The reader’s journey through this book is an experience of a myriad of emotions as the plot twists and the tension builds.

Highlights from this book include the scene where William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, advises Gaia that she give her love interest “something to chase” because “every man wants to win love and know that it’s his alone.” It ups the ante on the love triangle that’s happening in this story. It’s the classic case of the heroine wants the object of her affection but he does not want her (at first) and meanwhile, the true hero (William) wants the heroine. The difference, however, is that William is a hero worth his weight in gold who makes Elliot (Gaia’s love interest/first hero of choice) pale in comparison.

Another highlight in this book was when Gaia confesses her feelings to a man that she thinks is Elliot. But his face is hidden behind a mask because they’re attending a masquerade ball. It was compelling to hear Gaia pour out her “unmasked heart” to “Elliot” only to find out that it is not he. The reaction of the man who is not Elliot was swoon-worthy.

A sad part of this story was the fact that Gaia believed the Black side of her heritage prevented the only father that she knew from loving her as one of his biological daughters. Even sadder was the scene where Gaia learned the circumstances of her conception and the tragic results of the affair that her mother had with Gaia’s biological father. Worse yet is her belief that her Blackness will prevent the man she loves from loving her back.

However, the reader may be surprised by Gaia’s unique marriage proposal. It was a scene that made me laugh out loud. The interaction between Gaia and her suitor was heartwarming.

One of the most clever lines in this story was when a Black man named Albert talks about his mixed-race niece whose hair like Gaia’s which he describes as “feathers in the fog”. It was a very clever way for this author to reveal that Albert knew that Gaia was part Black and it rings true even in the year 2017 when quite often a Black person in America can easily point out another Black person no matter what percentage of Black blood they have just by details that most people who are not Black may miss.

It made me sad that a character advised Gaia to not tell William that she is Black because it would “ruin everything”. But that’s a reality that Black women of mixed heritage still sometimes face in 2017 which is centuries after the era this book was written to reflect.

Most powerful was the point in this story where Gaia realizes that it doesn’t matter how her biological father’s background or status in society ranked. What matters is that she’s a Child of the King (GOD) so God made her somebody and she deserves happiness.

I loved reading this story! The author’s storytelling style is historically accurate, enthralling, and smooth. The storyline is strong and so well told that it was hard to take a break from reading it.

Unmasked Heart is worth every bit of a 5-star rating!

*The book reviewer (Alexis A. Goring) received a complimentary copy of Unmasked Heart from the author in exchange for an honest review.

~*~

About the Author: Vanessa Riley worked as an engineer before allowing her passion for historical romance to shine. A Regency era (early 1800s) and Jane Austen enthusiast, she brings the flavor of diverse peoples to her stories. Since she was seventeen, Vanessa has won awards for her writing and is currently working on two series. She lives in Atlanta with her military man hubby and precocious child. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

 Follow Vanessa:  WebsiteFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoodreads

Author Interview: Melissa Storm

Today, we’re featuring Melissa Storm. She’s an author with a passion for creating characters about people who are underrepresented in the book world and real-world society. Her newest release, Love’s Promise, is the focus of today’s interview feature.

About the book:

Kristina Rose Maher wants to know why fairytales never happen for fat girls. Certain that diner cook Jeff, handsome and fit, will never want her as more than a friend, she stuffs down her attraction to him. But when she finds herself facing a life-altering weight loss surgery, she discovers she’s willing to do whatever it takes to embrace life—and love—to the fullest.

Jeffrey Berkley can’t bear the thought of losing the friend he’s only just beginning to realize matters so much to him… no matter what size she is. But he is also terrified that helping her reach for her dreams will also mean finally reaching for his own—and letting down his family’s legacy in the process.

Both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to love themselves before they can find a way to make a promise to each other. Will they finally be able to lay their heavy burdens at the Lord’s feet, and trust him to bring the happily-ever-after they both crave?

Don’t miss this sweet tale of faith, love, and gastric bypass–get your copy of Love’s Promise today!

Purchase the book: Amazon, B&N, Kobo

Author bio: Melissa Storm is a mother first, and everything else second. Her fiction is highly personal and often based on true stories. Writing is Melissa’s way of showing her daughter just how beautiful life can be, when you pay attention to the everyday wonders that surround us.

Melissa loves books so much, she married fellow author Falcon Storm. Between the two of them, there are always plenty of imaginative, awe-inspiring stories to share. When she’s not reading, writing, or child-rearing, Melissa spends time relaxing at home in the company of her four dogs, four parrots, and rescue cat. She never misses an episode of The Bachelor or her nightly lavender-infused soak in the tub. Because priorities.

The Interview:

Alexis: Why did you write this book?

Melissa: Love’s Promise is deeply personal for me. I don’t think I’ve ever written as much of myself into a character as I did Kristina Rose. As a former gastric bypass patient and someone who has struggled with body image issues my whole life (and still does), I wanted to write a romance that was every bit as much about self-love as romantic love.

Alexis: What’s the special meaning behind your title, Love’s Promise?

Melissa: Love’s Promise is about the promise we must make to ourselves, and how when you start respecting your commitments to your own life you can truly unlock a better and happier world!

Alexis: The heroine in your story, Kristina Rose Maher, desires to know “why fairytales never happen for fat girls.” Talk about the reasons why she believes that to be true. Share her personal journey.

Melissa: Kristina Rose lives in the same small Texas town she grew up in. All her friends are thin and fair. As the only overweight woman in her friend group and one of the few racial minorities in the town, she’s kind of written off the chances of ever having her own love story. She develops feelings for a long-time friend but thinks he would never, could never want her in return.

Alexis: Jeffrey Berkley is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, personality, character flaws and passion for his work as a diner cook.

Melissa: Jeffrey is handsome and fit. He likes to take long runs with his Newfie, Toto, and loves preparing healthy, creative meals. His main flaw is that he never considers what he wants and lives his life by trying to please others. In this way, despite their physical differences, Kristina Rose and Jeffrey face the same struggles of not really loving themselves. They take the journey toward self-acceptance together even though they start at very different points.

Alexis: Why does Kristina think that her being fat equates to the “fact” that Jeffrey will never love her more than a friend?

Melissa: Like so many women, Kristina Rose can’t see her own beauty and therefore assumes others can’t see it either. I think that’s a problem most of us face whether we find ourselves too fat, too thin, too anything. It’s like we reject ourselves before others have the chance to do it for us.

Alexis: What is the turning point for Kristina?

Melissa: She has her first bout of dumping syndrome following her bypass surgery—imagine the most nausea you’ve ever felt and multiply it by 100. She blames herself even though it’s extremely common after surgery. Jeffrey comforts her and makes her promise that she’ll start treating herself the way she treats others, since she is on the same team as her body. It’s a struggle, but now that she realizes how unfair she so often is to herself, she begins to make progress in turning that attitude around.

Alexis: What does Jeffrey think of Kristina when he first meets her? What does Kristina think of Jeffrey?

Melissa: This is a friends-to-lovers story. Jeffrey and Kristina Rose have known each other since high school and been great friends ever since they both began working at the local diner. They’ve just always been there for each other, but don’t realize their friendship has turned to love until the prospect of possibly losing Kristina on the eve of her surgery makes Jeffrey realize how much he cares for her—and that’s much more than as a friend.

Alexis: What role does faith in God play in this story?

Melissa: The role of faith is huge, and the message really comes out when Kristina Rose attends the sermon of her best friend who is also the youth pastor of their church. Self-doubt is a form of fear, and ultimately both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to trust in God in order to also trust in themselves.

Alexis: As a White author, was it challenging for you to write about a hero and heroine who are both African-American? If so, describe the challenges. If no, explain why.

No, it really wasn’t. It gave me a chance to think about how the characters’ lens might differ from my own. But that’s what authors do with every single character they write. We have to become a different age, gender, personality, set of experiences each and every time—especially for deep point of view books like I write.

Alexis: Why are you passionate about telling Kristina and Jeffrey’s story?

Melissa: Because it’s one so many of us can relate to and hopefully find hope in. All my stories are about finding light in dark times, and the world needs that now just as much as ever.

Alexis: What advice do you have for White authors who want to write about characters of color (African American, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, etc.), but are not quite sure how to tell their story?

Melissa: Be authentic, period. Remember that no matter the background, each character is more defined by their unique personality and experiences than just their race, just their gender, just their creed. Develop the whole character. Be open to learning, and don’t resort to stereotypes. A character should be a three-dimensional being living in your two-dimensional world. Give your character life.

Alexis: You’re passionate about telling the stories of everyone, regardless of their race. Have you always been this way? If not, what was the inciting incident that set you on this hero’s journey?

Melissa: Yes, I have always been drawn to multicultural fiction both as a writer and a reader. I grew up in a poor, mostly non-White area, and for years was the only White girl around. I was bullied, teased, and didn’t have any friends until late in elementary school. I know how it feels to be outcast simply based on appearances and prejudices, and it sucks.

At the same time, all that time by myself and with my books in those formative years was amazing for my self growth and creativity. I don’t regret it as an adult, but I was an incredibly lonely child—and that’s still having been a member of America’s dominant society. I still saw myself represented on TV, in magazines and books. I can’t imagine how isolating it must be to feel alone on all levels, especially for a child.

More recently in life… My first husband came from India. We were together for eight years, and for eight years I lived and breathed that culture. As such, Hindu culture makes it into my stories most often, but I also enjoy exploring characters from other walks of like too.

Currently, my wonderful soulmate (second) husband and I are in the process of adopting a child—or possibly children—from Bulgaria. They are of Romani descent, a culture which has been discriminated against widely throughout history. The Romani children are frequently adopted to America, because the rampant racism in Europe makes it difficult to find homes there. We are enjoying learning about their beautiful culture and their shared history with the Jewish people of Europe, and we are also teaching our three-year-old daughter as we learn.

I simply cannot image a life without full color. Our differences make us unique, and they make life exciting!

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Melissa! Would you like to share any closing thoughts?

Melissa: Thank you for the thoughtful interview questions, Alexis. I am so pleased that I am able to bring this story into the world and hopefully help others who struggle with the same self-esteem issues I faced growing up and even as an adult. Fiction entertains, yes, but I also hope mine means something special to those who read it.

~*~

Connect with Melissa:

Website ~ www.MelStorm.com

Facebook ~ www.Facebook.com/MeetTheStorms

Instagram ~ www.Instagram.com/MeetTheStorms

Pinterest ~ www.Pinterest.com/MelStormAuthor

Twitter ~ www.Twitter.com/MelStormAuthor

YouTube ~ www.MelStorm.com/YouTube

~*~

Links for Love’s Promise:

Book Trailer ~ https://youtu.be/qBLm9Im_vsk

Read the First 3 Chapters ~ http://www.melstorm.com/SpecialPreview

Book Spotlight: Hope in My Heart, A Collection of Heartwarming Stories

Thanks for visiting our blog!

Today, we are featuring a book spotlight on Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, written by our contributor Alexis A. Goring.

About the book: Hope in My Heart is a collection of short, heartwarming stories with characters in need of hope.hope-in-my-heart

In Love Unexpected,a car crash brings commitment-wary Sebastian and career woman Chandra together. Neither is looking for romance, but those around them see the potential, and Sebastian and Chandra discover that sometimes love shows up unexpectedly.

Christmastime is the setting for the middle story, The Best Gift. Christina desires to lose ten pounds so she can fit into her dress for her sister’s wedding. Jordan wishes her mom would stop trying to marry her off. And Joshua hopes to be reunited with his ex-girlfriend but eventually learns that the best gift this Christmas will be the restoration of his relationship with God.

In Peace and Love, three characters living in a metropolitan area are desperately searching. Elle, a starving artist, aspires to become a paid professional. Eric, a divorce attorney, wants to resolve his issues concerning his parents’ divorce. Kristine anticipates finding her birth mom before she marries Derek. All characters pray their searches will conclude this holiday season and fill their hearts with peace and love.

Purchase the book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CBD

About the author:

alexis-a-goring-nov-2014-author-photoAlexis A. Goring is a writer at heart and a journalist by profession. She loves the art of storytelling and is especially delighted to have released her first book, an inspirational romance short story collection called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, in Sept. 2013. When she is not working on her next book, Alexis can be found listening to songs by her most admired musicians, enjoying the food in cafes/restaurants, shopping at her favorite malls and spending quality time with loved ones (family and friends). She recently joined the Forget Me Not Romances family of traditionally published authors and is excited about the publication journey that God is taking her on.

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