Friday, November 22, 2013

Temptation Bay by Anna Sullivan - Book Review

I received a copy of Temptation Bay, by Anna Sullivan via NetGalley for an honest review. This is the first story in a series about a fictional island off the coast of Maine called Windfall Island. We open the book with the hero and heroine flying in a helicopter to the island. The pilot? Maggie Solomon, our heroine. That right there should tell you Maggie isn't going to be your typical romance heroine. Her passenger is Dexter Keegan, as supposed lawyer, but we learn later that he's a PI. The cloak and dagger surrounding his true profession relates to the reason he's going to the island, which is to solve the mystery of a suspected kidnapping. A baby was taken from her wealthy parents, presumably by the nanny, about 100 years ago. The trail leads to Windfall Island, a place full of mystery and a bunch of Mainers who are both suspicious of outsiders and hesitant to give away any information.

Dex wants to find any living descendants of this baby for his own reasons, in part to make a name for himself and in part because he likes the idea of changing people's lives by solving these kinds of cases. Life on this island is hard, and Dex can see straight away that the descendant of this baby would greatly benefit from creating financial ties with the wealthy Stanhope family. Problem is, someone doesn't want that person to be found. We're never given the why of that fact, just informed that it's the case. The mystery continues into the next book in the series, Hideaway Cove.

Maggie isn't technically an islander, since she wasn't born there. But she's a transplant with family ties - her mother was an islander and her mother's family still lives there. She's made a name for herself by building her own little airport and charter company from the ground up, and everyone loves and respects her. Well, almost everyone. It's evident from the get-go that Maggie is a no nonsense kind of girl. She grew up with a military father, a man who is now an Admiral in the Navy and is poised to join the Joint Chief's of Staff. He's not very happy with Maggie because she always refuses to play his games. Yes, she has some big daddy issues. As such, she's very, very protective of her adopted home and the friends who have become family (as well as the family she adores).

Maggie and Dex ruffle each other's feathers from the moment they meet. Between stepping on the other person's last nerve and the sexual attraction they keep trying to ignore, they're like an explosion waiting to happen. And then it does. They're forced to work together on Dex's case and sparks quickly ignite into an inferno. Thinking one time will get it out of their system, they go for it. Only to find that once is just not enough.

But it can't be straightforward, because what good story ever is? Maggie's life is on Windfall and she can't envision Dex wanting to stay. And Dex thinks that Maggie will never let herself fall for him because of her issues with her father, so he's trying not to be the stupid one who gets their heart broken. Their story gets resolved by the end, but Dex's case does not. That leads into Hideaway Cove, which will tell the story of Maggie's best friend, Jessi Randall and Holden Abbot, the genealogist Dex hired to help him solve the mystery. I could see the sparks between those two as soon as Hold showed his pretty, southern gentleman face at Solomon Charters.

Overall, an enjoyable read. I'm not typically attracted to mysteries, but this one was interesting and it helped support the romance enough that I could like it anyway. I wish I'd been able to prioritize it, but since this wasn't a paid review, well, it didn't get its due until later. But it was worth the read once I started, and I can't wait to read about Hold and Jessi and see if the mystery of Eugenia Stanhope is resolved in that story or if it continues. I'm hoping there will be more than just two books in the series, regardless. I think once you introduce one outsider to an island community, you make it possible for there to be others. If it was me, I'd bring along Alec, Dex's friend and the Stanhope family's lawyer, for the next book so that he can get his own story in the third one. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

One last note: for a woman who is from Michigan and who lives there, I think the author did a pretty decent job of portraying Maine. From someone who has lived here a majority of her life, that's a big compliment. I tend to dislike stories set in my state that make me feel like I'm not really here. Kudos, Anna Sullivan. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Lessons Learned

This blog post I shared on my Facebook page is a pretty accurate depiction of how I felt about writing when I first heard about NaNoWriMo. What it comes down to is this: writing is putting one foot in front of the other (or writing one word at a time). Good writing is a combination of talent and a whole lot of hard work.

Yeah, sure, sometimes the hard work pays and sometimes it doesn't, but the key is, without the work, the ideas are just figments in your head. No one can know if your ideas are any good until you write them. And you have to write for yourself first. If you don't want to read what you write, then who else will?

Last year, I did my own version of NaNoWriMo by writing a fanfiction. I've mentioned this in the past. This year, I'm officially participating in NaNo and while I kicked butt in the first 10 days, writing 34,003 words in that time on This Year's Love (Book #4 in the Ward Sisters Series), I have been neglecting it lately. Why? Well, I've had other writing projects that have taken precedence. But I'm writing, and that's what matters. I still anticipate finishing NaNo on time, and even if I don't, my book is part of a series and will most certainly be completed soon enough. Truthfully, I'm not sure if making the goal will actually finish my book anyway, but I can knock out 16k words before November 30th.

Regardless, in this past year, my writing has changed dramatically. The biggest lessons I've learned over the past year?

1) Write for yourself
2) Write every day, even if you think it's crap, even if your muse isn't speaking to you, even if the only thing you write is a blog post, an email or a plot outline.
3) Know you'll need to edit. Expect to murder your darling, and to maybe even reassemble the body parts into something you hadn't imagined, to make it worth reading. You are Frankenstein and your work is the monster. Make it pretty. It's going to be hard work.
4) Realize that criticism will happen. Always. There is not a writer out there whom every single person loves. Some people even hate writers who are revered by most, like Shakespeare.
5) Keep going. Whether it's one word at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time, one novel at a time, one series at a time, KEEP GOING. You only get better when you write.

Writing has been the biggest blessing in my life outside my children and family. It fills my soul in a way that very little else does. Discovering that fact was such a gift. If you think you want to write, stop talking about it and just DO it. That's what NaNoWriMo is all about. You don't have to do it officially, you don't have to segregate yourself to the month of November. Honor the intent of the project and you'll reap its rewards. Trust me. I know from personal experience.

Writing, writing, and more writing...

It's been a while since I made a blog post, so I'll create a few today. For one, when I'm writing a Facebook post and it starts to look like a blog post, I realize I probably want to write on my blog. Also, I need to post a review of the other book I read via Netgalley so that they might give me more someday, LOL. And I had a draft post that I'd still like to publish, so that will happen, too. So, here we go...

Yet another gross weather day, which is fine. Nasty weather lends itself well to writing, especially in the coziness of my house with the woodstove running. And I have a lot of writing on my plate - #NaNoWriMo, on which I'm still behind; a marketing project (again); a marketing mid-term makeup (that I must kick butt on, since I got spanked on the exam itself); a project to polish for Pitch Wars; and edits for Only One. Yep, that's on top of the list of regular life stuff, plus I'm going to see Catching Fire tomorrow.

I finally finished the major changes to my latest draft of Only One. Did I say this on my blog or just on Facebook? I can't recall. Either way, I said that my muse smacked me around a bit and told me that I was going to make some plot changes for Only One, whether I liked it or not. I'd had a discussion with Laurie (for those of you who don't know, my mentor is author Laurie Breton) after my last draft review and she made a good point about where the story should end. Since I wanted it to end at a certain point, I had to make the rest of the story work toward that. And one major issue was making it...difficult to see why the story should continue after a certain point. So, I made a minor tweak to the plot. Nothing crazy, just changed the timing of an event.

Oh? Did I say nothing crazy? Okay, I lied. I mean, the plot change really wasn't crazy and it makes the story so much better. But once I did that, I had to make some big adjustments to the story to reflect it. Along the way, I came to a couple other realizations about character motivation and BLAM! The story was blown wide open. Questions I hadn't even considered before (but should have) needed to be answered, new scenes were written. On top of all that, I'd been restructuring the manuscript to reflect a more chronological approach, which allowed me to answer those questions and simultaneously enrich the story. More conflict, layers of the characters that were there but not shown well, these things appeared as I made the changes. Best of all? I didn't set out to give an explanation for something in Back to December, but I realized today that anyone who has read both stories will hopefully appreciate the information.

Now, I'm going back through to make sure my changes on Only One are consistent. I'm hoping to finish today. As you can see, I haven't been writing on NaNo, but I have been writing. I still have 8 days to finish my last 16k for NaNo, and for me, that isn't as big a challenge as it might be for others. I tend to write a lot. But I really wanted to get Only One out for a holiday release, and if I don't get the latest draft ready for review, then it won't be possible. Book 2 takes precedence over Book 4. If I can manage to actually finish Book 4, maybe it can be my Pitch Wars submission. I don't know; I was thinking I didn't need a 100% finished manuscript, but I guess I do. *shrug* We'll see; this might not be the year to do it. Maybe next year will be better. My class has to take priority, since it is being graded.

I'll post two more blog posts, one of which will be a review for Temptation Bay by Anna Sullivan. The other is about writing. Enjoy! And wish me luck getting that To-Do list done...