Saturday, June 23, 2018

Cover Reveal: Dark Chocolate and Strawberries by @DarylDevore - #FairyTale #EroticRomance #RedRidingHood

Dark Chocolate and Strawberries cover


What's a naughty fairy tale like Red Riding Hood without Red, the huntsman, grandma and especially, the big bad wolf?

Esmerelda 'Red' Hood is summoned to her mother's executive suite only to learn her sweet granny is headed for a romantic cruise with a gigolo. Horrified, Red races off to save her grandma before it's too late.

On board, Red meets Andrew Woodsman and Willem Olf. One a cutie with the biggest puppy eyes and the other a dark, sophisticated predator. Her grandmother's warning rings in Red's ear "Never trust a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Even with the warning, Red has trouble choosing which man could be the big bad wolf and which could be her happily ever after.

Note: This book was previously published by New Dawning Bookfair under the title Sexy Red Hood.

About the Author

Two writers in one. Daryl Devoré writes hot romances with sexy heroes and strong heroines. Victoria Adams is Daryl Devoré's alter ego when she's inspired to write sweet romances with little to no heat.

Daryl lives in an old farmhouse in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, a large salt water aquarium full of fish, a black cat named Licorice and some house ghosts. Her daughter is grown and has flown the nest. Daryl loves to take long walks on her quiet country road or snowshoe across the back acres, and in the summer, kayak along the St. Lawrence River. She has touched a moon rock, a mammoth, and a meteorite. She’s been deep in the ocean in a submarine, flown high over Niagara Falls in a helicopter, and used the ladies room in a royal palace.

Life’s an adventure and Daryl’s having fun living it.
Fans can find her on FaceBook and Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Triberr. 

Read her blog at

Friday, June 22, 2018

No Alphas, No Pack - #giveaway #shifters #gayromance

Wolf Around the Corner cover
Today I’m delighted to have Aidee Ladnier as my guest. I asked her to write about the following question:

Wolf shifters are very popular. In fact, there are thousands of books out there in this genre. How do you write a shifter story that stands out as distinctive and original? What will readers find in Wolf Around the Corner that's new and exciting? ~ Lisabet

Hi! And thanks for having me on your blog.

This is a great question! Actually, the shifter book saturation issue is why I never thought I’d write a werewolf protagonist. I’ve read a lot of werewolf books and most of the shifter tropes like alpha males, the wolf pack in danger, and fated mates never appealed to me as an author.

But then I imagined a world where lycanthropy was treated more like a very rare medical condition. I renamed the malady Galen’s Syndrome, using the medical convention of naming a disease after the first person to describe it. In late antiquity, the Greek physician Galen described a patient with a ravenous appetite and other qualities of a wolf. If I made Galen’s Syndrome a condition that appeared in less than 1 in 2,000 individuals, it would classify it as a rare disorder and 80% of rare disorders have a genetic component. So I could keep a bit of the magic of werewolves, I made my shifter the possessor of a genetic curse. In other words, if someone is cursed with lycanthropy, the curse becomes a mutation passed down as a recessive gene. Therefore, although individuals could become carriers of the curse and still be normal, if someone gets the recessive cursed gene from each parent, they’ll be able to shift into a wolf.

So I have my werewolf, but I’m still not fond of the shifter tropes. Just to be contrary, I set out to make his story the opposite of all the shifter romance conventions. My shifter, Frank Braden, is insecure and awkward—the opposite of an alpha. He also doesn’t have a pack. In fact, he doesn’t have any friends with the same disorder and he’s even been asked to leave his family home because his father and stepmother are afraid he’ll be a danger to his half-siblings. He’s essentially, a lone wolf. And there are no fated mates in this universe. I love the idea of a fated mate, but if I personally have to go through the embarrassing and excruciating dating dance, I’m going to make sure my characters do too. I won’t give my protagonists any shortcuts to love.

I also made my werewolf the lead actor in a theatrical version of "Beauty and the Beast". I’ve known several actors and the transformation scene for this particular fable has always been either to use a mask or a double to allow the main character to run off stage and take off their makeup. I thought a director might faint with joy at having a real life werewolf shift onstage during the transformation scene. Who wouldn’t buy a ticket to see that? Especially in a world where many people think werewolves are folktales. The play would be part sideshow and part theater. Which leads to a built-in conflict—because there’s a person behind that transformation not just a spectacle to gawk at. I wanted to raise the moral question of how a director could both have an actor use a special trait without making them feel used. Where do you draw the line at exploitation and performance?

But, the book is still very light-hearted and sweet. I grew up in a small town and tried to put my favorite things about small towns in the fictional Waycroft Falls. From niche bookstores, to strange statues, and Founder’s Day bed races. Frank and Tom’s romance doesn’t run smooth, but it does skip along awkwardly to a hopeful beat.

Aidee is giving away a $5 Amazon GC, $10 Amazon GC, Ebooks from her backlist, print books from her backlist. The winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. Don't forget you have a chance to enter every day so be sure to visit all the stops on this tour. You may find those locations here.


Frank’s family taught him that his wolf was dangerous, unwanted. Now his best friend’s brother wants him in bed and on stage. But giving into his wolf’s need for love could risk the quiet life Frank has created for himself—and his heart.

Settled in the small town of Waycroft Falls, Frank is content to be a lone wolf among the white picket fences and dollar book bins until he finds himself sniffing his best friend’s brother. Tom smells like hot apple pie and his Broadway smile has Frank lolling his tongue. But when the visiting actor learns Frank’s secret and plies him with hot kisses to get him to star in his play, Frank can’t help but wonder if Tom is only acting.

Tom ran away from family obligations to be a Broadway star. If he could make it there, he could make it anywhere…but he didn’t. Trudging home to Waycroft Falls to open his sister’s new performance space brings him face to face with a werewolf—a werewolf that would be perfect for Tom’s shoestring production of Beauty and the Beast. Staying in Tiny Town USA would be worth it if he can somehow convince the sexy wolf to expose his furry condition on stage and howl privately in Tom’s bed.

Wolf Around The Corner, a paranormal semi-finalist in Passionate Ink’s 2017 Sexy Scribbles Contest, is a full-length fairytale romance with a side of wolf shifter. If you like your romance with gorgeous men, humor, and small town magic, you’ll love Wolf Around the Corner! Buy your copy now and settle in to watch the drama unfold!

Genre: M/M Paranormal Shifter Contemporary

Buy Links


The first thing he always did was take a large lungful of air. It reoriented him to the outside. His animal cataloged the smells—car exhaust, grass, tree pollen, and wait, a mouse skittering in the Dumpster out back. Frank’s urge to run built. He circled the apartments, looking for the storm drain near the landscaping wall. Inside him, his animal wiggled in excitement at the prospect of being freed. Frank shucked his clothes behind the wall and tucked them into the shelter of the pipe, out of view. Then he shifted, his hands lengthening, hair sprouting, and muzzle growing. His point of view shortened, now three feet from the ground as he blinked through the eyes of his wolflike animal. Frank couldn’t stand still any longer. He sprang into the woods.

Frank ran, crashing through the underbrush and into the darkening shelter of the trees. He leaped over a shrub, felt the give of a sapling as he plowed through the brushwood. The animals and birds quieted at his loud, headlong dash, knowing he wasn’t of the forest, only disguised and playing at being a creature of the wood.

His paws skidded on a pile of old leaves. Frank almost lost his balance as he skipped up and over a fallen log. Around him, the scents of the forest all pushed in on him. Here a whiff of mold, there an astringent sniff of decay, everywhere the menthol of evergreen sap and wild herbs growing scattered on the forest floor.

Dry twigs snapped beneath his paws. His tongue lolled from his mouth, the fresh taste of the woods painting the back of his throat. The sun dipped below the horizon, the sky inking the tops of the trees. And Frank ran on until his limbs stopped, shaky and trembling. He collapsed onto a blanket of pine needles and leaves, moss and fungi cradling him as he panted.

As he caught his breath, the sounds of the woods lapped back around him. Insects and birds first. A harsh caw from a crow shrieked a hundred yards to his right. The chirp of a cricket sawed a few feet away. The rat-a-tat of a woodpecker echoed above. And the still of twilight calmed him.

When he’d rested enough that his legs would support him again, Frank began the slow jog back to the apartments, letting his nose guide him through the darkening visibility of the woods. He could smell Mrs. Reynolds’s nighttime cocoa, and Mr. Reynolds’s liniment that stank of capsaicin. The lighted windows of the apartment building led him the last few feet, and he scurried up to the storm drain.

But his clothes weren’t there.

The sky darkened into night.

Frank knew Mrs. Anderson was out, but he could try to get the elderly Reynolds couple to buzz him inside. And hope they didn’t ask why he was naked trotting up the stairs.

Or he could stay in wolf form without a tag, which meant a night outside running from animal control and/or dodging every human that would mistake him for a stray dog.

Or wait, a third option. There was an oak that almost reached the ledge of his apartment window on the second floor. He never bothered to lock the window. Frank shifted back to human and sprinted across the yard.

He leaped for the lower boughs of the tree, grunting as the bark dug into the flesh of his palms. Frank swung himself up to straddle a branch, regretting it as the rough wood scraped his thighs. He crouched in the tree, awkwardly trying to shield his more delicate parts from the smaller whiplike twigs. He skirted around the trunk, grimacing as a low branch brushed a little too close to his groin. There. He was now on the side that faced the apartment house.

Frank balanced upright, his arms pinwheeling until he caught another branch higher up to steady himself. The leaves around him shivered on their stalks, the rustling loud. Please don’t let Mrs. Reynolds look out her window.

Using the taller branch as a guide, Frank placed one bare foot in front of the other and inched away from the security of the trunk. The limb beneath his feet shook as his weight tested its strength. He slid a foot farther out on the branch. It dipped, the leaves at the tip brushing against the side of his window. Just a few feet more.

An ominous crack sounded beneath him, and Frank froze. The branch popped again. It wouldn’t hold. He could make a jump for it. Frank swallowed hard. He should make a jump for it.

Frank jumped. And missed the house, falling into the azalea bushes.

Just as his hunky new neighbor from across the hall walked out of the apartment building and down the front steps.

Frank had seen Tom in the hall that morning, carrying boxes. Trying to be neighborly, Frank had introduced himself and offered to help. Tom had turned Frank down but flashed the whitest, most even teeth at him. Frank had seen nothing whiter outside of a movie theater big screen. They’d exchanged pleasantries, commented on the weather, and then gone their separate ways. Or rather, that was what Frank wished had happened. What went down was:

Need help?” Frank barely got the words out when his new neighbor turned in the doorway. Frank froze. God, the man was gorgeous.

Naw, man. I got it.” Tom shifted the box in his arms to hold out his hand. “I’m Tom Davidson.”

Frank wiped a clammy hand on his jeans and shook Tom’s hand. “Hot.” And Frank knew his mouth had disclosed the exact thing his brain was thinking. Idiot. Who said that to a guy he’d just met? A guy like Tom already knew he was hot.

Tom tilted his head as if he hadn’t heard Frank right. “Yeah. The temperatures are a little warm for this time of year.”

Frank didn’t dare correct him and kept his mouth shut, afraid he’d say something worse.

Okay, well then, see you around, Frank.” Tom chuckled and continued into his apartment.

Meanwhile Frank beat it down the stairs, unsure how he managed not to walk into traffic as his mind ran over the exchange fail again and again.

So yeah. That was the less than stellar first impression he’d given Tom this morning. And now Frank followed that up by hunkering down naked in the azalea bushes.

Are you okay?” The gleam from the safety light caught Tom’s dark gold hair as he tilted his head to peer over the shrubs. The shadows sank into his chiseled cheekbones. He looked like a brooding movie star ready to sweep a celluloid damsel off her feet.

Too bad Frank was a naked man trying to keep from exposing himself. Frank crouched down farther, making himself as small as possible, hoping the azalea’s pink blooms would distract Tom from looking at his hairy backside.

I’m fine.”

Are you sure?” Tom leaned closer. “Are you… Do you have any clothes on?”

Frank racked his brain for some reason he’d be naked and hiding in the bushes. “Um, I, uh, just got out of the shower, and I leaned too far out my window.”

Oh my God. Did you fall from that height?” Tom glanced up to the second floor, to Frank’s closed window and then back down. “Do you need an ambulance?”

Frank sighed. This conversation was only getting worse. Cupping his hands over his privates, Frank rose from behind the bushes.

I’m okay. Just need to get back inside. I have a hidden key if you can get me past the front security door.”

Tom’s eyes widened when Frank stood. Frank winced, sure he looked like one long scrape covered in leaves. He blew at the hair in his eyes. A twig dangled, caught in an auburn strand, but Frank was unwilling to expose himself to yank it out.

Sure. Sure.” Tom fumbled for his key and opened the door. Frank half hopped over the acorns and chestnut burrs to slide past Tom. Tom wrinkled his nose as Frank passed. Good old wet dog smell. It always clung to him after a run in the woods.

Frank took the stairs two at a time to escape.

After a shower and shave—why did going furry always lead to needing a shave? The rest of his hair receded. Why didn’t his beard?—Frank spent thirty minutes in front of his bathroom mirror, trying to psych himself up to knock on Tom’s door and invite him over the next day for coffee or to watch football. He scratched behind an ear, feeling the healing scab from a graze he’d gotten when he’d fallen into the azalea bushes. Staring at his reflection, he tried to look earnest and approachable. He could do this. He had game.

Hey, I know you don’t know many people in town, and I’m a loser, but would you like to spend time with me?” Frank made a face at himself. Probably shouldn’t label yourself as a loser.

Yo, you want to watch football? No, how about basketball? Baseball? No? What about Mexican wrestlers?” Oh God, what if Tom doesn’t like sports?

I ordered two large pizzas by mistake tonight, and I could use some help, or I’ll be gorging on pepperoni for a week.”

Lame. Frank’s own gaunt features stared back at him from the mirror. Who was he kidding? He’d always be the guy who lost the genetic lottery and ended up with the family curse.

Galen’s syndrome was rare, only affecting about one in 2,000, but well-known enough that most people had at least heard of it. The Greek surgeon Galen had coined the word lycanthropy to explain the shape-shifting curse that traveled down through a family tree. Like most recessive gene disorders, it only manifested when two genes were passed down to a child, leading early scholars to think the afflicted had been re-cursed or spared for a generation due to divine providence. It was only with modern medicine that curses were found to be attached to DNA, breaking and molding chromosomes like magical radiation. But despite better understanding of the disorder, the stigma remained, not helped by the occasional local television feature linking the disorder to werewolf mythology.

All Frank knew was the recessive curse gene made him even more different from his family. He’d already been pushing it when he came out as gay. Turning into a wolf at sixteen had been…well, more than his father and stepmother could handle. She wanted to protect the kids, she told him. He loved his half siblings, didn’t he? It wasn’t safe to have a wild animal around children.

It had gutted him. They turned him out of his own home. He’d been angry. He’d done something stupid, lashing out, snapping at his sister Robbie. It still hurt, remembering the tears on his baby sister’s face, her eyes wide and scared. Of him. It was then he knew his stepmother had been right. Dangerous animals didn’t belong in a family. So he’d left, traveling all the way across the state until he landed in Waycroft Falls. It had been hard that first year. There were a lot of adult things he still hadn’t figured out.

Like how to ask out a guy who he hadn’t known his whole life. Moving from one small town to another had been a bad idea. Frank bonked his head against the mirror, gazing down into the white porcelain sink. He rubbed at a stray hair that clung to the side.

But on the plus side, small towns meant he rarely needed a car. And he could shift and run if he needed. He should take his clothes with him

About the Author

Aidee Ladnier, an award-winning author of speculative fiction, believes that adventure is around every corner. In pursuit of new experiences she's worked as a magician’s assistant, been a beauty pageant contestant, ridden in hot air balloons, produced independent movies, hiked up a volcano, and is a proud citizen scientist. A lover of genre fiction, Aidee's perfect romance has a little science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the paranormal thrown in to add a zing.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Coming Out as a Lesbian Author - #lesbian #amwriting #genrerules

Women holding hands

I’ve always been attracted to women (as well as men). My first three novels, Raw Silk, Miranda's Masks and Nasty Business, all include F/F scenes. As a neophyte erotic author, I wrote what I found arousing, and that meant including lesbian interactions.

Then, around 2006, recognizing a new opportunity and a changing publishing landscape, I began producing mostly erotic romance. I rapidly discovered that the constraints in this genre are far stricter than for erotica (which is how I labeled my earlier work). A romance novel is identified first and foremost based on the genders of its protagonists. Heaven help the author who strays away from that primary identification! Romance readers (apparently) want to be warned about what they’ll find inside the covers. If the book claims to be M/M, you’d better not include the slightest hint of heterosexual hanky panky (even involving secondary characters), or you’ll incur the wrath of readers and reviewers. Meanwhile, I found that compared to the enormous popularity of gay erotic romance, the market for F/F erotic romance appeared to be tiny. When I asked the people on my email list how they felt about lesbian stories, many expressed zero interest and one or two went so far as to tell me they found sexual interactions between women to be “icky” (a response I found deeply depressing).

They say you should listen to your readers. So for many years, I suppressed my desire to write F/F tales or scenes. It was hard sometimes. For instance, my romance novel The Ingredientsof Bliss has a bisexual character whom I just adore, a kick-ass French police detective. As I worked on my first and second drafts, Toni kept coming on to my heroine Emily, and Emily so wanted to respond— but I knew I couldn’t allow myself to give in to that temptation. Even so, my editor insisted I further sanitize their relationship. I was so frustrated!

Things have changed though. I’ve switched almost entirely to self-publishing my work. That means I can write what I wantwhat inspires me personally. I’ve also concluded that my stories actually sell better when I write from the heart, rather than according to someone else’s formula.

So I’m proud to say I’m an author of lesbian fiction (as well as gay fiction, and soon I hope, transgender fiction). I’m delighted with my three F/F books out this month. Meanwhile, my upcoming novella More Brides in Vegas includes lots of delicious girl-on-girl scenes.

Romance rules are not going to keep me in the closet any more!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"You're in danger." -- @TinaDonahue #eroticsuspense #revenge

SiNN cover

She's every man's carnal fantasy...and the target of one's revenge

At a Phoenix gentleman’s club, Lea dances as SiNN, her body bared and vulnerable to her male partner, her features hidden behind a feathered mask. To the men watching, she’s a sensual enigma, submissive and seductive with no face, name or history. Not even Lea knows her real origins.

A man from the past does and wants her dead.

Not on the watch of U.S. Marshals Jake Gabriel and Toby Quinn. Commanding and decisive, Jake not only wants Lea’s safety but to have her naked and yielding beneath him. To Toby, she’s all he should resist but cannot.

Protected by them at a secluded estate, Lea’s drawn to their potent masculinity and the raw male lust in their eyes. Inviting desire and an emotional connection, she submits to both at once, surrendering to their most shameless hunger along with her own wanton needs.

All while a killer edges closer…


Gripping her keys in one hand and pepper spray in the other, she rounded the corner and stopped.

The blond from inside stood near her rusting Ford Fiesta.

Surprise, curiosity, and desire rippled through her, matching the unmistakable longing sweeping across his face.

His reaction didn’t last.

Authority returned quickly, hardening his features, dismissing his previous lust, telling her he recalled he was here on business, and not of the corporate variety.

Unfortunately, that only left the government, as in the INS or Uncle Sam. After seeing her on stage, he must have presumed she was an illegal and got paid under the table.

Her initial arousal and confusion turned to fast indignation. How dare he. As a good, upstanding citizen, she reported her tips…for the most part, and figured that was why he was here, giving her his I-want-you-but-you’re-in-deep-doo-doo look. He intended to either check her immigration status or audit her. Damn. If he took her vehicle because she hadn’t paid enough taxes, she’d be totally screwed, not able to go to school or work. Her stomach twisted.

She couldn’t figure out how he’d even known she was SiNN and the vehicle was hers or she’d leave early.

Unless a bouncer here had told him, caving because he had his own tax problems.

Idiot. When she got her hands on the SOB, he’d regret the day he—

Ms. Baptista.”

Her pulse jumped at the voice from behind…deep, resonant, possessive.

Even before she turned, she knew she’d face the man in black. The way he spoke matched what she’d imagined in her mind. A protective, masculine tone, commanding but also safe, calling to the female within her. She met his dark eyes, his irises sparkling in the parking lot lights.

Unlike the blond, he was close enough for her to sense his restrained strength and heat…the male animal within him barely controlled.

Everything went still, the traffic sounds, noisy insects, and masculine laughter receding beneath her wildly pounding heart. Held by his potent allure, she couldn’t think, breathe, or budge.

He slipped his hand into his back pocket.

Her pulse leaped. Acting on instinct, she stepped to the side, putting distance between herself and him. His shirttails hid the bulge behind his fly. The erection she sensed he sported.

It should have frightened her further, but didn’t. No more than the blond guy by her car.

Having grown up around strangers, she’d acquired the ability to read them quickly. These men didn’t seem to be physically dangerous, though they were clearly together. They knew her name and had come out here for an ambush. Now all she needed to know was what kind. The blond seemed prepared to hassle, not harm her, while naked passion flickered in this man’s eyes.

Her legs weakened.

Ms. Baptista.” He spoke quietly, the way a guy would if he wanted no one except her to hear. “I’m Jake Gabriel from the U.S. Marshal’s Service.”

It took a moment for his words to register. Even then, she didn’t understand. U.S. Marshals here to speak to her? Why?

He opened a leather wallet and showed her a circular gold badge, a large star in the center.

Very impressive, but it didn’t tell her what this meant for her. Bewildered, she looked at him.

He regarded her pepper spray then inclined his head toward her car. “That’s my partner, Toby Quinn.”

She wanted to look, but couldn’t. Jake had captured her full interest. She guessed him to be six-three, given how he towered over her. This close, she caught his leather and musk scent, an intoxicating mixture. The faint breeze ruffled his glossy black hair, freeing a strand.

It fell forward, grazing his forehead, the tip touching his dark eyebrow.

Tantalized, she had an insane urge to ease the lock back then trail her fingers over his rich skin. She could almost feel its heat, the bite from his beard-stubbled cheeks.

He closed his wallet. “You need to come with us.”

That she understood. Sort of. Her arousal receded beneath renewed alarm. “What? Why?” He couldn’t be arresting her. He’d better not try it. She frowned. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m in this country legally. I pay my taxes.”

Amusement flickered across his face. “This isn’t about your status or taxes.” His tone was gentler than before, the way a man would speak to someone he valued. “You’re not in trouble, but you do need to come with us.” He slipped his wallet back into his pocket and rested his hand on her upper arm.

His warmth and tempered strength jolted her, sending her heart to her throat where it pounded so fiercely the world spun.

Breathless, she could barely speak. “I don’t understand.”

I know.” He glanced past her to Toby then met her gaze. “You’re in danger.”

About Tina

Tina is an Amazon and international bestselling novelist who writes romance for every taste – ‘heat with heart’ – for traditional publishers and indie. Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised her work. Three of her erotic novels were Readers' Choice Award winners. Another three were named finalists in the EPIC competition. One of her erotic contemporary romances was chosen Book of the Year at the French review site Blue Moon reviews. The Golden Nib Award at Miz Love Loves Books was created specifically for one of her erotic romances. Two of her titles received an Award of Merit in the RWA Holt Medallion competition. Another two won second place in the NEC RWA contest (different years). Tina is featured in the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Before penning romances, she worked at a major Hollywood production company in Story Direction.

Amazon author page:

My page at TRR:

Sweetn Sexy Divas:

Romance Books 4 US:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review Tuesday: The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen - #Vietnam #refugees #stories #ReviewTuesday

The Refugees cover

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Grove Press, 2017

What does it mean to be a refugee? You are a stranger in the country that has, willingly or not, taken you in. You’re a stranger to the place you’ve come from as well, where time and history continue to unfold without your witness or participation. If you’ve left family or friends behind, their paths will diverge from yours until they’re as distant and unfamiliar as the people who surround you in your adopted home.

Though you may have memories, you can’t be sure they’re true. They might be pure fiction, manufactured from the stories you’ve heard from your relatives, or from the individuals who had pity on you and took you in. You may get news from home (or what used to be home), but that’s just likely to be falsehoods generated by pride or by fear. You cannot necessarily trust your view of the world around you. It might well be a facade, an illusion, or simply a misunderstanding due to cultural differences.

To be a refugee is to be insecure, in a fundamental way that those of us who have always belonged to a country may find difficult to comprehend. The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen explores and lays bare that insecurity and its consequences.

This book of eight stories plus two moving personal essays should be assigned reading for those segments of society who rabidly oppose immigration. With eloquence, delicacy and beauty, the author captures the uncertainty and the irony of a refugee life.

All but two of the stories (“The American” and “Fatherland”) are set in the United States and revolve around characters who escaped from Vietnam around the end of the Vietnam war. Many of the protagonists are young people, working to adapt to their new home, sometimes mystified by the beliefs and behavior of the older generation.

In contrast, the central character in “The Americans” (which was one of my favorite tales) is an aging ex-soldier who fought in the war, whose daughter is now coupled with a Vietnamese engineer, working for an NGO that clears land mines. James Carver honestly can’t comprehend why Claire is (as he sees it) sacrificing her life for the sake of strangers, but a trip to Vietnam shows him a world he’d only seen previously from a bomber at forty thousand feet.

In “Fatherland”, a family in modern-day Saigon receives a visit from the father’s daughter by a first marriage, who has been living since her childhood in the US. Dutiful, hard-working Phuong is simultaneously fascinated by and jealous of her glamorous, apparently wealthy older half-sister (who’s also named “Phuong” but uses the name “Vivien”). The relationship profoundly changes Phuong’s beliefs and aspirations, even when she discovers that Vivien is not who she pretends.

Another standout is “The Transplant”. A Mexican American whose life is saved by a liver transplant befriends the Vietnamese man who claims to be son of the donor. In the name of friendship, Louis Vu makes some difficult requests. This story is particularly interesting because of the interactions between two immigrant communities, the Mexicans and the Vietnamese.

I tend to think of short stories as neat, well-structured gems of craft. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s stories are anything but neat. They ramble back and forth between past and present; they focus on seemingly inconsequential details; they are complex and ambiguous, often without clear resolutions of the conflicts they present. Nevertheless, in retrospect one can see that they are meticulously constructed to convey the multi-layered experience of the characters.

These are not easy stories to read. They demand a great deal of the reader, both intellectually and emotionally. That should not deter you from getting a copy of The Refugees. There’s a kind of deep satisfaction in truly seeing what these characters face and how they cope. In addition, even before you read his essay “In Praise of Doubt and Uselessness”, you will sense the depth of feeling and the intensity of effort the author has lavished on these tales. They deserve your attention.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Real Place for a Story - #HistoricalRomance #CivilWar #Nursing

A Place in Your Heart cover

By Kathy Otten (Guest Blogger)

My new novel, A Place In Your Heart, takes place mostly at Armory Square Hospital in Washington, DC. In doing research for the day to day organization of a hospital at that time, I relied heavily on the book, Diary of a Civil War Nurse by Amanda Akin, who had been a nurse at Armory Square.

Before the war began, Washington was a relatively rural town with limited medical accommodations. There were no military hospitals and very few medical facilities.

By the end of the war there were over 56 hospitals in and around the Capitol.

The military soon realized that the current facilities were inadequate and public buildings were turned into hospitals. One wing of the Patent Office became the Patent Office Hospital. Patients were cared for within the walls of the Capitol. Reynolds Barracks Hospital was set up on what is now the south lawn of the White House.

Other buildings used as hospitals included Georgetown College, Water’s Warehouse, and St. Elizabeth’s Insane Asylum. Hotels and private schools were taken over for a monthly fee.

Soldiers were kept in field hospitals and when the regimental tents filled up, nearby homes were commandeered. Sick and wounded were only sent to the Washington hospitals after their conditions had worsened to the point of barely being able to survive the trip.

Because of the informal set up of these Washington hospitals, security and privacy for the sick were non-existent. People wandered in and out, looking for wounded friends and family. Pastors came into pray and convert the wounded. Patients became the victims of theft.

Mothers, wives and sisters were allowed to care for their loved ones. But they tended to ignore soldiers in adjacent beds or would only help those wounded from a particular state, and would scoff at Confederate wounded.

These hospitals averaged about 500 beds. Sanitation and ventilation were poor. The hospitals were not heated well. There was no sterilization of instruments and used bandages littered the floors.

As a result, blood poisoning, tetanus and gangrene were common. Mosquitoes and flies abounded spreading malaria and other diseases.

Wounded soldiers were fed the same food as soldiers in the field. Cornmeal and hard tack, fried in pork grease. Fruits and vegetables were never fresh and seldom available. Scurvy and malnutrition was rampant.

In June of 1861 the U.S. Sanitary Commission was organized. Their purpose was to give advice based on the most current medical knowledge of the day. Its goal was efficient, decent health care for the sick and wounded. The Commission directors were men of high professional standards and had the political means to apply pressure when needed. The Sanitary Commission became the driving force of Civil War Hospitals.

Armory Square Hospital, where most of my story takes place was one of six model hospitals built in 1862 according to the specifications of the Sanitary Commission. It was located on 7th St. across from the grounds of the Smithsonian, just beyond the canal, which itself was little more than an open sewer at that time, with floating dead cats and reeking with fetid odors.

Armory Square Hospital

The hospital consisted of eleven long pavilion style buildings placed side by side with their gables facing the front and rear of the grounds.

There was a main pavilion which functioned as an administration building. It contained a reception room and offices for the surgeon in charge, a man named Doctor D. Willard Bliss.

Also inside was a dispensary, a linen room, post office, and officers quarters, (where my hero, Dr. Charles Ellard had a room).

A general kitchen, laundry and mess hall occupied the rear portion of the building.

The remaining 10 pavilions were positioned 5 on each side of the administration building. Each ward was 149x25 ft. with an average height of about 13ft. and held about 50 beds.

Covered walkways connected the wards rather than closed corridors designed to improve ventilation in the sick rooms.

A side door opened about half way down near a cabinet with a table and chair in front of it.

Each ward held about 50 beds. A section at the rear served as a dining room (grub room) and lodging for female nurses. There was an area partitioned off (the wall didn’t go all the way the ceiling), and it closed with a curtain. At the end of the ward were the bathroom, water-closet, knapsack room and the ward master’s room.

 Patients in the ward

In the summer of 1863 the hospital received a $300.00 donation and new quarters were built for the lady nurses.

Ward E is the ward where Amanda Akin worked as well as my heroine Gracie McBride.

At Armory Square Doctor D. Bliss was the surgeon in charge of all the wards. Each ward had a surgeon, who had an orderly. At times a surgeon and his orderly might handle two wards. Each ward had a nurse who also had an orderly. There was a ward master and a cadet surgeon to dress wounds. Three attendants to each ward and 2 night watchers. Nurses were generally men, soldiers assigned the duty, who at the time of my story, were being sent back to the regimental field hospitals as more and more women volunteered.

During the summer months when the casualties were highest, tents were set up on the hospital grounds to handle the over flow of wounded.

Armory Square was known for receiving the worst cases from the battlefields of VA. It was situated nearest the steamboat landing at the foot of Seventh St. and was nearest the line of the Washington and Alexandria railroad. They were the first stop for wounded who wouldn’t survive the trip to any other hospital and they also received the soldiers who died enroute. As a result Armory Square had the highest number of deaths of any Washington military hospital.

Between August 1861 and January 1865 there were 1,339 deaths recorded out of 18,291 admitted patients.


Gracie McBride isn’t looking for love; she’s looking for respect. But in this man’s world of Civil War medicine, Gracie is expected to maintain her place changing beds and writing letters. Her biggest nemesis is the ward surgeon, Doctor Charles Ellard, who seems determined to woo her with arrogant kisses and terrible jokes.

Charles is an excellent surgeon. He assumed he would be well received by an army at war. He was not. Friendless and alone, he struggles to hide the panic attacks that plague him while the only person who understands him is a feisty Irish nurse clearly resolved to keep him at a distance.

But, Charles is sent to the battlefield, and Gracie is left with a wounded soldier, a box of toys, and a mystery which can only be solved by the one man she wishes could love her, both as a woman and a nurse.


No. I want you to go home before the death of that ten-year-old boy becomes so ordinary that one day you wake up and realize you no longer have the ability to feel.”

She squared her shoulders and stepped toward him. “Me own husband was a doctor, sir. I’ve birthed babies and stitched wounds. I stood by William’s side during surgeries and passed him instruments. I helped him clean the intestines of a man gored by a bull, before putting it all back inside that man’s belly. Me delicate sensibilities did not send me into a swoon then nor will they here. I thank ye for yer concern, Doctor Ellard, but ’tis who I am. And by the saints, as long as I have breath in me body, I will feel, and I will care.”

Their gazes locked in that moment and something flickered in his icy depths, overshadowing his usual cynicism with what she suspected might be admiration. The harsh lines of his face softened.

Saint Jude must indeed be watching over you, Mrs. McBride.”

That he is, Doctor Ellard, that he is.”

He gave her a brisk nod and opened the door. “You’re not going home then, are you?”

She turned. “Ye know us Irish, Doctor Ellard. We don’t know what we want, but we’ll fight to the death to get it.”

A Place In Your Heart is available at Amazon

About the Author

Kathy Otten is the published author of multiple historical romance novels, novellas, and short stories. She is also published in contemporary romance and historical fiction. She is a Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star winner and Utah/Salt Lake RWA Hearts of the West finalist. A Place In Your Heart is her fourth full-length novel. Currently, she is putting the finishing touches on a contemporary young adult novel.

She teaches fiction writing online and at a local adult education center, and is a regular presenter at area events. Kathy also does manuscript assessments and editing. She lives in the rolling farmland of western New York where she can often be found walking her dog through the woods and fields. She has been married for thirty-four years and is the mother of three grown children and one grandson.

Kathy can be contacted at