Monday, June 24, 2019

A wildly creative urban fantasy by @Cristelle Comby -- #Review #Giveaway #Detective

Tour Banner


There’s “hard to kill”—and then there’s Bellamy Vale.

After narrowly preventing the destruction of Cold City, PI Bellamy Vale needs a rest. Or rather, he needs a plain and simple vanilla case—no monsters or otherworldly creatures involved! When foreign businessman Eli Smith shows up at his doorstep with a thick wallet and a request to find his missing sister, Vale doesn’t think twice before agreeing. If he’d known body-hopping demons and smoke monsters came attached to this job, however, he might have.

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Private investigator Bellamy Vale is a man who knows too much – specifically too much about the dark supernatural forces that exist in parallel with our ordinary world, and which occasionally spill over the boundaries into the light of day. He has just finished mopping up after an apocalyptic rift in the fabric of reality that released incalculable evil – and incidentally leveled the entire downtown area of Cold City in the process. Now all that Bell wants is a shower to wash off the ectoplasmic goo, two aspirin for his painful bruises, and some sleep.

Instead he gets a new client, a cadaverous gentleman with an unusually acute sense of smell who wants Bell’s help to find his missing sister. The PI is pretty sure there’s something weird about this guy, but the client has cold cash, and his story stirs Bell’s sympathy. As the two pursue the slender leads they have available, Bellamy learns that Eli Smith and his sister Sarit are both djinn, and that the hot shot fashion designer who has kidnapped her is the vessel for an ifrit, an ageless evil being whom the djinn have been battling for eons.

This is definitely not what Bell signed on for, but what can he do? It’s his destiny to fight creatures of darkness – and to hide the fact that such creatures exist from the mortals around him, including his girlfriend, Police Sergeant Melanie Ramirez.

Evil Embers is a lively, surprising urban fantasy with an engaging hero. I really appreciated Cristelle Comby’s creativity. She brings all sorts of supernatural elements into the mix: Middle Eastern demons, Greek gods, Cherokee shamans, ghosts, poltergeist, zombies... honestly, you never know what you’re going to run into in Cold City!

Superficially Vale is modeled after the classic cynical and hard-boiled PI of noir detective novels, but in fact he’s got a soft heart and a strong moral compass. He hates the fact that he has to lie to his girlfriend. He hates even more the way this destroys his relationship. However, he has no choice For one thing, his soul is more or less owned by Lady Death, who has promised him he won’t die as long as he does her errands. This enigmatic femme fatale (quite literally!) only shows up twice in the book, but those were my favorite scenes. I also greatly enjoyed the character of Zian, the computer whiz who’s the estranged son of Hermes, Messenger of the Gods.

I had two complaints about the book. First, I had a hard time following the (many) fight scenes. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, or maybe they weren’t described clearly, but I found myself becoming confused.

Second, the book needed better editing. I noted multiple grammar errors (mostly related to verb tense) as well as some incorrect word usage. It’s possible these problems might not catch the attention of the average reader, but since I’m also an editor, I couldn’t help but notice.

Neither of these issues spoiled what was for the most part a very entertaining read. If you like magic in myriad forms, you’ll likely enjoy Evil Embers.


So what if it was mid-February? The way I was feeling that morning, I planned to sleep until New Year came around again. Hells, as far as I was concerned, I earned it ten times over. I put an end to a string of gruesome killings, prevented the apocalypse our former mayor intended for us, and I’d stuck around long enough to clean up the mess she and her minions left behind. All that thinking took out the last bit of energy I had. I closed my eyes, found a way to lie down that didn’t hurt too much, and let sleep throw its soothing blanket over me.

And then someone knocked at the door.

I groaned at the wrong timing but kept my eyes shut. There was no way in Tartarus that I was getting back up again so soon. Whoever it was could get lost.

The knocking came again.

It was more insistent this time. I could hear a sense of urgency to the motion. I forced one eye open and frowned. The sunlight streaming in from the window was too bright for it to be morning and the angle it bounced off the floorboards was all wrong. I opened my second eye and glanced at the clock on the bedside table…Three in the afternoon.

The hells?” I muttered, wondering where the day went while I shook my head to clear out the cobwebs.

The knock came a third time and I got up, grumbling all the way to the door. I didn’t bother to put clothes on or to tidy myself up before opening it. I was clad only in an old pair of sweatpants with a variety of cuts, bruises, and bandages on full display throughout my upper body. I hadn’t shaved in a week, and I was sure my hair was a sweaty mess of brown locks and dried blood.

Who knows, I thought, maybe the sight of me will convince my uninvited guest to let me get back to my coma.

If the man in the hallway took notice of my state, he didn’t let it show. He was tall and sickly thin under his rumbled three-piece suit. His pale skin provided some severe contrast with the purple bags under his brown eyes. He was somewhere between forty and forty-five. His angular face wasn’t familiar, and my frown deepened.

He looked like a potential client, the I-want-to-know-who- my-wife-is-banging type, but they rarely showed up to my private address unannounced. I made a lot of enemies in my professional career, not all of them on this side of the border, so my business card only listed my cell number.

The suit he wore appeared brand new, but I frowned more as I realized something didn’t add up. I was no fashion expert, but the matching of colors between the vest and shirt was off, brownish orange shirt covered by a purple jacket. Oh, and he wore a tie that matched his jacket…ugh. The light brown shoes were also at odds with the indigo blue pants. And there was the smell on the guy. It wasn’t a garbage smell—I’d been around enough of that over the last month to know it at first whiff—but there was a smoky quality about it that stood out.

I filed the information away for later and looked the man squarely in the eye. “What?” I croaked, my tongue feeling too thick and my mouth too dry.

Bellamy Vale?” he asked, with an accent that wasn’t from around here…Middle Eastern, maybe?

I jerked my thumb at the bell next to the door. It had my name on it.

The man peered down at it perplexed, then pressed the round button. A shrill ringing shot out of the tiny plastic box above the door, and the sound sent sharp needles dancing through my brain. I winced in pain.

Yeah—yeah, that’s me.” I rushed the words out, eager to make the noise stop. Damn, but my head was killing me. My odd gentleman caller took his finger off the button to look at me again.

I need your help,” he said, “to find my sister.”

I needed help too, preferably in the form of another round of painkillers. But that was going to have to wait. I waved my potential new client inside.

About the Author

Cristelle Comby was born and raised in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, on the shores of Lake Geneva, where she still resides.

She attributes to her origins her ever-peaceful nature and her undying love for chocolate. She has a passion for art, which also includes an interest in drawing and acting.

She is the author of the Neve & Egan Cases series, which features an unlikely duo of private detectives in London: Ashford Egan, a blind History professor, and Alexandra Neve, one of his students.

Currently, she is hard at work on her Urban Fantasy series Vale Investigation which chronicles the exploits of Death’s only envoy on Earth, PI Bellamy Vale, in the fictitious town of Cold City, USA.

Cristelle Comby will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Charity Sunday: Helping you to imagine... #NewRelease #CharitySunday #AmnestyInternational

Charity Sunday banner


This is the weekend I would normally do a Charity Sunday post, where I post about some worthwhile cause, then invite you to comment. Then I donate to the charity according to the number of comments I receive.

Today, I’m doing something a bit different.

I don’t know if you saw my post “Imagine” a few days ago, on World Refugee Day. In that post (which I’d love you to go over and read), I invite you to imagine what it would be like to be one of the 70 million individuals in the world today who have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict, violence and disasters natural and man-made. Despite their suffering, refugees are in many places treated as unwanted, even inhuman. Can you imagine what it would be like, to be homeless, destitute and despised?

Today, I thought I’d help you imagine, by sharing my own attempts to make real the plight of one group of refugees. According to UNHCR, there are currently more than 95,000 refugees in Thailand, living in nine camps. Most are from minority groups along the border with Myanmar, who have been displaced by decades of ethnic conflict.

My new release Refuge brings one of these camps to life, seen through the eyes of a young private in the Thai military. Here’s the blurb:

I never wanted to be a soldier, especially a guard at the remote, dusty Mae La refugee camp, a thousand kilometers from my home. But these days there were no jobs in our village. My mother depended on the money I sent her each month. Still, she cried whenever I phoned her.

Until I met the lovely hill tribe girl Preean, though—until she asked for help I knew I shouldn’t give her—I never really understood what I was doing to my fellow human beings. How could she go on, one day after another in that desolate place, without any hope for change? Mae La was limbo—once you arrived here you were stuck. There was nowhere else you could go.

To love her was dangerous, a risk to my own life and freedom. But when she offered her body and her heart, how could I refuse? 

~ ~ ~ ~ 

Refuge is a multicultural erotic romance with a happy ending, but it portrays, as vividly as I know how, the miserable life of these refugees.

I want you to read this story. You can download it free from Smashwords by going here:

and then using this coupon:


So here’s the deal this Charity Sunday. Instead of making donations based on how many comments I get, I’ll donate two dollars to Amnesty International (one of the most important organizations working for refugee rights and welfare, around the world) for every download of the book (free or paid).

Furthermore, I plan to donate all proceeds from sales on either Smashwords or Amazon (which I hope will have the book up within the next 24 hours) to Amnesty.

I’ll donate two dollars for every review on Amazon as well.

The coupon and donation offer expires on July 4th. The altruistic allocation of proceeds will go on indefinitely.

Feel free to share the coupon, and the book, with your friends and family. The more people who imagine the life of a refugee, the more likely it is that the world will work to reduce their suffering and give them a home.

Finally, here’s a bit from the book, so you’ll have some idea what you’re getting:

~ ~ ~ ~ 

Excuse me, do you have a pencil?”

I jumped. I had been daydreaming about home, eating somtum and gai yang with Mum and my brother Daeng under the tamarind tree in the backyard. The light tap on my shoulder dragged me back to the smelly, dusty camp where I was supposed to be on guard.


A pencil? Or a pen?” The young woman gestured back towards a knot of kids gathered in the shade of the water tower. She held up a sheet of corrugated cardboard scavenged from some trash heap. “I’m teaching them their alphabet. I’ve got this but nothing to write with.”

She wore a faded teeshirt, baggy shorts and flip flops. Her hair hung down her back in a messy ponytail tied with an old shoelace. Still I could see that she was pretty, slightly built, with sharper features and paler skin then the girls back home. Her smile appeared genuine, though her eyes appraised me nervously. I guessed that it took some courage for her to approach me, a uniformed soldier with a loaded rifle—never mind that I was only a year or two older than she was, and wanting nothing more than to go back to my family in Yasathon.

I leaned my gun against my thigh. “I’ve got a pencil back at the barracks, but I can’t leave my post until my shift is over. Maybe you could postpone your lessons until after three? I’ll bring it to you then.”

Her face lit up. She grabbed and squeezed my hands. Hers were tiny, but strong. “Oh, thank you, sir! Thank you.”

I blushed at her enthusiasm. “Never mind. Now you’d better go.” I’d noticed Sergeant Chokchai headed my way. He didn’t approve of what he called “fraternization” between us and the camp’s inhabitants.

Everything secure, Private Nu?” He loomed over me. I swallowed hard. He came from Bangkok. He had made it clear in his view, I was just a stupid hick from the Northeast.

Yes, sir. Everything is normal, sir.”

What were you doing, talking to that filthy Burmese cunt?”

I winced at his foulness. “Nothing. She wanted to know the time, that’s all.”

Why should she care? She’s not going anywhere!” Chokchai gave a nasty chuckle “You should know better, though. Don’t talk to them. Don’t get involved in their affairs. Oh, they’ll act all polite and respectful, but they’re snakes. They’ll stab you as soon as your back’s turned. You remember what happened to Sakon, don’t you?”

Yes, sir.” Sakon had been another sergeant. They had found him behind the mess hall with his throat slit. Everyone assumed that he was murdered by one of the refugees, even though he’d been a brutal man who had many enemies.

Just remember, they’re animals. Ignorant, superstitious animals.” He looked over his shoulder in the direction that the girl had disappeared, shaking his head in obvious disgust, before returning his unwelcome attention to me.

~ ~ ~ ~ 

Thank you for your time, and your compassion.

Quick update: the book is now available on Amazon (but not free):

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Food of Love -- #PNR #ForbiddenLove #Merman @AliceRAuthor

A Merman's Choice cover

By Alice Renaud (Guest Blogger)

If music be the food of love, play on!” wrote Shakespeare, and both music and food play a big part in my stories. Today I’ll focus on food, which is one of my favourite topics. I was born and brought up in France, where food is an essential part of culture, identity and family life. Every major event and festival is marked by a meal, usually several courses long, with assorted wines. Families and friends stay around the table for hours, eating and chatting. As for romance, an area where the French feel they are experts, food is an essential part of courtship. Dates usually take place around a meal – in a restaurant or at home. Both men and women are expected to cook, and show off their culinary skills to impress potential partners.

One of my university friends was a very beautiful, sexy girl. This guy was mad about her, but she wasn’t interested. Not easily discouraged, he became her friend, and one day, he made lunch for her. Bingo! He was a first class cook. They’ve been married for twenty-five years now and have two beautiful daughters.

However I had a slight problem in this wonderful world of food and romance. I can’t cook. OK, that’s not quite true. Anyone can cook, given the right equipment, ingredients, and instructions. I could do it… with a lot of effort… and coaching from my mum… and hours spent slaving over the cooker… but the results were never quite as I expected. French men have high standards, so I wasn’t very successful in the romance arena, either. Then at the age of twenty-six, I moved to London, UK. Complete change of scene! Whilst the British love to eat and watch cookery shows, they’re not so big on actually cooking. Socialising and flirting usually takes place over a drink… or two. The first date is often in a coffee shop, the second date in a wine bar or pub. When he invites you to a restaurant, you know he’s serious about you.

My first date with the (British) love of my life was in a very nice Moroccan restaurant, that’s how I knew he really liked me and wanted a serious relationship. I didn’t really notice the food… I was focused on his blue eyes and the fact that he’d brought me red roses. On a first date! The guy meant business. We’ve been married for thirteen years now and I’m a very lucky woman. And yes… he cooks all our meals. Well, he understood early on that he had little choice, unless he was ready to live on takeaways for the rest of his life.

The hero of my book A Merman’s Choice, Yann, loves food, and can cook. It’s part of his appeal. Food and drink are a gift for a romance writer, you can create a really sensual scene and show the characters bonding over their meal… enjoying the tastes, and textures… getting closer… and closer… until they’re savouring each other rather than the food. And if your hero or heroine is shy, alcohol is a great way to loosen those inhibitions a little. 

Yann is a shape-shifting merman who falls in love with a human woman, Alex. Mermen are forbidden from marrying humans, so Yann has some serious obstacles to overcome in order to achieve his happily-ever-after with Alex. When Yann and Alex have their first argument, he appeases her by offering her fish and chips (a very traditional British treat), washed down with cider. Later, when they are caught up in a storm, and end up in Yann’s house, he prepares another meal for her – oysters and whisky. Just as whisky is stronger than cider, so the heat level in their relationship goes up a notch… or two. To learn more… read the excerpt below!

I hope you have enjoyed this post and will be tempted to discover more about Yann and Alex’s forbidden love and the world of the merfolk.

Contest and giveaway – Free book! For a chance to win a free PDF copy of my book, just leave a comment on this post! I will select the winner from those who have commented.

A Merman’s Choice – Book 1 in the Sea of Love series

For centuries the shape-shifting mermen of the Morvann Islands have lived incognito among humans. But one of them, Yann, has developed some bad habits. Like rescuing humans, even when doing so risks revealing his true nature. When he fishes Alex out of the sea, he doesn’t expect her to reappear eight months later, and turn his life upside down by asking him to be her guide.

Alex is determined to fulfil a promise to her dying grandmother, by gathering pictures and stories of the Morvanns. But she soon discovers that, on these remote Welsh islands, legends have a habit of becoming true!

Over the course of a few days, Yann and Alex grow close. But some mermen hate humans. Their hostility, and Yann’s secret, threaten to tear the couple apart just as they are discovering that they are soul mates. Can Yann overcome the obstacles in his path and make the right choice?

Book buy links 


Yann went to the dresser against the wall and picked up a bottle and two glasses. “Would you like a dram of whisky to warm you up?”

Alex slid back down the sofa. His ears registered the squeak of leg against leather, and his mind instantly pictured her sprawled on the cushions, her golden hair fanned behind her head, milky thighs open wide. He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the maddening image.

Her voice dropped into a seductive purr. “I’m quite warm already, thank you. But I can cope with more heat.”

He poured a glass of the golden liquid and brought it to her.

Thank you.” She sipped it and made a grimace, which turned into a smile. “Even better than cider.”

Her mouth glowed against her milky skin like a forbidden fruit. He thought of the first summer berries, tart redcurrants, juicy raspberries. Would she taste like them?

They needed food. If he didn’t get lunch down her soon, she’d get drunk. The demon voice in his mind whispered that Alex would be great fun if she lost her inhibitions. He tried to shut the demon out. What could he prepare quickly?

He strode to the trap in the floor by the front door and lifted it. The smell and sound of seawater, sloshing in the dark, rose up.

Alex padded over to investigate. “Oh, wow. You have a whole aquarium down there!”

The corner of her blanket brushed his bare arm, sending another twig to feed the fire that smouldered in his loins.

That’s how Islanders keep their seafood fresh. Why don’t you go and sit at the table, and I’ll open a dozen oysters for you?”

She didn’t need to see the tunnel on the side of the “aquarium,” that led to the lower floor of the house, the level that flooded at high tide and opened onto the sea. The level where a more respectable merman would spend most of his time.

She moved away, to the centre of the room where the oak table stood. Not far enough. He’d become so attuned to her that every one of her movements seemed to ripple across the space and lap against his body. He grabbed a knife and bucket from the tool shelf, snapped the first oyster open and dropped it in the bucket. Now she was crossing her legs, damn her. Did she know that the woollen fabric was opening, uncovering the ivory skin of her inner thigh? Was she flirting with him, or was it his imagination?

I love oysters.” Her voice wrapped itself around him like a silk scarf. “Pity we don’t have any champagne to go with them, but this whisky is just as good.”

Too late, he remembered that for mainlanders, oysters weren’t a cheap, quick meal. On the mainland, oysters were the food of seduction. An aphrodisiac. What if Alex was misreading his intentions?

Or rather, what if she were reading them all too well?

She patted the bench next to her. “Come and sit here. I can’t eat all these oysters on my own.”

Her grin gave the lie to her words. Her grin said, “I can gobble them all up, and you with it.”

About the Author

Alice was born and brought up in Brittany, Western France, her father was French and her mother British (from Wales). She moved to London, UK, in 1997, where she now lives with her husband and son. She works full time as a compliance specialist in a pharmaceutical company. She has been writing in her free time since she was 14. She got quite a few short stories published in UK magazines, before moving to longer fiction. She wrote three contemporary romance books, but didn’t find a publisher for them. She then realized that mermen, sea witches and water demons were a lot more fun than sheikhs and billionaires!

Her first two paranormal romances did not find a publisher either, then she wrote “A Merman’s Choice,” which was published in January this year by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. The second book, “Music for a Merman,” will be out later this year.

She’s also written a short story, “The Sweetest Magic of All,” that will appear in the BVS supernatural romance anthology “Mystic Desire,” due this fall (autumn). It’s about a sexy apprentice witch and a hot time-travelling warlock who go in search of a magical amulet... and find more than they bargained for!

Alice loves reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who’s interested!

Author links

Don't forget to comment for a chance to win! Please include your email address so I can find you!


Friday, June 21, 2019

Forbidden Bear-flesh -- #shifter #eroticromance @Chris4Lamb

Bear's Edge banner


A boss can't date her employee—simple as that. No matter how much Shayla wants to unravel a few of Grant's mysteries and take her friendship with the shy, sarcastic man to the next level, she's determined to keep her fantasies of him to herself. 

After bear shifter Grant lost his girlfriend and three best friends in a fire, he did his best to shut himself off from everyone around him. Falling for Shayla wasn't part of his plan, but after a kiss that leaves them both speechless and hungry for more, Grant can't keep his desire for his boss under wraps any longer. 

When things between the two of them get hotter than he could have imagined, Grant wonders if some of his darker desires will be too much for Shayla or will she embrace the needs he’s kept hidden for so long?

An obnoxious reporter and Shayla's bitter ex have teamed up to chase down conspiracy theories that could destroy Shayla's business and worse, put her life in danger. To find their happily ever after, Shayla and Grant will have to trust in each other and find a way to crush all the obstacles standing in their way.


What is it about Grant? Looking at the man beside her was no hardship; that was for damn sure. He had the tall, broad body of a heavyweight UFC fighter, but he never used his size to intimidate the people around him. Shayla wanted to sweep his wavy, slightly shaggy dark hair out of his gorgeous brown eyes. His dark hair and eyes complemented his bronze skin. He was hot, in a serious, dangerous kind of way. But in the two and a half years he had worked for her, she had hardly learned anything about him.

The waitress at the popular nature-themed restaurant, the Greenhouse Effect, showed them to their table. The plants growing around all the walls and columns made the place look like a wild garden. The smell of lavender and jasmine mixed with the delicious scents drifting from the kitchen. She tried not to drool, but breakfast seemed like eons ago. Shayla sat next to Sydney and across from Grant. A too-tall centerpiece of yellow-and-purple flowers blocked most of her view. Being short occasionally sucked. Grant moved the centerpiece to the side and gave her a shy smile. His smile made her want answers, among other things.

She knew he was from New Jersey and had gone to school in Wisconsin before moving to Richmond, Virginia, to work with Brook’s Comprehensive, a huge company that did everything from urban development projects to financial management for celebrities and politicians.

Why do you want to make such a big change from a large corporation to a simple start-up company?” she’d asked him in the interview.

Honestly?” He had paused then, the question hanging.

Yes,” she’d assured him. She’d take honesty over smooth-faced, calculated interview answers any day.

I want to live somewhere I can have a house and some land. Maybe spend more time outside. Also, I want a job where I can do more than just run numbers for projects where I never see the outcome.”

The last part had seemed to come as a surprise to him. Maybe he hadn’t really known he wanted something more than a change of scenery until he had said it out loud.

His answer had been simple and honest instead of a long, drawn-out elaboration about the projected success of new companies in the area or an extensive list of projects he had helped to fruition. She could look at his résumé for those kinds of details. He had wanted to be there, so she’d hired him. Simple as that—after a clean background check and drug screening, of course.

Grant the mystery man—a delicious mystery Shayla would like to unravel, piece by piece, layer by layer. Ah, but I can’t. I’m his boss. In a different lifetime, if we didn’t have the whole boss-employee obstacle going on…. No harm in looking, though, just a little, since he sat so close. She promised herself to keep her thoughts G-rated—okay, maybe PG-13. Grant had a talent with numbers and paid attention to detail. Also, he was a little shy and standoffish to a lot of people when it came to anything other than work. Shayla wondered where he sometimes went in his head, because, every now and then, his smile slipped from his face, just for a second, before being replaced with one a little harder. None of my business, she reminded herself.

She had really wanted to hug him this morning after seeing him so frustrated but decided it might be wiser and more appropriate to show him there were a few people on his side. Seeing him break things and try to be all strong and humorous about it made Shayla want to unravel the Grant mystery even more. It kind of hurt to watch him pretending to be fine, but all she could offer him was lunch and good conversation. Hopefully, Mr. Strong and Silent—Sydney called him that sometimes, although never to his face—knew Shayla and Sydney cared. And Shayla did care. Because he’s a friend. Just a friend.

Grant raised his soda in a toast. “To things not being worse,” he announced with a rueful half smile. “And, uh”—he cleared his throat—“to good company.” He nodded at Sydney, and when he met Shayla’s gaze, he held it. In his dark eyes, she saw hunger, wide-open desire, and about a million other things she couldn’t puzzle out. Grant looked at her that way sometimes, and she did her best to ignore it. He might have a small crush on her, or he could have a thing for petite, small-breasted girls possessing a great fashion sense.

Sydney broke the silence. “To good food and even better friends.” She clinked Grant’s glass, and Shayla came back to reality and smiled, pretending she wasn’t experiencing several different kinds of inappropriate thoughts and feelings for a sexy, complicated man who was her employee and also her friend. She needed to behave and remember things could never go any further than a panty-melting gaze.

Buy the Book

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Barnes and Noble:

Google Play:




About the Author

A few years ago, I read my first romance novel and I was hooked, so much so that I decided to give the idea of writing a story a chance.  My style is more gritty than sweet and I look forward to writing many more stories with strong heroines and imperfect but determined characters. Love, courage, hope, and second chances are a few of my favorite themes. When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time outside and finding ways to avoid cooking. I live in beautiful Virginia with my husband, two daughters, and a sweet, hairy monster of a dog. 

Connect with Christina

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Imagine... -- #UNHCR #WorldRefugeeDay #EveryRefugeeMatters

Refugee child

Look around you. No matter where you live, no matter your economic level, if you’re reading this blog, you probably have a home. You’re surrounded by your personal possessions, things that have special meaning to you. You very likely share your home, too, with people who are important to you – family and friends, neighbors, members of your community. Maybe you live in the town where you were born. Maybe you’ve moved far away, but wherever you are, I’ll bet you have happy memories, emotional connections and some level of physical comfort.

Now imagine that’s all gone. Imagine you’ve been driven out of your home, your town, even your country – by violence, by war, by famine, by disease. You have no place to call your own. Think about what it would be like, to be forced to leave everything behind, not just your possessions but also your culture, history and traditions. If you’re lucky, you may have been able to take your family with you when you fled. If you’re less fortunate, you may have seen your husband, wife, son or daughter raped, arrested or murdered, drowned in the effort to escape, or lost to starvation.

Who would choose this? No one sane. Yet this is the situation faced by more than 70 million refugees around the world. What do these people want? What we all want: safety, shelter, sustenance, work that will support them, a community to which they can belong, a future.

Today is the World Refugee Day. I’m not asking you to donate. I’m not suggesting you should feel guilty because you’re fortunate enough to have a home. No, all I’m asking is that you stop for a moment and use the power of imagination – the same power that allows you to lose yourself in a book – to put yourself in their places.

Imagine you’re a Rohingya man from Myanmar whose house was torched by the army, now living in a squalid camp in Bangladesh with 700,000 of your compatriots. Or a Syrian teenager whose parents were crushed inside their bombed house, who risked his life in a leaky boat to find a home in Europe. Or a young mother from Guatemala who’s walked all the way through Mexico to the U.S. border carrying her two month old child, after drug gangs raped her and shot her husband.

Imagine the terror, the despair, the hunger, the deep loneliness. You can identify with characters in a story. Can you do the same for the refugees? Can you summon enough compassion to burn through the xenophobic rhetoric so common these days?

I’m not asking you to do anything – except to resist the temptation to demonize these souls who have lost everything. It’s easy to blame outsiders for everything, easy to fear them, all too easy to reject them. Resist that temptation, if you can.

If you do want to do something more – well, there are lots of opportunities to work with or on behalf of refugees.

As a really simple starting point – since I know you love erotica and romance – consider purchasing the altruistic anthology Coming Together: On Wheels. All proceeds from this book support the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Of course, I have a story in this volume, a romantic and arousing tale entitle “Test Drive”. Here’s a snippet:

Pure testosterone. That was Jack Taggart. I think I must have got a hit of his pheromones or something, before I even saw him. I almost skipped down the sidewalk that July evening, inexplicable excitement fizzing through me. I should have been worn out from a long shift behind the reference desk. Instead, I felt like dancing as I strolled along Main Street, headed for home. I pulled off the elasticized tie and shook out my hair. It tumbled around my shoulders and down my back, much longer than Estelle thought was appropriate for a woman my age. Too bad. My profession requires me to maintain a certain level of propriety in my dress, but there’s got to be a limit.

Hey there, pretty lady.”

His drawl rumbled through me, an avalanche of heat, melting everything in its path. My hair flew as I turned back in his direction.

I’d intended to scold him for his barely polite greeting. The words caught in my throat as I took him in.

He lounged in the doorway of the Indian motorcycle showroom, hands in his pockets, broad shoulders braced against the frame, one lean, denim-clad leg crossed over the other—six feet of loose-limbed masculinity. A sand-colored braid hung down across his solid chest, almost to his waist. The rolled-up sleeves of his plaid shirt revealed tanned forearms furred with golden down. His sun-bronzed face wasn’t classically handsome, but when his bright blue eyes snagged mine, I couldn’t look away.

Thirty. Thirty five at most. I could almost be his mother. Shocking that all I wanted to do was tear off my conservative skirt and blouse and throw myself into those obviously strong arms.

Want to come for a ride, darlin’?”

Ah—huh—what?” A master’s degree in library science, reduced to inarticulate mumbling by a bit of flirting. What was I, a teenager?

Got a sale going on, through next week. Discounts of twenty to thirty percent on all our models. I have to say you’d look fantastic on a bike, Miss.” He unfolded himself from his casual pose and handed me a business card. “I’m Jack Taggart. Top sales associate in the Midwest, three years running. And you are…?”

Its none of your business who I am, I wanted to tell him. Fat chance. “Um—Alice. Alice Robinson.”

Pleased to meet you, Miss Robinson.” Apparently helpless to resist, I accepted the large, calloused hand he held out. Lighting sizzled through me as our palms connected. “Or is it Mrs. Robinson?”

His cocky grin sent blood rushing to my cheeks. I straightened my spine and tried to regain some sort of control over my autonomic functions. “Mrs. My husband died four years ago.”

* * * *

If this piques your interest, I hope you’ll check out the book. In any case, I hope this exercise in imagination will make you a bit more grateful and a bit more kind.

Certainly it has that effect on me.