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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tour! A Review of Crisis of Serenity by Denise Moncrief + Guest Post & Interview!

Crisis of Serenity (Crisis #2) by Denise Moncrief 
Genre: Adult (Suspense/Romance)
Date Published: July 15, 2014
Publisher: 5 Prince Publishing

Tess Copeland lives a quiet life in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Thanks to the government’s witness protection program, she enjoys the freedom of never having to glance over her shoulder to see if someone is following her. Life has become safe, serene...and boring. Her heart longs for something more than just existing...until a ghost from her past shatters her serenity.

Once upon a time, Tess was stuck between the FBI and the men the feds were trying to take down. Jake Coleman is the U.S. Marshal who extracted her from the jam she was in with the FBI, a man she could have fallen for...hard...if she had let herself. It’s been a year since she last saw Jake, and in all the months that have passed, he’s never tried to find her. The longer he keeps his distance, the more she wonders why his absence hurts so much.

When a stranger comes to town searching for her, all of Tess’ old fears are resurrected. Asking Jake for help with her current crisis might lure him into a dangerous trap involving murder, kidnapping, and revenge. When Jake and Tess come face-to-face with the past, they will have to use all their wits to survive.

Crisis of Serenity was the second book in the Crisis series by Denise Moncrief. You don't have to read this series in order as the author does a great job catching you up on all the going ons, but I still prefer to read it in order. I think I got to know these characters better by reading it in order. This book is a whirlwind of a read. Tess is all Go Go Go! She has fight to survive. She's in witness protection, but as you know if you read the first book.. nothing goes as planned for Tess. Will she ever be safe? I like Trevor. He's got that snarky charm that always hooks me in books, but I think Jake would be a better fit for Tess. He seems more stable. I don't know. I just like him for her. With the way the first book ended, I wasn't expecting some of Tess's circumstances in the beginning of this book, and ultimately I like the path this book took.There are many twists and turns all through. It kept me on my toes and was completely entertaining from start to finish. There wasn't a dull moment.

Crisis of Serenity by Denise Moncrief was kindly provided to me by the author for review. The opinions are my own.

With my purse strap crossed over my body, I ventured out my front door, but not without drawing in a quick breath of bravado and glancing right and then left. No one seemed to be lurking in the shadows, waiting for me to make a dumb move, like leave my apartment to do my laundry. The weight of the .22 caliber handgun hidden in the depths of my purse bounced against my ribcage. It wouldn’t do anyone much damage, but maybe it would injure a bad guy enough to slow him down for me to get away.

I winced. The rhythmic pounding of the gun on my chest would probably leave a nice purple bruise. When I approached the entrance to the small Laundromat on the grounds of the apartment complex, I shifted the basket to my hip and then pushed the door open with my butt. Before I could take another step, the basket slid out of my arm.

Anger shot through me. So much of my paycheck had been surrendered to retailers who sold me towels and underwear. No one was going to take my laundry. I turned to face the thief, ready to yank my weapon from where I had concealed it. My hand stalled when it should have kept moving. I froze as I stared into the eyes of Iverson.

He passed me and entered the small coin-operated laundry, then deposited the load on a nearby washer before turning to me, a smirk of pure delight covering his handsome features. I never understood how someone so good looking could be so heart ugly. He seemed to be waiting for me to speak first. I bit my lower lip to keep from blurting what I was thinking. My thoughts had to do with him and the fires of hell and how I might help him make his journey there, but he was still law enforcement, and there was nothing I could do to speed his journey that was even remotely legal.

Finally, he took a step toward me. I remained frozen, still propping the door open with my backside, my hand clutching the shoulder strap of my bag, fingers twitching and itching to dig inside the purse’s depths to retrieve the gun. I refused to run like a scared little girl. I’d faced off with the coward before; I could do it again. He didn’t scare me…much.

“So, Tess…” He smiled, a wicked glint in his brown eyes. “Can I call you Tess? Or have you assumed a different identity again?”

I closed my eyes, hoping Iverson was only a nightmare. When I opened them, he was still standing two paces away from me.

“You know what name I use or you wouldn’t be here.” I glanced at the nametag above his left breast pocket. It appeared someone besides me was using a false identity. “Officer Jacobs.” Our eyes met, understanding passing between us like a bolt of electricity. There was no way his presence in Gatlinburg was a coincidence. I stepped closer to him, the door bumping my butt as it shut behind me. “I’m a live and let live sort of girl. You live your life and I’ll live mine, and let’s don’t get in each other’s way. Agreed?”

He laughed. “You’ve always had more guts than someone in your position should have.”

I groaned. I’d heard that before from his partners in crime. No one had been able to tie Iverson to the killings, but I was certain he had played a part in the double murder of Les Corona and Mark Padget, as well as the stabbing death of Anya. Both Iverson and I had left the shadow of those crimes behind in Colorado.

He glanced up and down my body, causing me to shiver with disgust. Why did men like him always look at me that way? I studied my reflection in my full-length mirror every morning. I wasn’t what anyone would call hot. Not by any definition. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t have body issues. I was fine with me the way I was. Always had been.

I had changed my appearance so many times over the years when I was running from the law and the bad guys that it was satisfying to look like me for a change. My dirty blonde hair was long and unruly, tied in a ponytail at that moment. My hourglass figure was bottom heavy, accentuated by the tight pants I was wearing. A man once said I had a bubble butt. Height-wise, I probably came up to the shoulder of Iverson’s six-foot frame. My proudest feature was my trim waist. I was what the fashion industry derisively called a plus size. An insulting label, since I was a size 10.

“Do the local cops know who you are?” he asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Do the local cops know who you are?” I countered with just as much scorn.

A mischievous fire glinted in Iverson’s eyes. “I’ll stay out of your way and you stay out of mine.” I didn’t believe he meant to leave me alone. He closed the final step between us, so close I could smell his cheap cologne and the sickly sweet scent of chocolate-covered donut. “But if you cross me, Tess…” His eyes shifted over my shoulder. From where he stood, there was a clear view between buildings 8 and 9, straight across the street toward the side of Joyce’s daycare center.

I narrowed my eyes. In that moment, Iverson and I had a moment of total understanding. His threat to Joyce snatched my breath from my lungs. My knees wobbled a little. I was afraid I’d go down if I didn’t say or do something quickly. I sputtered the first thing that came to mind. “Leave her alone or I swear I’ll kill you.”

Ten Things That Make a Reader Cringe

Before I was a published writer and an acquisitions editor, I was a reader. I began reading romances when I was in high school. My friend Brenda and I traded books and read every Harlequin we could get hour hands on. I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was.

Over the years, I’ve collected some reading pet peeves. The editor in me can spot them in someone else’s work with ease. Unfortunately, I can get so close to my stories that sometimes I don’t see these flaws in my own writing...until a reader points them out to me, and then I want to bang my head against a wall because I know better.

So here they are...the top ten things that make me cringe as a reader and a writer.

10. When paragraphs are too long to fit on my eReader page – Even though I still LOVE the feel and smell of a real paperback in my hands, I’ve gone digital. When the paragraph fills the page without giving me a breather, I start skimming.

9. When the author goes on a tangent in the middle of an intense scene – When the story gets to the point where something important is about to happen, I don’t want the author to tell me the backstory or what the characters are wearing, set the scene, or discuss the weather.

8. When the author treats you like you’re stupid by over explaining – When an author tries to impress me how smart she is, I tune her out. If I think the writer is condescending to me as a reader, I’ll stop reading.

7. When the author dwells too much on an insignificant character – If the author tells me what the character looks like, what she thinks, where she came from, and what her cat’s name is, I expect that character to have an impact on the plot.

6. Missing scene transitions – It slows the story and lessens my enjoyment when I have to figure out how long it’s been since the last scene ended. I don’t want to struggle to understand what’s going on and when it’s happening. It makes a difference whether two hours, two days, or two years have passed.

5. Frequent typos and obvious grammatical errors – When errors are too frequent, I stop and try to refocus every time I come across an error. Too many stops and I’m going to close my eReader and watch something on Netflix.

4. Switching points of view too frequently – I can’t connect with the character when I’ve just gotten used to being inside her head and the point of view switches to another character. I can only handle being inside one person’s head at a time.

3. When characters obviously act out of character – Characters should change and grow over the course of a story, but even then, they should act and sound like the personality that’s been created for them. A forty-year-old man should not act or sound like a twenty-something woman unless it’s obvious he’s trying to be funny.

2. When the ending feels rushed – It leaves me unsatisfied when I’ve gotten used to the pace of a book and it ends too soon, as if the writer just wants to get the story over with. Maybe I want the plot to unravel at the pace I’ve gotten used to.

My number one pet peeve as a reader?

1. Unrealistic dialogue – I cringe when the writer tries to give me an information dump in dialogue. When one character tells another character what she is wearing or how someone is related to her, I nearly fall on the floor.

When I see these things in a book, it makes me want to turn on tracking changes and do some editing, but I can’t edit a Kindle download. Too bad. Or...maybe that’s a good thing.
How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first “novel” when I was seventeen. It was seventeen handwritten pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last Harlequin romance I’d read. The urge to write wouldn’t let go of me. In my twenties, I started another novel, only to abandon it after Chapter Four or Five. I started writing seriously about eight years ago and now I write every chance I get.

What inspired you to write the Crisis Series?
The premise for the book began with a “what if” question. What if a fugitive used a storm as an opportunity to switch identities with a dead person? In the beginning of Crisis Of Identity, Tess uses the chaos in the aftermath of a hurricane to take a dead woman’s social security number and change her own identity. This begins a chain of events that causes all sorts of trouble for Tess. Shelby’s was the wrong identity to steal. Crisis Of Serenity picks up the story where Crisis Of Identity left off. Now, Tess is in witness protection, but she still doesn’t feel safe and serene, and there are still people who want her dead.

When you first started writing Crisis of Identity, did you plan for it to be a series?
No, I didn’t, but enough readers felt the first book was unfinished and there were a few loose ends that needed tying up that I was compelled to continue Tess’ story, to help her find her happily ever after. This time, though, I know that Tess’ story will continue. Not giving any spoilers away, but the book ends with a situation that definitely needs a resolution in a third book.

After writing Crisis of Identity, was it more challenging to write Crisis of Serenity?
Yes, definitely. There was a need for consistency between the two books, not only in the characterization, but in keeping the tone and the light-hearted feel of the first book. Tess is so sassy and smart, such an unusual character, that I didn’t want to lose any of her Tess-ness. Keeping her in character and helping her grow and mature at the same time was quite a challenge.

Which of your characters do you relate to most and why?
Although I don’t think I’m anything like Tess in the Crisis series, I actually can relate to her better than any of my other heroines. She says things that I would never say and does things that I would never do, and in a way, she is the part of me that wishes I were braver and less worried about what other people think of me.

What is a secret about you that nobody else knows?
I cheated playing the hot potato game on the Bozo the Clown show. The potato was clearly in my hands when the buzzer went off, but by the time Bozo turned around, the girl next to me had taken the potato from me. In my defense, I was so shy that I would have never interrupted Bozo while he was talking to tell him he’d made a terrible mistake.

What book have you read too many times to count?
I cannot think of a single book I’ve read more than once, but if I had the time, I would reread Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier.

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
A publisher, and I can’t even remember which one. I submitted my Colorado series years ago and received my first rejection. It was crushing, but the man advised me to hone my craft and polish my skills, perhaps by attending a writers’ conference. I took his advice. At the conference, I realized how much I didn’t know about the art and craft of writing. Looking back on some of the manuscripts I drafted eight to ten years ago, I cringe. Even now, I learn new skills. My biggest advice for aspiring authors is to keep writing, researching, and reading about the craft of writing. Never give up your dream.

If you could hop into the life of any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I would to be Temperance Brennan from the television series Bones. If I had a do over, I think I would study forensic science, but crime scene investigation intrigues me. And she gets to hang around with a hot FBI agent, or at least, she does in the television series. I haven’t read any of the Temperance Brannan book series, but I think it’s next on my to be read list.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned that characters often have their own ideas about where a plot should go. I am a certified pantser. I have an idea how a story begins and I know where I want it to go. In the middle, I put myself in my character’s shoes, asking what would the character say or how would he/she react if this was real life. I try to make reactions believable. Sometimes, that’s difficult when I’ve placed a character in a larger than life situation.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I have this accounting job that takes up too much of my time, but at least, it provides me with a little bit of income to support my writing habit. I spend time with my family. I think we have a twisted sense of humor. We find amusement in the oddest things. For me there is nothing better for relieving stress than a good laugh. One of the things I look forward to every year is our family vacation.

Are any of the things in your books based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Occasionally, I’ll let a bit of life experience into my writing. I will use a mannerism or a personality trait of someone I know that would fit one of my characters. I’m an unashamed eavesdropper. I collect bits of conversations I overhear and put those tidbits into my books. I think it makes dialogue more real.

Check out my review of the previous book in this series!

Want to know a little bit more about Denise? She's a Southern girl who has lived in Louisiana all her life, and yes, she has a drawl. She has a wonderful husband and two incredible children, who not only endure her writing moods, but also encourage her to indulge her writing passion. Besides writing romantic suspense, she enjoys traveling, reading, and scrapbooking.

Accounting is a skill she has learned to earn a little money to support her writing habit. She wrote her first story when she was a teen, seventeen handwritten pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last romance novel she had read. She's been writing off and on ever since, and with more than a few full-length manuscripts already completed, she has no desire to slow down.

To learn more about Denise Moncrief and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

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