Friday, May 1, 2015

review + interview || BAIT { blog tour }

Bait by Leslie Jones

Pubisher: Witness Impulse (4/28/2015)
Series: Duty & Honor, book 2
Genre: Romantic Suspence
Source: Tasty Book Tours/Edelweiss
Purchase links || amazon | bn | ibooks || add to goodreads

Ratings: ★★★1/2

In the next thrilling Duty & Honor novel, a female CIA agent and a Delta Force soldier must catch a deadly assassin… but do they know where the danger truly lies?

After several assassination attempts on an allied royal, the CIA sends in operative Christina Madison—who bears a striking resemblance to the monarch—to pose as the famous princess and draw out her would-be killer.

When Delta Force Lieutenant Gabriel Morgan's team is assigned to Christina's undercover protection detail, he's less than thrilled. Gabe wants nothing to do with a woman whose rumored screw-up nearly got her last team killed. Not to mention there's bad blood between Gabe and the CIA—he doesn't trust anyone who lies for a living.

But once the trap is set and the assassin takes the bait, Gabe must protect her with his life … because danger lurks in the shadows, and now Christina is in the crosshairs.

about Leslie || Leslie Jones has been an IT geek, a graphic designer, and, much like her heroine, an Army Intelligence officer, bringing her firsthand experience to the pages of her works. She's lived in Alaska, Korea, Belgium, Germany, and other exotic locations (including New Jersey). She is a wife, mother, and full-time writer and splits her time between Scottsdale, Arizona, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

{ author interview } .
Hello, Leslie! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions. I'm always curious about an author's writing process and how her brain works, so that's where we'll be starting, and then move into Night Hush: Duty & Honor Book One.

Thank you so much for having me! This is an honor.

  1. How long have you been writing? Not necessarily how long have you been published, but writing in general?

I finished my 1st novel when I was 11 years old; my 2nd at 16; my 3rd at 26; my 4th, still in rough draft form, at 42. I started seriously writing with an eye toward publication at 45 - Night Hush, my 1st published book, came out this past January, and I was 49. Im living proof that its never too late!

  1. What prompted you to make the switch/bring your writing to the public eye?

When we moved to Arizona in 2003, DH sat me down and we had a blunt conversation. He was making enough by then so that I no longer had to work my IT Geek day job if I didnt want to. Given the opportunity to write full time, I jumped on it with both feet. Night Hush was published 4 years later.

  1. What is your typical writing day like?

Im slow to get moving in the morning. Ill spend about an hour first thing catching up on important emails and Facebook. Around 10:00am, Ill shower, eat breakfast, and turn on my laptop. Ill use the sprinting method of writing from 11:30 - 4:30. I do 2 x 15-minute sprints per hour at roughly 300-500 words per sprint, so I write more or less 2200-3200 words per day. I do that Monday through Thursday. On Friday, I research, edit, revise, and correct. If Im behind on word count or need to do extra research or edits, Ill do that on Saturday. Sunday is my day off.

  1. Are you a plotter or pantser? Do you have your stories planned out beforehand, or do you let your characters take you where they want to go?

I think Im a hybrid. I wrote Night Hush as a pantser, but I found myself stuck over and over again on What happens next?For Bait (Duty & Honor Book 2), I wrote out a detailed 10-page synopsis, which I used as the skeleton for the story. Within that skeleton, however, my characters have surprised me many times with the direction they want to take the story. Thats part of the pure fun of writing!

  1. Are you the type of writer whose characters "speak" to you and tell you how their story is going to go, or do you have to completely make them up? I know that I have a few characters that are a bit bossy in how they want their stories written

I know some writers who channeltheir characters, merely writing the story as the characters dictate. Thats definitely not my experience. I develop my characters a layer at a time until Ive created a 3-dimensional person with strengths and flaws. Nevertheless, as Im writing, sometimes they do or say the unexpected, taking the story in a new direction. Usually a better direction, so I let them run just to see what will happen.

  1. What prompted you to write your Duty & Honor series?

Im a veteran, a former Army intelligence officer who served during the First Gulf War. I draw on my knowledge and experiences as I write, which is how I get the authentic feel and flavor of military life. So yes, Im writing what I know, but Im also writing the kinds of stories I enjoy reading. And, hopefully, that others will enjoy reading, as well.

  1. With your personal history, do you feel that you will be a military-romance writer only, or do you think you'll stretch your wings and write other subgenres as well?

I definitely want to write other books! I have a series in its infancy that revolves around a clandestine group of misfits who take on the nastiest, dirtiest jobs the government wont. I also have the rough draft of a fantasy book thats been rattling around in my head for years. My first love will always be military romantic suspense, though.

  1. So far, we have Heather, Jace, Christina, and Gabe. Do you have a favorite character? Was one book more fun to write? Or do you think DEEP COVER is going to have your favorite people (I know, I know, it's like asking about your favorite child).

I love all my characters! Deep Cover (Duty & Honor Book 3) will feature Trevor and Shelby. If Ive done it right, readers will hate Shelby becauseoops, no spoilers! But if I had to pick favorites, Trevor and Shelby would be it. I think readers are going to fall in love with Trevor, and want Shelby to redeem herself in his eyes.

  1. Anything else you want to share about your Duty & Honor or BAIT journey?

Writing these characters and their adventures has been so much fun! They say if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Im not going to tell you writing a book isnt hard work, because we all know it is. But I truly am living my dream, and it humbles and awes me that readers are enjoying my stories.

Thank you so much for letting me talk about my characters and books! I hope readers will love them as much as I do.

{ excerpt } .
Reports of the assassination attempt on Princess Véronique de Savoie barely made a blip on the news outside of Concordia. The tiny country rivaled Liechtenstein in size and importance. As in, very damned little. Most would be hard-pressed to find it on a map.
Inside the CIA, however, the assassination attempt caused a ripple of reaction, starting in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, bypassing normal channels, and landing directly on case officer Jay Spicer’s desk.

“You want me to do what?” asked Christina Madison, eyes wide as she stared at her boss.
Jay Spicer looked back at her. “Have you been in front of a mirror lately?”

“Sure I have.” Every now and then, someone would comment on her eerie resemblance to the princess of Concordia. Princess Véronique made headlines inside her own country on a regular basis, though rarely outside of it. Concordian cameras and reporters followed her as she labored on various humanitarian projects. She’d been part of a BBC documentary last year on modern royalty in Europe, which Christina had watched out of curiosity. The princess remained gracious in the face of newshounds and paparazzi, even when elbow-deep in dirt planting a new strain of bacteria-resistant corn in Ethiopia or bringing clean well water to rural Bolivians.

Occasionally a European visitor to the Washington, D.C., area would ask if she were, indeed, the princess. Christina would laugh it off with a simple, “Don’t I wish.” Truth be told, she much preferred her anonymous work bringing down money laundering and smuggling operations. Having cameras shoved in her face and every word and action dissected struck her as repugnant.

For the most part, though, Véronique remained one of the royal unknowns.

Christina grabbed a handful of Skittles from the crystal ashtray on Jay’s desk. Red and yellow only. He’d already eaten the green and orange.

“Her face is well known inside Concordia. Resembling someone and taking her place are two different—”

“This comes from the top,” her boss interrupted. “From the director himself. The British government specifically asked for your help.”

Her head began to whirl. The mandatory photographs of the president and CIA director frowned down at her from behind his head. Boring pictures. Boring white walls. The only interesting thing in the whole office was the life-sized cardboard cutout of Captain America planted to the right of the door. “The British? Not the Concordians? I don’t understand, sir.”

Jay leaned forward in his chair and tugged at an earlobe, his ADHD making it impossible for him to sit still. At fifty, he still managed to retain the air of an errant schoolboy. He smirked, cracking his knuckles. Christina crossed her legs, not fooled by his antics. Jay Spicer was a shrewd, brilliant case officer. He counted on his façade to cause people to underestimate him. He would clarify the situation in his own time.

“Princess Véronique is engaged to a landed baron in the UK.”

“He has enough clout to tap the CIA for help?”

“Sort of.” Jay pushed a folder across his cluttered mahogany desk. The beige file sported the banded red and large stamps indicating that it contained classified information.
Christina uncrossed her legs in order to lean forward and snag the folder. She flipped it open. The top page contained a request from … Trevor Carswell?

Jay rocked back, the chair squeaking. He grinned, tapping his fingers. “Julian Brumley..."

{ review } .
What a fun read.

I don't know what it is that truly drew me in, but I was hooked from the beginning.

Now, before I get any further, let me preface this by saying I have not read book one, NIGHT HUSH, as of reviewing this title. That said, I don't feel that you need to read these books in order (but I have to say, I'm super interested in Heather and Jace's story, from both the glimpses we get in BAIT and from my interview with Leslie). HOWEVER -- notice, that's a big however -- I have a feeling that the problems between Gabe and Christina that occurred six months ago happened in that book. I don't know, I could be wrong, but I feel like that's where their story begins.

BAIT, though, begins eleven months prior, with an undercover op gone bad. Christina is a CIA agent and while she and her partner, Bobby Roberts (go ahead, make fun; Gabe was sure to) were undercover, somehow their cover was blown, Bobby skidaddled, and Christina ended up with two inches of skin out of her upper arm. You know, no big.

After this, we jump to present time; the princess of Concordia has a mark on her head and the CIA is going in to thwart the terrorist efforts. Christina bears a large resemblance to Princess Véronique de Savoie and as such, it is decided that she will go in undercover as Ronnie. Additionally, a Delta Unit will go in as eyes and arms, with Gabe acting as bodyguard.

Problem? Gabe despises the CIA, and based off of their one mission and the rumors that have swirled around a certain Christina Madison, cannot trust Christina. He finds her brash, annoying, and inexperienced, and not someone he wants to work with.

What I loved most about these two was the fact they both fought their attraction to one another. Gabe was probably the funniest -- those men typically are. Christina and Ronnie fooled him in their mirror scheme (which was comical; I certainly laughed out loud a number of times), and he huffs off. Christina catches him watching her, and he covers it up with rude comments. Christina grapples with him and they get a little too...

...close for comfort?

He stomps off in a fit. 

It was rather comical.

Equally comical was Gabe's team. These men... my goodness, they were nothing more than a group of high school boys egging one another one. 
"I managed to fit in. It's my chameleon thing," she told them. She tucked a leg under her.
"Chameleon?" Alex asked, forehead wrinkling.
Tag sniffed the wine in his glass and put it down. "It's a lizard, numbskull."
Alex lobbed another snail, this time at Tag. It bounced off his chest and rolled onto the floor. Tag didn't react. "I know what a chameleon is, asshole."
They knew when to be professional, of course, but they were strong, silent, and honest. When Christina told her story, they accepted her for how she stated things went down eleven months prior; Mace was sure to tell her he hadn't trusted her originally due to the rumors, but they take her word for it and I loved them all for it.

Gabe... Took him some more time to accept her into the fold. He had negative history where the CIA was concerned, and he was right to be apprehensive, understandably so -- so watching him learn to trust Christina and fall for her was.... Well, 'cute' is too soft a word, but really, what other word can you use to describe a big, bad, burly man who's totally against falling in love, doing just that?

Christina doesn't make it easy for him, of course. I honestly liked her from the get-go, but when she was being fit for a wire... Ha. She's sure to bring in something extra flimsy and lacey for the eyes of Tag and (ok, really just for) Gabe.

I loved watching Gabe grow to respect Christina. I wish we could get a little bit more of their story, and am hopeful that when Trevor and Shelby's comes around, that maybe we'll get some more intel to Christina and Gabe's life; I'm curious of the logistics of their last conversation...

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