First of all, thanks for having me over on Words of Wisdom from the Scarf Princess. It’s such a pleasure to be here to talk about my new novel, Identity Crisis! In fact, an identity crisis is exactly what I want to talk about today, because every writer has one every time she or he creates a new character. What’s the recipe for a good character? How do we keep them from being recognisable as us, from turning into us? We always struggle with these questions.
Of course we have to like our characters, at least our main characters. And even our villains and baddies, well, they give us a chance to be bad vicariously, so we have to find something in them that we can relate to. Though I have to admit, the baddie in Identity Crisis gave me more than a few cold shivers when I was writing him. What does that say about me??? Oh please don’t tell meJ
If there’s a recipe for the hero in my stories, it might look something like this:
20% all my collective memories and ideas of romantic heroes on telly, in the movies, in books, in my head.
10% past and present lovers and men I’ve found myself attracted to.
10%-ish very bad boy
10% flaws and neuroses. The flaws and neuroses can vary hugely, depending on the character, and Garrett Thorne, I reckon, is upward toward the 20% mark.
40% surprise! Garrett is full of surprises.
I think the identity crisis most writers have to deal with, or at least I certainly do, is that as we work with and live with our characters day-in, day-out. That means they can become almost more real to us than real people! And when we’re finished with the story, when we send it out the door and step away, it’s almost like we’ve lost a friend. We feel bereft, and we miss them terribly.
This is NOT, however, Garrett Thorne’s identity crisis. Though Garrett Thorne is a writer, and I’m sure he does deal with that sort of identity crisis, the problem for Garrett is that he writes very successful romance novels, and he writes them under the name, Tess Delaney. Only his brother, Ellison Thorne, and a few very select trusted friends know that Tess Delaney is really Garrett. The rest of the world is abuzz with rumours and hints of just who Tess Delaney might be, since no one has ever seen her in person. Everyone, however, has seen Ellison Thorne’s bad-boy younger brother, Garrett, and everyone is convinced of what a ne’er do-well he is.
Garrett’s great at keeping Tess a secret -- that is until she’s nominated for the coveted Golden Kiss Award, and he’s faced with the possibility of Tess being outed. Garrett needs serious help to sort his identity crisis and keep Tess a secret. Enter Kendra Davis, PR person extraordinaire complete with an identity crisis of her own. Kendra is all ready to play Tess for the big event, and trouble is just around the corner.
Reclusive romance novelist Tess Delaney is the alter ego of Garrett Thorne, bad-boy brother of business tycoon Ellison Thorne. When Tess is nominated for the Golden Kiss Award, Garrett recruits PR specialist, Kendra Davis, to keep his secret and be Tess for the awards despite their mutual animosity. But when Tess is stalked by a rabid fan, an identity crisis is eclipsed by a battle for survival, and Tess Delaney, the woman who doesn’t exist, just might understand Kendra and Garrett’s hearts even better than they do.
Garrett felt like a naughty teenager as they sneaked out the back door, through the gate of the privacy fence and down the alley. He wore a shapeless track suit with the black hoodie pulled up over his head and a scruffy pair of Converse sneakers that weren’t exactly meant for dancing. And Kendra, well she hardly looked ratty, in his opinion. She wore low rider jeans, and where they weren’t hugging her body like a second skin, they were full of threadbare, flesh revealing holes. The black sweat top she wore was cut short enough to show a tantalizing flash of her navel and hips bones when she moved just right. It slid off one shoulder to reveal the thin lacy strap of a red bra. She wore all of her russet locks tucked up under a leather beret. Her fashion statement was topped off with black ankle boots. She looked very, very dangerous. And hot. Of course she didn’t need to dress the part for either, he thought. He was already certain on both counts.
‘You live a little closer to The Boiling Point than Dee does.’ She took his hand and nodded to where the alley T’ed with the street, and then gave way to the park on the other side. ‘She never goes there, of course. Well she did once, but that was just for Harris, then he hated it.’ She giggled. ‘God I wish I could have been there for that.’
‘Am I going to hate it?’ he asked.
She shook her head. ‘Probably not. You’re much more of a bad boy than Harris is, or is that all an act?’
The long line of shiny chrome Harleys out front of the squat cinder block building gave Garrett the first clue that this was not Dancing with the Stars. Kendra waved them away absently. ‘The Boiling Point’s not really a biker bar, but it’s kind of the warm-up act, I suppose you could say. Lots of bikers start off here before they head on to their usual haunts. Makes for an exciting mix. Later in the night there are almost no bikers. But there are always lots of interesting people.’
Any other time, Garrett would have been up for meeting interesting people, but tonight he couldn’t imagine anyone interesting him more than the woman on his arm. He paid the fee at the door and a surly man the size of small house with fire-engine hair and a scruffy beard stamped their hands with a red ink TBP.
Inside a live band had just begun to play to a full, but not yet crowded house. ‘The place gets raided from time to time,’ Kendra said. ‘I don’t know what all goes on. I just come here because it’s interesting.’
‘A good raid and us carted off to the police station will really give the press something to talk about,’ Garrett observed.
‘Don’t worry,’ she yelled to be heard above the band’s bass-heavy version of Highway to Hell. ‘They just got raided last week. They’ll be good to go for a while now. We can relax and enjoy ourselves.’ She pulled him onto the dance floor. ‘Best dance while there’s room. In a few hours it’ll be a real tit squeeze.’
Kendra Davis was just as stunning dark and dangerous as she was golden and romantic, as she was naked in his kitchen, and she definitely knew how to move on the dance floor. But it made Garrett more than a little nervous that he wasn’t the only one who seemed to be noticing the way the woman could shake her booty. He thought about asking her to try not to draw to much attention to herself, but he wasn’t even sure it was possible for Kendra Davis not to draw attention.
The place smelled of leather and beer, and sweat. Already there was a thick haze of pheromones invisible to the eye, but everyone there breathed them it, gave them off and revelled in the dark anticipation of what the night might bring. The look in Kendra’s eyes was bright and wicked, like she would do anything, try anything, like all the boundaries were suddenly negotiable.
And fuck, as amazing as she was like that, as much as he wanted to lose himself in the place, in the experience, there was no way he could keep from thinking about who might be watching her in that crowd, about who might be waiting for just the perfect opportunity.
As though she were reading his mind, she pulled him to her with a hand curled around his neck and spoke against his ear. ‘Oh would you relax, Garrett. Do you really think this is the kind of hang-out Tess Delaney would frequent?’
Then she slid both arms around his neck and let him pull her into a deep, hungry kiss. When it ended with an aggressive flick of his tongue, she offered a throaty giggle. ‘Marking territory, are we?’ Before he had a chance to respond, she returned the favor, plunging her tongue in deep, and tightening a fist in his hair to pull him closer.
He moved a hand to the small of her back and gave her the full frontal rub-up, enough to be sure she knew she’d gotten his cock’s attention. ‘You see where this is leading if you keep that up?’
She pulled away and gave his crotch some breathing room as the music settled into a heavy metal beat that filled the dance floor with lots of heavily booted bikers and their spandex and leather women. Garrett was surprised to find more than a few men in pressed jeans and designer polo shirts bellied up to the bar in the mix that looked like it was probably mostly low-brow. He wasn’t the only man who looked like he’d just come from a work out at the corner gym and Kendra’s shredded jeans seemed to be the fashion statement of more than a few women among a smattering of Goth and grunge and plain old red-neck jeans and tee-shirts with baseball caps.
With each song the band played, the dance floor became fuller and fuller. The strobe light flashed and the disco ball bathed the floor in sparkles as people rocked and strutted and sweated, and it became more and more difficult to tell who was dancing with whom. Garrett was about to grab Kendra by the hand and reel her back in so they could stay connected when a biker in a ZZ Top tee-shirt that smelled like an ashtray and looked like it might have been painted across his bulging pecs managed to slide in between them, turn his back on Garrett, and focus his full attention on Kendra. And suddenly all Garrett could see was his broad back.
‘Kendra,’ he called, but his voice was drowned out in the roar of Def Leppard. And that might have been okay if the man hadn’t been so fucking big. Kendra was certainly entitled to dance with whomever she liked. But he couldn’t see her. He fucking couldn’t see her! Not even her feet between the man’s shuffling boots. ‘Kendra!’ He called again. Louder this time. That at least got the man’s attention, but when he turned to see what Garrett wanted, and he could see beyond the biker’s bulk, Kendra was not there! The woman the man was dancing with had cropped blonde hair and a leather bustier several sizes too small.
‘Kendra!’ Garrett called out, louder this time, shoving his way past the biker, who pulled the blonde to him protectively. Frantically Garrett scanned the burgeoning crowd on the dance floor, scanned the women with hats. There were cowboy hats, police hats, even a few stocking caps, but there were just too many people, too many lights, too much noise. In his mind he could only think of Razor Sharp’s horrid email and Kendra’s response to it. Why the hell hadn’t he forced the issue? Why the hell hadn’t he made her tell him why she was so upset, made her tell him about the stalker Dee had mentioned. And fuck! Why had he let her talk him into bringing her here?
MY IMPRESSIONS OF THE BOOK:
As the second book in the Executive Decisions series we get the opportunity to revisit old characters and see a more likable side of Garrett Thorne evolve from his unpleasant demeanor in the previous installment. This book is entitled Identity Crisis and it's the perfect title as it represents both of the main character's actions in keeping a persona that keeps them safe from heartache but with a stalker on the loose there can be no more lies if they want to keep each other alive.
Garrett has always felt like a pale comparison to his older brother and it's led to animosity between the two. In the early parts of this story he appears gruff, stoic, with a serious nature. But as the story progresses you see a man with a strong sense of romance and a protective instinct that sometimes overwhelms the heroine. The reason for his strong sense of romance is that he's a romance author who goes by the pen name Tess Delaney. He says in words what he'd like to act out more often as he's been drawn to Kendra from the first time he saw her. When the truth about his pen name is threatened he must rely on Kendra's help which puts them in close proximity and allows their relationship to progress into numerous steamy encounters and if they're willing to open up their hearts and show their true selves they'll get their HEA.
Kendra is a tough nut to crack and rather abrasive at times. She too keeps her true self hidden and it's not always clear what her true personality is like. Garrett intrigues her but it's all about sex at the start in her mind. When they're put in close quarters as she again pretends to be someone she's not we slowly see new layers to her. As a stalker gets closer to her she has to learn to let Garrett help keep her safe which is the first step to their HEA.
Although I didn't always like the main characters I was invested in their evolution to become better people. These characters were fully fleshed-out and their journey to discovering the reality of themselves and their admitting it kept me reading when sometimes I wanted to scream. Another character that intrigued my was the stalker himself. He was the perfect villain and kept me turning the pages to see what he'd do next. His actions in the final pages were especially exciting before the rather abrupt ending.
Identity Crisis is a fine addition to the Executive Decisions series and I enjoyed seeing two rather abrasive characters become better through admitting their real emotions for one another. Add in an exciting villain and you have the makings of a satisfying story that fans of suspense and romance will enjoy.
My rating for this is a B.
*I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Grace Marshall lives in South England with her husband and the growing gang of hooligan birds who frequent their feeders. When Grace isn’t busy writing something sexy and romantic, she’s busy digging in her ever-expanding veg garden or walking across the British countryside. She finds inspiration outdoors in nature, and most of her best story ideas come to her while she’s walking or gardening.
Grace is the author of the fast paced, quirky Executive Decisions Trilogy published by Xcite Romance. The first and second novels in the trilogy are out now.
Grace Marshall’s alter-ego, K D Grace, writes critically acclaimed, best-selling erotic romance. Whether it’s sexy romance or romantic sex, between The Graces, there’s a story for you.
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GraceMarshallRomance