Today's featured book, In Flames by Jessica Jayne, gives readers gut-wrenching emotions alongside steamy sexual encounters. Keep reading to learn more about the main character Matt and be sure to fill out the form below for your chance to win lots of great prizes!
A great big thanks goes out to Jody (aka The Scarf Princess) for hosting me once again! She graciously agreed to let me visit her Words of Wisdom blog on my latest tour for my new book from Evernight Publishing, In Flames. And I am so excited to be here!
In Flames is a contemporary erotic romance involving a sexy firefighter, Matt Riley, who is falling for his brother’s widow, Gracelyn. Matt was a wonderfully fun character to write because I love guys with emotion and angst, and well, Matt’s story is filled with both. I thought this guest blog would be a good opportunity to let everyone get to know Matt Riley and what makes him tick. Here’s my interview with him:
JJ:Hey, Matt! Great to see you again. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed today and allowing me to pick your brain.
Matt:Thank you, Jessica. It’s a pleasure to be here and always a pleasure to chat with you. No one knows my brain better than you. (He winks.)
JJ:Haha! Cute. Most of the people reading this interview know nothing about you. Before we getinto some of the meaty stuff, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Matt:Um…okay. My name is Matt Riley. I was born and raised in Mason Ridge, Ohio. That’s about an hour south of Cleveland. I grew up with my parents, an older brother, Chad, and a younger sister, Sarah. I’ve worked as a firefighter for Mason Ridge for the past eleven years. I have an eleven year old son, Brian. I’ve been divorced.
JJ:Are you married?
Matt:Jumping right in, are you, Jess? Yes, I’m married to the most amazing woman on the planet. (Matt smiles.)
JJ:I’m sure Gracelyn would be happy to hear you say that. What made you want to become a firefighter?
Matt:It’s a great way to get all the ladies! (Matt laughs.)
JJ: Haha! True. Firefighters are one of the top fantasies! But seriously…
Matt:Okay… seriously. (Matt smiles.) My grandfather was a firefighter. My father was a firefighter. My older brother was a firefighter. It was my destiny, I guess. I’ve never really wanted to be anything else.
JJ:Does the adrenaline rush have anything to do with it?
Matt:Sure. I’m a thrill-seeker. Always have been. Skydiving. Adventure races. Roller coasters. Showing up at a scene and seeing a raging fire and smoke billowing from a building is exhilarating. You never really know what situation you might face, but you know that you are there to protect people and their property.
JJ:So, you enjoy the role of hero?
Matt:I think I enjoy the role of protector. I don’t like to be called a hero. I’m just doing my job. And I love doing it.
JJ:Awesome answer, Matt. So, what was it like growing up the middle child in your family?
Matt:It had its advantages and disadvantages. Chad was the oldest. Mom and Pops thought he wasresponsible and reliable. And to some extent he was. Even when he tried to get away with stuff, my parents were on top of him. They had high expectations for him, which made some things easier for me. When they were focused on Chad, I could run wild. (Matt chuckles.) So Mom and Pops were worn out a bit by the time I got a little older, but I wasn’t as lucky as Sarah. She’s the baby. She was spoiled… rotten. She’ll deny it, but she was. She had no curfew. Few rules. She was a little brat, but I love her beyond words.
JJ: That’s so sweet! Sarah’s been there for you, especially these last few years with your divorce and Chad’s death.
Matt:If it weren’t for Sarah and Gracelyn, I’m not sure where’d I’d be. They’ve been my rocks.
JJ:Chad’s death wasn’t easy for you. How are you dealing with it now?
Matt:Witnessing the roof of that building collapsing knowing my big brother was still inside seriously messed with my head. It took several firefighters on the scene to keep me from going in after him. And if they hadn’t held me back, I have no doubt I would have entered that building to get him. (Matt pauses.) My brother and I had our differences of opinion and such, but I loved him. (Matt rubs his eyelids with his thumb and forefinger then looks back at me.) I spent a good deal of my life looking up to him. We were competitive with one another, but over the years we also became good friends. I miss the hell out of him.
JJ:And it’s those feelings that made your relationship with Gracelyn so tough to deal with?
Matt: Yes. (Matt takes a deep breath.) Gracey and I have always been friends. We hit it off immediately when Chad started bringing her around. When Chad died, I felt responsible… like there was something I could’ve done. She had just asked Chad for a separation shortly before the accident because she caught him cheating. We both were suffering from some guilt. Gracey and I leaned on each other. I recognized that my feelings for her were changing… becoming more serious. But I wasn’t going to act on them. She was still my brother’s wife… or at least, that’s how I looked at it.
JJ:So, what changed?
Matt:That woman is relentless. (He laughs.) I fell in love with her. It was impossible not to. I tried to fight it, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to make her happy, and I wanted to be happy with her.
JJ:You’re going to make me cry. That’s beautiful. When have you been most satisfied in your life?
Matt: Hmmm… you’re really making me dig deep, Jess. (He smiles) Honestly, I’m most satisfied right now. My first marriage to Brian’s mom was a disaster. We had both been young when we got married and hadn’t really lived yet. And I think if she hadn’t gotten pregnant with Brian, we probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as we did. Don’t get me wrong… we had good times and Brian is my heart. But my relationship with Gracey is incredible. There’s trust. There’s peace. There’s respect. And I think those things only come with experience and maturity. Plus, there’s amazing sex! (He winks) And we all know that only comes practice!
JJ:And practice makes perfect! (I wink back at him).
Matt:I always knew you’d get me!
JJ:Of course, I do! Last question before I let you go. If we are sitting here a year from now celebrating a great year for you, what did you achieve?
Matt:No questions… hands down… Gracelyn pregnant. I want to have a baby with her. We have Brian and her two, Jenna and Josh. And I love our family. We have so much love. It would be wonderful to have another little one to share that love with.
JJ:Does Gracelyn know about this?
Matt:(He chuckles) Of course. And I think she’s actually on board. I’ll let you know as soon as it happens.
JJ:That’d be great, Matt! Thanks so much for spending some time with me. We spent a lot of time together over the course of In Flames and it was always a pleasure. Still is.
Matt:Thank you, Jess. Anytime.
Gracelyn Riley married a firefighter. She knew that came with risks. But she never imagined herself widowed in her early thirties with two children to care for on her own.
As a fireman, Matt Riley was at the scene when his brother, Chad, was killed. He suffered greatly from survivor’s guilt and depression after the accident.
The last year has been difficult for both Gracelyn and Matt. They’ve relied on each other to get through the tough times. With the anniversary of Chad’s death upon them, Gracelyn and Matt once again turn to each other for comfort and support. They find it in each other’s arms (and bed). Will their desire for each other consume them? Can they overcome the guilt and scrutiny to find love again…together?
"He wasn’t the perfect husband,” Gracelyn said. “I learned about the women. I was so angry with him. So angry. He risked our marriage and our family for a few hot fucks. One of the hardest things I ever did was tell him to leave our home… that I needed to separate from him so I could sort it out on my own. And then, a week later he is gone… for good. I felt so guilty. I loved him. I really did. And he was a great father. I miss him.” Tears started to flow down her face.
“I miss him too,” Matt said. He gave her hand a squeeze. “Gracey, I know you loved him. He knew you loved him. I know he made mistakes in your relationship, but he did love you… a lot… even if he didn’t always show it properly. And he was going to work his ass off to save your marriage.” Matt wiped her tears away with the back of his hand.
“This is just so hard, Matty. Raising Jenna and Josh on my own. It’s a big responsibility when both parents are around, but on my own… I feel like I am screwing everything up,” she cried. “Shit around the house that he would normally take care of sometimes falls by the way side because I forget about it… like the trash. And then I see it sitting there and get mad that he isn’t here to take the trash out or mow the lawn or help the kids with their math homework. He was always better with math than I was. Not to mention, I feel so damn alone.” She looked up at him. Her blue eyes sparkled through her tears.
“You know you can always count on me,” Matt said. He put his arms around her and cradled her. “I’ll help with Jenna and Josh as much as I can. And you know Mom and Pop will always be here to help too. And when I don’t have Brian on the weekend, I can be here to do whatever you need…like I have been.”
“I can’t ask you to do more than you already do,” she said. “You already do so much… too much. You attend the kids’ events and games. You help take care of the yard… fix the little things around the house… make sure my car is always up and running. You need to have a life. You can’t spend your free time taking care of your brother’s widow all the time."
“Gracey, you are more than just Chad’s widow. You’re family. And you have always been a friend. You’ve been a tremendous support for me. I wouldn’t have made it through this last year without you. I will do whatever I can to help you. You know that. We’ve helped each other through this last year and I’m not abandoning you now. I’ll always be here for you.”
“I just don’t want to be alone anymore,” she cried into his shoulder. Her hands gripped his t-shirt desperately. Matt held her tight. Tears welled in his own eyes. The past year had been difficult for everyone, especially Gracelyn. But she’d always stayed strong…whether for the kids, for everyone else or for herself.
They had shared tears together over the last year, but he had only witnessed her completely break down twice. First, when she found out about the accident. Matt wouldn’t let anyone else break the news to her. He had been at the scene when the accident happened. Several firefighters had to restrain him to keep him from rushing back into the collapsing building to get to his brother. The fire chief wanted to tell Gracelyn about Chad’s death, but Matt refused that as an option. He and Gracelyn were close and he did not want her to find out from anyone other than him, so he rode with the chief to her house. She knew the minute she opened the front door and saw him standing in his turnout pants, t-shirt and suspenders with his face all smudged black from the smoke and his own tears. She collapsed in his arms when he confirmed it. And then when they buried Chad, Gracelyn broke down for the last time… at least in front of anyone else. Maybe she sobbed every night in the shower or lying in bed by herself. But he had not seen it. The sight of her in his arms now… it just broke his heart.
Gracelyn lifted her head and looked at him through her tears. Matt gently touched her face with the back of his hand, in an attempt to wipe away her tears and soothe her. Leaning into him, she pressed her lips to his. At first, Matt didn’t comprehend what was happening. Her lips were soft against his, yet she kissed him so confidently. Her fresh strawberry scent enveloped him… so sweet… so intoxicating. She smelled like summer despite it being the end of September.
Matt’s mind told him to stop the kiss. Stop it before it went any farther. But her tongue slid against the seam of his lips and his head jumbled with a mix of thoughts—none of which were coherent.
MY IMPRESSIONS OF THIS BOOK:
In Flames by Jessica Jayne not only puts its characters through the wringer, but its readers too, as this angst-ridden story presents two people brought together in mutual grief and the fallout of their love that is frowned upon by some. Along with intense emotional issues comes lots of steamy sexual encounters, almost too many at times, that left me fanning myself as each page was turned. With lots of roadblocks along the way, it was both a relief and an applaud-worthy ending that readers are ultimately rewarded with.
Matt saw his brother die and could do nothing to stop it. For a long time he wished it had been him who died as his brother was always the family's Golden Boy while Matt was the screw-up. His own marriage had just ended and the combined events led him to drinking and numerous one night stands. Lots of therapy, and spending time helping and talking to Gracelyn, got him through the pain and it's a more mature Matt that has evolved. Being with Gracelyn and her kids has made him into someone you can rely on. It's also made him realize how much he cares for and admires her, along with finding her incredibly attractive. He's been fighting his feelings for a long time, but that fateful anniversary night has him demonstrating his feelings very clearly. Guilt again rears its ugly head as Matt worries how others will perceive their relationship and the possible hurts it might cause his family and the kids involved. Through a huge chunk of the story he lets his fears win as he pushes her away. Jealousy forces him to act and damn the consequences as the remainder of the story deals with the fallout in a realistic way.
There's an intriguing mix of secondary characters that are greatly affected by this new relationship. Matt's mother is still grief-stricken and is the biggest opponent as she still can't fully accept her son's death and Gracelyn being anything other than Chad's wife. She sees this act as the ultimate betrayal based on blatant religious beliefs. Matt's ex is a shrew and her purpose in the story appears to be making him miserable as she's still obsessed with him. She lives up to all the stereotypes of an ex by verbally lashing out and I found her thoroughly annoying. While Gracelyn's kids easily accept their being together, it's Matt's son that's grief-stricken in a scene that's very believable and brings a tear to your eye.
Through it all Ms. Jayne has created a story that realistically deals with grief and the process of moving on. The relationship between Matt and Gracelyn has evolved believably over time and isn't something they enter into lightly. The author nicely balances intense emotions alongside numerous steamy sexual interludes in a heartwrenching story full of roadblocks that ultimately culminates in a satisfying conclusion.
My rating for this is a B+
*I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I am a born and raised small town Ohio girl, who moved to the Sunshine State after graduating from college. I graduated with a bachelor's degree in English because I could not imagine doing anything else but reading and writing. It is such a pleasure to be able to share all the stories in my head!
In the journey of life, I also became a wife and a mother of three children. So, life is always an adventure. But the love of writing has never died.
My favorites: I love to read and write... obviously! But I also enjoy all sports, especially college football and the Ohio State Buckeyes! Go Steelers! Go Rays! I LOVE to travel... LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to travel. And I love sharing my love to travel with my children. I love to drink Teavana teas! I love a good glass of wine, especially if it comes from a bottle made by the FOOLS wine club… yep, I’m a member of that! I love hanging out with my family and my friends! Big fan of music, but love nothing better than putting on my jean shorts, tank top, cowboy boots and hat and watching Tim McGraw belt it out! I’m a sucker for a cowboy hat!
Favorite quote: “If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies.”
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