Whiskey-Eyed Woman Chapter 1

It’s finally release day! For those of you who have been waiting for Duncan and Mandy’s story, this is it! I hope you all enjoy the conclusion to their journey. <3

Here’s the first chapter!

Chapter 1

 

Blackness lay ahead.

Mandy navigated the darkness with precision, knowing this office like the back of her hand. She kept her footsteps light, soundless, as she headed towards the exit. The only light slipped from the narrow slit beneath Duncan’s door, barely illuminating the black furniture, green feature wall to her left, and the green decorative items she’d sprinkled through the space.

A few more steps and she’d be free of Duncan’s overbearing ways for another day.

A dark shadow loomed before her. Adrenaline spiked through her and her heart skipped a beat. She stumbled to a stop. She blinked until the features of the man in front of her coalesced into the familiar face of her business partner.

“Duncan,” she said, pressing a hand against her chest to calm her heart rate. “You scared me.” He was a large African-American man, broad across the chest and still in peak physical condition though he’d left the Army almost two years ago when a piece of shrapnel tore his knee to shreds.

His scowl deepened. “You were sneaking out of the office.”

She rolled her eyes, but guilt nagged at her. His words weren’t completely untrue. “I wasn’t. I told you I needed to leave early tonight. I should’ve been out of here fifteen minutes ago if I wanted to make Sierra’s house in time for dinner.” Sierra was Mandy’s best friend, and had been since college. Both their lives had been pretty crazy the last few months and they hadn’t had time to see each other. This dinner was meant to make up for that, and Mandy didn’t want to be too late.

“You should’ve waited for me.”

“I reminded you twice.” Her heartbeat had slowed to a normal pace, but left behind a feeling of unease. Constantly looking over her shoulder for threats had taken its toll on her.

“Mandy,” he growled, his jaw working. “You have a killer after you.”

Like she needed the reminder.

“We both do. Sort of.” She glanced away so she didn’t have to look at Duncan’s irritated expression. He so often gave her that look, but she still hadn’t become immune to it. She wished she was. It would make her life so much easier.

Instead of looking at Duncan, she glanced around the office—the symbol of the company they’d built together. Professionally, they made a good team. Personally? The jury was still out.

Duncan sucked in a breath as if to say more, then snapped it shut. He hesitated, then continued on what Mandy knew was a different track. “I’ll escort you down to your car.” He palmed a gun from a holster on his lower back and held it loosely at his side.

Mandy agreed, only because he’d been doing the same thing for the last two and a half weeks, since she’d found the letters threatening her life. She’d told him time and again that he didn’t need to. No one could get into their garage without a pass. But Duncan never listened.

She left the office with one last glance behind her, Duncan leading the way.

“I can’t keep doing this,” she murmured, leaning her head back against the wall of the elevator and letting out a sigh.

Duncan rubbed his injured knee, but Mandy said nothing, knowing he’d start scowling again if she did.

“We’ll get them,” he muttered. “We’ve almost got all the information we need to take to the authorities. And when we do Beaton Security—and Tulane—will be left powerless.”

Mandy nodded, but she wasn’t so sure. Beaton had proved themselves to be incredibly powerful, getting away with murder, and even a terrorist attack on American soil.

“Have we found out who Tulane is, yet?” she asked.

Duncan shook his head. “He’s slippery.”

“So it’s probably another fake name.”

“Probably,” Duncan grumbled.

“How much longer?” she asked.

“Hmmm?”

“How much longer until we can take our evidence to the authorities and I can get my life back? I’m sure you’re sick of having to escort me everywhere, too.”

The elevator doors opened with a bing, and Duncan stepped out before he answered. “Not long. And I don’t mind. All that matters is you’re safe.”

Her heart warmed. Duncan may be annoyed with her constantly, but he still cared, even if it was against his will.

“Duncan?” Mandy began as they strode towards her car. Duncan didn’t look at her, his eyes darting around the underground parking structure. Ten of the cars belonged to Soldiering On—all bulletproof black SUVs—and the rest of the space was empty. All the other businesses must have closed for the day.

“Yeah?” Duncan replied.

“Do you—“

A blast sounded above them, shaking the building with violent force. Mandy stumbled, falling into the nearest car so hard it sent a shooting pain through her shoulder. Duncan came with her, curling himself protectively over her back, shielding her from the concrete that rained down from above them.

Car alarms echoed through the underground garage with pulsing, discordant shrieks, and orange lights flashed all around her.

Her head swam as she tried to understand what had just happened.

“Bomb,” Duncan growled in her ear, answering her unspoken question. She shivered in reaction to the word, fear gripping her, choking her. The concrete had stopped raining from above them, leaving the garage eerily still despite the insistent car alarms. She turned her head to look at Duncan, taking comfort in his warm, strong presence.

Their heaving breaths mingled as she turned her head, and his arm tightened around her.

“Are you okay?” he asked softly, his eyes searching hers.

She nodded, unable to speak. They didn’t break eye contact.

“We have to get out of here,” he told her. Briefly, his hand stroked her hair, just once, as if assuring himself she was unhurt and offering her comfort.

Her heart lurched at the simple act of affection. Dust fell from her hair and she blinked, then pulled away from him and pressed closer to the car. It hadn’t been affection; he’d just been cleaning her. Disappointment sank in her gut.

She struggled out of his grip as he reluctantly loosened his hold around her. He picked up his gun and she stood, then levered himself to his feet with a wince.

“The building could collapse at any minute,” he told her urgently as he strode toward the closed rolling door to the outside. His limp was more pronounced now.

Mandy dug into her handbag as she followed him, finding her keys. She pushed the button to open the rolling door and it slowly creaked upwards. She coughed as the dust that covered the garage floor kicked up with their every step, clogging her mouth and nostrils.

As they reached the door, it shuddered to a stop. One painful whine sounded as it tried again to open before it fell still. It had barely opened to the height of their knees.

Mandy glanced up. The roll had been damaged in the blast. It wouldn’t budge.

She groaned, then crouched and rolled beneath it, sucking in a breath of the night air. But it didn’t clear her lungs. Something crunched beneath her and she realised shattered glass was spread across the asphalt beneath her. She lay there for a moment, staring up at the flames pouring out of the third story windows—their windows.

Despair welled up as she watched everything they’d worked for burn in hot flames.

“Duncan,” she murmured as he followed her outside.

He grunted.

“Look,” she said, gesturing up.

He did, positioning himself so they lay side-by-side.

“It was meant for us,” he muttered. He didn’t sound surprised by this revelation, but Mandy sucked in a breath.

“Tulane?” she asked, turning to Duncan. “He tried to blow us up?”

Duncan nodded slowly. “That would be my guess.”

Mandy swallowed past the thick lump in her throat. Tears burned her eyes. Tears of fear and anguish and being totally overwhelmed. This was all too much for too long.

Duncan sat, then got to his feet with another pained wince. He held out a hand to Mandy and she took his large hand in a firm grip and he pulled her to her feet.

“What do we do now?” she asked as they hurried away from the fire that leapt and grew behind them with every step. The heat burned at their back.

Duncan stopped and turned, his eyes travelling over the building that had just minutes before housed their hard-earned offices. He took a few deep breaths, and even as Mandy watched, his expression transformed from despair to determination.

He took the keys from her hand and pressed the button to close the garage door. It groaned as it descended, then clanged shut.

She looked at him in question, and he turned to her with a grim smile.

“We need to buy ourselves some time.”

Mandy blinked. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that Tulane has no reason to think we weren’t in the building when it blew. It’ll take a while for the fire department to put out the fire, then for it to cool enough for the fire investigators to come in—if the building stays standing. If we let everyone think we were in there—”

He paused, and Mandy completed his sentence. “Tulane will think so, too.”

He nodded, gripping her upper arms, his eyes alight with excitement. “That will give us at least twenty-four hours, maybe more, to figure out how to use this to our advantage.”

“We’ll need a place to stay,” she reminded him.

“I know just the place,” he told her.

“Should we get a car?”

“Yes, but not from in there. It’s not safe, and they might notice it’s missing. We’ll take one of the spare ones hidden nearby.”

“Okay,” she said, squaring her shoulders and hardening her resolve. A plan. She could work with a plan.

He yanked her handbag open, still attached to her shoulder. He dug through it until he pulled out her phone, then slammed it onto the ground with all his might.

“Hey!” she cried, but he ignored her.

He crouched and whacked her cracked and beaten phone with the butt of his gun until it shattered into tiny pieces.

She crossed her arms over her chest. “Was that really necessary?”

He held her gaze as he slowly rose to his full, intimidating height. “Yes. Beaton have hacked into our systems once before. I know we just got you a new phone when the first letter came in, but we can’t take the risk they’ve hacked us again and can trace your phone.”

She clenched her jaw. “Fine. But where’s yours?”

He shrugged and his eyes flickered over to the building now completely engulfed in flames. “I left it in the office.”

She rolled her eyes. The man hated technology, and would avoid it entirely if he could. In this instance it hardly made a difference. The phone would be destroyed either way.

“In that case, let’s go.”

He stilled for a moment, holding her gaze, then slowly wrapped his hands around her biceps, pulling her closer. For a mad moment, she thought he meant to kiss her, but he only held her still.

“Do you trust me?” he asked, his eyes burning into hers.

She frowned at the question, and the intensity in his expression. Her answer mattered to him. “Of course,” she whispered softly.

He nodded once in satisfaction, then took her hand and led her away from their burning offices, their destroyed life. Sirens sounded in the distance as they disappeared into the night.

Read the rest here!

How to Be Hooky

Great advice on how to keep readers coming back for more!

Hookiness. It’s what a good book is all about, really. When I look at the books I really enjoy, that I burn through, they’re (a) pulling me in and (b) pulling me on. But how do you do that? How do you grab a reader? How do you KEEP the reader? How do you entertain a reader enough that she will go on to read the next book? How do you (I) consciously do those things better?

Source: How to Be Hooky

Why Literary Agents Reject Books | How to Write Novels | WritingNovelsThatSell.com

Great advice for both writing and marketing. Know your specific subgenre!

75 percent of all manuscripts get rejected because the author hasn’t done her research.  She hasn’t  studied – and applied — the conventions (or key story elements) that separate Suspense novels from Mysteries, or that make a Romance novel a Romance.

Source: Why Literary Agents Reject Books | How to Write Novels | WritingNovelsThatSell.com

Cover Reveal for Whiskey-Eyed Woman!

So today is the big day! The cover for Whiskey-Eyed Woman has been launched. Here it is in all its glory:

What do you think?

Here’s the blurb:

The final Soldiering On book

They’ve been dancing around each other since they started Soldiering On. Now, Duncan and Mandy will have to work together if they are going to get out of this alive…

Former Sergeant Major Duncan Pierce has wanted Mandy since the moment they first met, but she deserves better than a beat up old soldier. Then, a bomb planted in their office goes off, and they narrowly escape the deadly situation with their lives. Faking their own death to buy some time, they are forced to hide out together while they plan to finally bring down the arch-enemy that has nearly destroyed them.

But in such close proximity, their powerful sexual chemistry is sure to combust…

Mandy’s sick of Duncan seeing her as the untouchable princess she’s not. When they arrive at the safe house, she’s determined to get him to see the real her. But first they have to deal with a man who wants them dead and buried, once and for all.

Preorder it here!

It’ll be released on August 18th. I’m so excited to share this with everyone. Writing this series has been a journey, and I’m sad to see it come to an end. But I’m also really excited for what I have planned next! Expect some exciting updates over the next few weeks!

Hotel Hideaway Chapter 1

Chapter 1

 Gun.

The sight was so incongruous in the busy coffee shop that Sam blinked to make sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her. But, no. A 9mm Glock was tucked into the back of the man’s jeans and mostly hidden by his tan jacket. Her heart jumped once, then kicked into high gear, pounding hard.

Sam ran her eyes over him, assessing the threat level. Short—maybe as short as her—and almost as wide as he was tall. Not law enforcement, or he’d have the gun in a holster. She could only see him from the back, so she shifted her eyes to his companion. His hair was the same light brown as the guy with the gun, and he had the same stocky build, though his ran more to fat than muscle. Brothers, she guessed.

The two men tried to look inconspicuous, but they hadn’t ordered any coffee before they’d sat down—the second red flag after the gun. The third red flag was the way their eyes kept darting to a tall man in line to order his coffee, impeccably dressed in what she guessed was a tailored suit and a coat that looked like it would cost her a month’s rent.

His profile was strong, the planes of his face sharp, his black hair shining with health, and Sam noticed dispassionately that he was probably handsome.

He was also in danger. If her instincts were right, and they usually were, the two guys with at least one gun between them planned to use it on the tall businessman. Sweat beaded at the back of her neck.

Luckily their target had two bodyguards on either side of him. He expected the threat. So Sam settled back in her chair to watch the proceedings. She didn’t need to get involved, despite the adrenaline flowing through her.

After a minute of covert observation, a sick feeling pooled in her gut. The bodyguards hadn’t even clocked the two men. They stared stoically ahead, trying to look intimidating as a deterrent to any potential attackers. Instead, they looked incompetent and completely unaware of their surroundings. Still, maybe it was for show. Maybe they had seen the men, and were waiting for the two guys to make their move.

She shifted uneasily. She could call the cops—chances were these two didn’t have a concealed carry permit, because those things were damn hard to come by, Sam knew from experience. But she didn’t know what was going on. Those men could, theoretically, be undercover bodyguards. Or even undercover cops waiting to bust the guy for some horrible crime. She didn’t want to blow an operation.

The businessman ordered his coffee and waited as the young barista frothed his milk. The two men at the table were on edge, ready for whatever happened next. The bodyguards were still oblivious.

Sam drained her coffee cup and slowly slipped her book into her bag. She had to be ready.

The coffee was finally made, and the man grabbed it before the barista could even call his name. He gestured to his two bodyguards that he was ready to go, and one led the way from the coffee shop with the other bringing up the rear behind the well-dressed man.

The brothers with the gun immediately stood and followed the trio, so Sam picked up her bag and shuffled after them, remaining inconspicuous. It was just before 9am, so the streets teemed with people rushing to get to work on time. Sam weaved through them, trying not to lose sight of the men ahead of her.

She caught glimpses of the trio even farther ahead of her. The lead bodyguard knew the route without needing any direction from the man he guarded. A bad sign, since it meant they likely took this route often.

Blood zipped through her veins as she stalked these men through the concrete jungle of downtown Portsboro. The three in front came to a crossing as the countdown reached five. The two guys with guns jogged a little to get onto the road before the countdown hit zero, but Sam was too far back. She squeezed past a group of colleagues holding large takeaway coffee cups and stopped as the cars eased forward on the road in front of her. She stood on tiptoes to see the two guys with the gun following the man and his bodyguards around a corner.

Panic hit her. What if they planned to kill or attack this man right now? She had to get to them. She couldn’t bear it if she had a man’s death on her conscience. But the traffic still moved past her—slowly, since it was peak hour. The sharp honk of a horn made her jump.

Too much time had passed. She needed to get across the road.

The traffic slowed enough that Sam risked stepping in front of a taxi. The driver leaned on her horn and yelled something aggressive. Sam held up an apologetic hand but kept going, ignoring the insults the woman yelled. She focused on the road ahead, while the other waiting pedestrians took advantage of the traffic she’d stopped and followed her across in a wave.

She darted across the road and took off at a run—as much as she could with her bad lung and the calf muscle in her right leg that would never fully heal. She ducked through the flow of pedestrians and turned down an alley.

Empty. Sam swallowed. Had she not seen what she thought? She’d been convinced they’d come this way.

She surveyed the alley. Dirty, as most were in this part of the city. A sign indicated parking ahead, but no car could fit through the narrow street, not with all the rubbish strewn about. Unless it was a back entrance?

A coffee cup resting on top of the trash caught her attention. The logo from the coffee shop she’d been in five minutes earlier was emblazoned on its side. They must have come this way.

She strode onward, her ears straining for any sound, her hand itching for a gun that wasn’t there. Her lungs ached, both from her exertion and the added fear of what she might find. The scent of garbage clogged her nostrils and the high walls of the surrounding buildings pressed in on her.

She rounded the corner, and stopped dead when the scene she’d been dreading materialised before her. She absorbed the tableau in an instant. The two brothers each held guns on the tall businessman. He had his hands up in surrender while the two bodyguards shuffled at his sides, doing nothing to protect him. That went beyond incompetence and into sabotage. They should be throwing themselves in front of those guns and instead they looked as if they didn’t want to know.

Fingers tightened on the triggers of the guns.

“Hey!” she said, to draw the gunmen’s attention. They spun around, both so surprised that their guns wobbled in their hands.

Sam took advantage of the inattention and stepped forward, ducking and twisting out of the line of fire. She grabbed the gun hand closest to her—belonging to the heavier brother—and aimed it towards the alley above them and out of danger, and then she swung the man around until he shielded her from his brother.

She kneed him in the balls with all her might, keeping ahold of his gun arm. He crumpled with a grunt of pain, knees not quite hitting the ground before he righted himself. But Sam didn’t let him gain the advantage. An uppercut, an elbow to the temple, a sweep of the leg and the guy sagged to the ground. Sam made sure to prise his fingers off the gun as he fell and immediately aimed it at his brother.

The man was furious, glowering at her as he readjusted the gun so it pointed directly between her eyes.

Sam didn’t flinch.

“You pull that trigger and you’ll go down with me,” she said, edging forward.

A sick smile crossed his face. “Might be worth it to put a bullet in you,” he sneered.

Sam shrugged. “Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been shot.” She shuffled forward again. “Probably won’t be the last.”

The man’s eyes widened in surprise, and he had nothing to say to that.

“Lower your gun,” she ordered.

“You first,” he replied.

She moved forward again. Nearly there.

“Why did you target this man?” Sam ask him as a distraction.

The man’s glower deepened in reply. “He looked rich,” he replied sullenly. Sam didn’t believe him for a second.

She didn’t have time to ask a follow-up question because he gave her an opening. Just a slight moment of inattention, but it was enough. His gaze shifted to her left for an instant. She used the opportunity to get in close and drive her fist into his solar plexus, the shock of hitting his muscled chest sending recoil through her arm. The air rushed from his lungs the moment she connected and he doubled over, so Sam elbowed him in the back of the skull.

He fell to his knees, gasping. She gripped his gun arm and wrenched it behind him, dislocating his shoulder. It popped with an audible crack, and Sam saw her audience flinch from the corner of her eye. She used the pain in the man’s arm to drive him flat onto his stomach and snatched the gun from his grip. She placed a booted foot solidly on his neck and pressed.

“Do you call mercy?” she asked him, not expecting a reply.

A flash of movement caught the corner of her gaze and she looked up as the businessman yelled, “Look out!”

The second attacker rose to his feet and lowered his head like a charging bull, ready to attack.

Sam didn’t need to be told twice.

She aimed the gun in her right hand and fired, grazing the man’s thigh. The report of bullet discharging echoed down the alley, and Sam’s ears rang. The man kept charging as if he hadn’t felt the shot, no doubt consumed by anger and adrenaline.

She fired again, this time hitting him in his right shoulder. The bullet had enough force to send him staggering backwards. He glared at her, still furious, not noticing the blood blooming at his shoulder.

“Stay back,” she said. “You don’t want the next one to go between your eyes.”

Some reason must have penetrated his fury-filled mind, because his gaze finally moved from her to his brother.

“You’re choking him,” he growled.

“He’s fine,” Sam replied, but eased off a little. “Now, have a seat, and wait for the cops to arrive.” She kept her gun trained on him as he reluctantly lowered himself to the ground.

Sam turned to the targeted man. He stared at her with something like awe. Sam shifted uncomfortably at the admiration in his gaze. The man was even more handsome straight on than he had been in profile. Sharp cheekbones, artful stubble, piercing grey eyes. Maybe he was a model. It would explain the nice clothing.

“The police are coming, right?” she asked him.

He held up his phone. “Yeah.”

“Good. Would you mind using your tie to bind this guy’s wrists?” she asked, gesturing with her gun towards the sitting guy.

She ignored the two bodyguards while keeping them in her sight. Nothing worse than a bad bodyguard—it gave the rest of them a bad name.

The man undid his tie with a practiced movement and stepped gingerly toward his attacker. They glowered at each other for a moment before Mr. Well-Dressed stepped behind him and looped the tie around his wrists.

“I’m Cameron, by the way. Cameron Lawrence,” said the businessman.

“Uh-huh,” Sam replied. She wasn’t particularly interested. She wanted to wrap this up so she could get to work.

Sirens sounded in the distance.

“And you are?” he asked pointedly. Sam resisted rolling her eyes.

“Sam,” she replied. Let him think it stood for Samantha. Everyone else did. Her real name was Angelica Samson, but no one called her that if they wanted to live.

“Well, Sam, thank you for saving my life.” He stood and slowly prowled towards her. Sam’s hackles raised. A man that prowled was a man on the hunt. And she definitely wasn’t prey.

“You’re welcome,” she muttered. “Hot tip, though. You might want to get better bodyguards. These guys suck at pretty much every aspect of the job.”

“Hey!” cried one of the bodyguards in protest. Neither she nor the businessman paid any attention.

His eyes darkened. “If you’re angling for a job, I’d be more than happy to offer it to you. You’ve amply demonstrated your skill.”

Sam raised a brow at him, annoyed by his presumption. “I already have a job, but thanks.”

“Well, the offer is open.” He handed her a card, which Sam was tempted not to take. Instead, she tugged it from his grip and pocketed it without looking at it.

She didn’t have to offer another brush-off because the police chose that moment to arrive.

Cameron gave her a last, lingering look before heading over to the police. Sam breathed a sigh of relief. As much as she wished otherwise, she had an awful feeling she wasn’t done with that man yet. Or, worse, he wasn’t done with her.

Read the rest!

My Favourite Romantic Suspense Films

Despite being a popular subgenre of books, very few movies are made that would classify as Romantic Suspense. Obviously, this is a genre I love since I write in it, and I’m constantly hunting for new films that will satisfy the requirements, but there are so few.

To qualify, under my definition of the genre, you need a few things.

  1. Equal time devoted to building the romance as the action/thriller elements
  2. Not have characters already in a happy marriage when the story starts
  3. A happy ending (the couple together and the bad guys defeated)

Now there are quite a few action films that have love interests in them, but very few of them take the proper time to build the relationship. Usually, they’ll meet, and then right at the end they’ll get together, because the hero always gets the girl. That’s not the kind of movie I’m talking about.

Also, in action movies in particular, often the hero will have a wife, who dies or is kidnapped so he can rescue her. This also doesn’t count for obvious reasons.

And then there are those that don’t have a happy ending. Movies like The Terminator (which I love) which does take the time to build the romance along with the action plot, but for whatever reason it doesn’t work out. I’d also classify The Bodyguard along with this (though I often forget they don’t end up together in that film!).

And this, of course, does not include bait-y “romances” where they take all the time to build the couple’s bond and then nothing happens at the end – I’m talking everything from Aliens, to Romeo Must Die. Blech.

So, without further ado, my top 7 romantic suspense films, in chronological order (because why not?):

 

Laura (1944)

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When I first started getting into movies (in a serious way) in my teens, I watched a lot of classics. Laura was always one of my favourites. The witty dialogue, the urbane characters, the intriguing mystery, and of course the romance.

The IMDb summary says it all: “A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating.”

First, he falls for her image—a painting of her—and the stories he hears from those that knew her. When she turns up alive, he starts falling for the real thing. But they also need to solve the mystery of who tried to kill her, because that person still wants her dead.

It’s an imminently rewatchable film.

 

Nowhere to Run (1993)

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Anyone who knows me knows about my love for Jean-Claude Van Damme films. I think he’s pretty underrated as an actor (even in terrible films—see Derailed for what I mean), and his action sequences are usually pretty top notch.

This film is my favourite of his. Probably because it errs more heavily on the romance than most of his others.

Van Damme plays an escaped convict hiding from the police. He stumbles upon a home with a widow and her two children, and she invites him to stay, not knowing who he is. He falls for her quickly, but keeps his distance. But then an evil land developer starts threatening her and the other townsfolk, so JCVD steps in to protect them.

I’m cheating a little here. At the end, he gets taken away in handcuffs, after promising to find a way back to her. And she and the children promise to wait for him. It’s not a traditional happy ending, but it’s close.

I just really dig this one. I like the tropes and the story, I like the actors. It just really works for me.

(Side note: If JCVDs character had definitively got together with his brother’s wife at the end of Lionheart/A.W.O.L/Wrong Bet (whatever you know the film as) I might have included that as well. Because that was CLEARLY a romance. Ugh.)

 

Army of One/Joshua Tree (1993)

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I have also expressed my love for Dolph Lundgren films more times than I can say. Physically, he’s more my type than Van Damme, but he’s a much worse actor, and his fight scenes are often clumsy-looking. (He’s got hella long legs!)

But I LOVE this film. It’s low budget, and it shows in some parts. But that John Woo-esque fight sequence at the end is pretty great. And the hotel scene has such great sexual tension.

In this film, Dolph plays a (you’ll sense a theme here) convict, who escapes from the police and takes a woman hostage. The woman happens to be an undercover cop. And she slowly starts to realise that he’s innocent and wants to help him, and he goes from wanting to use her to wanting to protect her.

In some ways this is another cheat. There are two versions of this film. One ends with him being taken away in handcuffs (again. Though to be fair he did kill a LOT of people to prove his innocence, so…) but the other ending shows him out of prison and the two in a happy relationship. And as long as I don’t think of the logistics of that (like I said, he killed a LOT of people) then I’m counting it as a happy ending.

I have this on DVD, but it’s a terrible release. The blu-ray isn’t available here in Australia, but eventually I will reward myself and buy it from Amazon so I can get the proper widescreen release.

 

Blink (1993)

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Clearly 1993 was a great year for romantic suspense films!

This one features Madeleine Stowe and Aiden Quinn. He’s a police detective (and a bit of an ass), and she’s recently had an operation to restore her sight (and gives him back as good as she gets!). She witnesses a murder, but her brain is still processing the images because she hasn’t been able to see for so long. So he sticks around her until she can identify the killer.

These two have great chemistry. He’s one of the few brash, asshole heroes I can stand, probably just because she doesn’t let him get away with it AT ALL and it’s fun watching her take him down. This is probably the sexiest entry on this list, too, coming out in that short period where erotic thrillers were all the rage. (Alas, it ended too soon).

 

Fair Game (1995)

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I considered putting Cobra (1986) on this list, which is based on the same book that this film is. But a) I have another favourite Stallone romantic suspense, and b) I think I like this version a little bit more. More focus on the romance!

This features William Baldwin (an underrated Baldwin brother, tbh) and Cindy Crawford. She’s a lawyer, and people want her dead for reasons she doesn’t understand. He’s a police detective who saves her life. When the cops are compromised, he takes her on the run with him while they figure out what the bad guys want.

This film is trashy, I’ll admit, but I’ve never minded that. This is one of the films on this list that most obviously fits within the romantic suspense genre. It has a lot of the tropes, the story beats, and a surprisingly decent sex scene.

I know it was reviewed on the ‘How Did This Get Made?’ podcast, and from memory I pretty much agreed with them. It’s one of those trashy, so-bad-it’s-good films that’s ACTUALLY fun to watch, as opposed to just boring as hell.

 

Avenging Angelo (2002)

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An underrated Sylvester Stallone gem.

This action/comedy/romance again features Madeleine Stowe as the daughter of a mob boss—only she never knew her real father. Stallone plays her (real) father’s bodyguard. When the old man gets whacked, Stallone must protect his daughter from the killers coming after her. But he also has to keep away, because he’s secretly been in love with her for a very long time.

This film is just a comedic delight. Stallone is so FUNNY in it. It really makes me wish he did more comedies, because his timing and facial expressions were perfect in this. And Madeleine Stowe manages to be on the likeable side of shrill and paranoid, which is a tough balance to pull off.

They take time to develop the romance between them, even while a series of hitmen try to kill her. And I laugh my arse off throughout, even during the fart humour scene (and I HATE fart humour). Just so good.

 

Smoke Screen (2010)

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The last entry on this list. This is based on a Sandra Brown novel, and frankly I liked it better than the book. (The hero isn’t such an ass, from memory.)

A television reporter, played by Jaime Pressley, wakes up next to a dead body with no idea what’s happened. Her investigating puts her in the path of someone she used to know—who blames her for his life falling apart. Turns out he had a similar thing happen to him all those years ago, so they team up to figure out what’s really going on.

I’ll be the first to admit that Raley, the hero played by Currie Graham, starts off the film as a total jerk. He is a Sandra Brown hero, after all. But, if you can get past the kidnapping and the aggression of the first part of the movie, he turns out to be totally delightful.

I really just like the way he looks at her, always, with this slight smile on his face. He doesn’t disguise how into her he is, and it’s refreshing. And she’s great—so feisty and determined.

There have been a couple of movies based on Sandra Brown books, but this is by far my favourite. White Hot came out last year and was OK. Though because it was a Hallmark movie they really toned down the sex and suspense. Ricochet, which I know I’ve seen but don’t remember much about, was also alright, but this time I don’t think they softened the hero’s jerk tendencies at all.

I really wish more TV stations or film companies would adapt romantic suspense books, because frankly I think it’s a vast untapped financial market. And I don’t just say that for selfish reasons, though I absolutely will watch them all if they come out.

 

So, do you have a favourite romantic suspense film? Anything you’d recommend to me?

Filter Words and Crutch Words – plus, how to get rid of them

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Filter words and crutch words are a more recent discovery of mine with writing. Learning what they are, why they’re bad, and how to get rid of them has really changed my style for the better.

Distancing words are things like: felt, heard, saw, touched, looked, etc. They put a barrier between the reader and the book, rather than immersing them right into the action or description.

For example this sentence: She looked up to see dark clouds in the sky and heard the distant rumble of thunder. She felt a chill run down her spine.

Can become: Dark clouds rolled across the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance. A chill ran down her spine.

Fewer words and more powerful and immersive, right?

Crutch words are slightly different. They are words we use too often, and pause a sentence unnecessarily. They are fine for speech, but aren’t needed in writing!

Examples include: Just, like, obviously, that, etc

Search and replace these words in your manuscript and you’ll find many that don’t need to be there!

Since I’ve just finished edits on book #4 in the Soldiering On series, I thought now would be a good time to share my list of words that I comb through my manuscripts for. I don’t worry about these two much when I’m actually writing, because it would slow me down too much. But when I’m in the edit phase I can be ruthless! I cut out over 1,500 of these words and phrases from my manuscript over a period of two days, so I definitely mean business.

able to – can usually be replaced ‘can’ for a cleaner sentence  
Almost – often this can reduce the power of what you’re trying to say
Began – as in ‘began to’. Get rid of this and just say the character did the action
Decided – again, the character can often simply do the action
Down – As in ‘sat down’. Usually just ‘sat’ is needed
Felt – describe the sensation without using ‘felt’
going to – can usually be replaced by ‘will’ or similar
Heard – A distancing word. Usually not needed.
Just – This one is a weakness of mine. It’s often not needed
Looked – (as in ‘she looked at’) Often, you can just describe what they are looking at
Out – eg. ‘Stepping out in front’. Often just ‘stepping in front’ would work
Quite – Like almost, it’s a weak word
Realised – This word can be useful, but sometimes it can be overused and unneeded. Use your judgement.
Really – Like ‘very’ it’s better to use one word rather than qualify with ‘really’. Eg. ‘Really big’ should be ‘enormous’.
Saw – Like ‘heard’, just describe what they see.
Seemed – Like ‘realised’, this is one to use your judgement on
Speculated – Words like this are often better written as a question. Eg. Instead of ‘she speculated whether he was evil’ simply write ‘Was he evil?’
Started – Like ‘began’ it’s often not needed
That – The general rule of thumb is, if the sentence makes sense without the ‘that’, then you don’t need it. It’s amazing how many of these I find.
there were/was – eg. ‘There were three people in the room’ can become ‘three people stood in the room’
Thought – Like ‘speculated’, it is often better, particularly if you write in Deep POV, to get rid of many of your ‘thoughts’, but they can also be useful.
Touched – Like ‘heard’ or ‘saw’, this is a filter word.
Try – ‘Tried to’ is one of those things that creeps into my writing a few times when it’s simply not needed.
Up – Same issue as ‘down’. Often redundant.
Very – See ‘really’
was _ing – this is one of my favourites! For example ‘He was leaning’ becomes ‘He leaned’
Watched – Like looked or saw, this can be a filter word.
Went – ‘Went to’ like ‘began’ and ‘started’ is often not needed.
were _ing – A sister of ‘was _ing’
Wished – This is a tricky one, but again there’s often a simpler way.
Wondered – Same as above

So there you have it! What are some of the filter and crutch words you watch out for? I’m always on the lookout for words to add to my list!