by: Christina Elle
Series: Under Covers
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 31, 2017
Publisher: Entangled ~ Select Suspense
First rule of surveillance--don’t kiss the mark.
With a deadly target on his back, DEA agent Luke Calder’s plan is to drink away his impending demise. Except instead of getting blessedly drunk, in walks a woman with a much deeper story than she’s leading on. And he definitely wants to know more. Especially when he learns she might have intel he needs. He’s not cool with lying to her, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And what starts out as simple surveillance turns into so much more.
Cassandra Stone is having a bad night. Her boyfriend’s been cheating because she’s not “adventurous enough” in bed. So, she does the next logical thing—she goes in search of a dark, dangerous one-night stand. Instead, she finds smoldering eyes, deep dimples, and the killer smile of a guy who won’t leave her alone. Damn him. He says and does all the right things, making Cass believe that good men still exist. Until she learns why he took an interest in her in the first place.
Hi Christina. Welcome to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
Hey there! I’m great, thanks so much for having me! I’m really excited to be here!
You are more than welcome. Congratulations on the release of your second book, In Walked Trouble. One of the people you dedicated the book to was Keith. How much input did he have with this book?
Keith is Mr. Elle. He’s a police officer in real life, so he had a lot of input with anything that had to do with the police, guns, or bad guy scenes. I often checked with him to make sure it was legit and believable. There was even a part where he pulled out his rifle to show me how it should hang across one’s body on the shoulder strap. There’s a scene near the end of In Walked Trouble where I describe this. Keith read over it to make sure the way I described it was sound. There were a few times while writing that I was afraid if anyone saw the texts I sent him (and they didn’t know I was an author) that they’d think I was planning my husband’s demise! Things like, “If you get shot in the chest, how long would it take before you bleed out?”
I loved the scene you just described. I was fanning myself and rubbing my hands together at the same time. I have to admit, the book cover is what got my attention and the blurb had me really wanting to read this story. Could you please tell readers about the characters of Luke Calder and Cassandra Stone?
Luke Calder is a DEA Agent. He’s a member of a four-man team who are in Baltimore to try to find a dangerous drug lord. Said drug lord is after Luke too, because he thinks Luke killed his daughter and grandson. So it’s a race against the clock to find the drug lord. The DEA team starts by doing surveillance on a group of teens who are in the local gang and are in cahoots with the drug lord.
Cassandra Stone is a high school guidance counselor in Baltimore City who has an enormous heart and cares immensely about her students. One of her students, Miguel, has won a scholarship. It’s a great opportunity for him to get off the streets and do something with his life. As long as he graduates, his life will forever be changed. Cass sees it as her personal mission to keep Miguel away from his brother, who is a leading member in the local gang. Little does she know, the danger reaches much further than just the young men in the gang and puts her life in jeopardy just for getting involved.
What do you love about them?
I love Luke’s vulnerability. He hides behind his sarcastic, suave personality because he’s afraid to give love a chance. He had a rough upbringing, but only trusts his past with a few select people. Slowly, Cass helps him to trust in the power of love.
Cass is one of those characters who possesses such a huge heart, you just can’t help but love her. She’s self-sacrificing in all the best ways.
I love that about them too! Luke does has a great personality. It’s one of the reasons I fell so hard for him. Cass was extremely likeable the second she walked into that bar. I think her one weakness is that she puts others ahead of herself consistently.
Luke happens to live with an older lady, Maybel, maybe three if you include Estelle and Celia. How did that situation come to be?
For those who haven’t read book one in this series, On Her Six, the grannies are in that one a lot. They are the neighborhood watch for the area, and they take their role very seriously. They have a very Golden Girls vibe to them. They remind me so much of my own grandmother that it was such a joy to write them.
Luke needed somewhere to live/hideout while he is in Baltimore, and Maybel was gracious enough to offer her basement. She’s not at all scared about the threat on Luke’s life because back in the day Maybel was a super-secret CIA spy.
There’s another reason why Luke agreed to stay at Maybel’s that I don’t want to give away here. You’ll have to read to find out. (wink) What I can say is that when he opens up about his past and his insecurities, it pulls at my heart-strings and makes me love him even more.
I am DEFINITELY adding On Her Six to my reading list. In Walked Trouble was a great read. I lost a couple of nights of sleep because of it. Did you set out to have so much humor in the book?
Readers losing sleep is a HUGE compliment!! Thank you! I did set out to include as much humor as possible. That’s what I enjoy most in the books I read and movies/TV shows I watch, so I knew that’s what I wanted to write. Life is too darn serious. We all need that escape to help us see the brighter side of things. If my novel brightens someone’s day or makes them smile through a tough time, then I’ve done my job.
I owe a lot of my humor to my family—specifically my grandmother. She’s my best friend and helped raise me. She’s crazy, kooky, off-the-wall, and has the best sense of humor ever. I grew up in a house where people smiled and laughed nonstop. I want to spread that around to other people every chance I get!
In Walked Trouble definitely accomplished that. So, I mentioned the book has humor, but the suspense was good too. Was there anyone in particular you based your characters on?
One of my favorite TV shows is Strikeback. It aired on Cinemax for a few seasons and it was incredible. I wish it could have kept going. One of the characters on that show was Michael Stonebridge, played by Phillip Winchester. He is a British SAS solider, which is their version of Special Forces. Elite. Covert. Deadly. Put plainly, he is a bad you-know-what. I based Luke on Michael. He’s tall, lean, blond, and has this swagger about him. He’s one of those men who might not look like he’s all that because he’s not full of obvious muscle, but he could kill someone with his little pinky.
Cassandra was based on every teacher I had throughout my schooling who pushed me to be better. Who saw something in me that I didn’t see and urged me to keep trying. I think teachers are so under-recognized, and don’t get the kudos they deserve. They’re real heroes and make such a difference. I wanted to pay homage to them with Cass.
I like Phillip. He was also the muscle on NBC’s short-lived series The Player. You write romantic suspense, but what’s your favorite part of a book to write?
Definitely the beginning. I don’t outline as intricately as most other authors. I have a general sense of who my characters are and what their problems are, but other than that, it’s just as much of a surprise for me when they hit the page as it is for my readers. And I LOOOOOOVE that process!!
Especially those first few opening chapters that include the “meet cute”, where the characters see each other for the first time. If I don’t laugh (or at least smile) during those scenes, then I go back to the drawing board. There has to be some sort of spark right from the start, and discovering that connection between the hero and heroine is my favorite part.
Your meet cute was great! I loved the banter between Luke and Cass. I spent probably the whole first chapter laughing or having a big grin on my face. Tell me about the other members of Luke’s team. I know there’s Ash Cooper, Bryan Tyke with his K-9 Thor and Jason Reese, but who are these men?
Ash Cooper is the team leader for Luke’s DEA team. He’s the hero in book one, On Her Six. He’s taller and broader than Luke, and has a much shorter temper. Of course, after getting his HEA, he’s mellowed out a bit. (wink)
Bryan Tyke is the third member. He’s the most gruff of the group, mainly because he has a back story the reader doesn’t know about yet that involves his ex. He’s probably my favorite character in the series only because he’s such a big, scary-looking guy with his long hair, scraggly beard, and huge frame. But it’s all a front. He has a heart of gold. His dog, Thor, is a German Shepherd and has the same personality as Tyke. They’re a great team.
Jason Reese is the computer geek of the team. He’s more of an analyst than an agent. Much more methodical than the other guys and always looks before he leaps. It’s cute because the guys all respect one another for their differences and they know that each of them bring something different to the table. Their dynamic was fun to write. I get a lot of feedback from readers who enjoy the guys’ “bro-mance.”
Oh, the bromance was great! I might already be crushing on Bryan and Jason. What’s next for you and this series?
Tyke is next!! His story is done and it’s in the hands of my capable editor. His story was a BLAST to write. Think brooding hero who has been pining after his ex for years, but tries to hide it from his friends because he knows they’ll rag on him for being soft. Which, of course, is exactly what happens in book 3. Luke, Ash, and Jason rag on Tyke sooooooo bad. I loved writing it. Lots and lots of smiling and laughing happened while writing that one! It’s tentatively titled THE MAN I WANT TO BE, so keep an eye out!
I can’t wait! I KNEW there was something going on with Tyke!! When the book comes out I’m so on it. I thought you knew that I was stalking you now. Christina, thank you soooo much for taking the time to answer some fan girl questions for me.
Thanks so much to Kim for having me on her blog!! It was a lot of fun sharing some tidbits about myself and my books. I’m still blown away that a few simple words I type on my computer can touch so many people. Thank you for making this such an amazing journey and for the feedback!
Entering his room, he found Cass sprawled across the bed, facedown, her head and feet hanging over the sides, snoring.
Crossing his arms, he stood there a minute and took in the sight. That quick his temper subsided and he almost laughed.
Luke approached the bed and leaned over her to slide his arms under her shoulders, trying to twist her toward the pillows, but she grunted and resisted. She tipped forward, making most of her weight shift toward her head, causing her to skim down the other side of the bed. Luke grabbed her hips before her head landed on the floor and pulled her back up. She swung a straight arm back, landing a sharp blow across his cheek.
“Goddamn it.” He bit back the sting and planted a knee between her legs, giving her hips a swift tug. She chose that moment to roll over with ailing arms and legs. Her parts tangled with his, knocking him over, making him face-plant into her breasts. She mumbled something in her sleep and swatted at his face. His ears rung from the impact, so he shook his head to clear it. Cussed a few more times. Then rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling.
She continued to snore, but it was softer now. More deep breathing with a tiny snarl. It was cute. Sort of.
Bending an elbow, he propped an arm behind his head, closed his eyes and thought about what it would be like to have Cass to come home to every night. Someone who would lose her mind if anything happened to him. Someone constant. His.
An arm flopped across his stomach, making him suck in a sharp breath. Her head lulled onto his shoulder and a knee hitched across his lap. She snuggled in like she belonged there, fitting his body perfectly. Her head nuzzled into his shoulder and her warm breath tickled his ear as she relaxed against him.
He draped an arm around her and pulled her closer, savoring the moment. It hadn’t escaped his attention that he was acting like a total sap. Cuddling? Since when did Luke Calder cuddle with a woman? Especially one he hadn’t had sex with.
Whatever. It felt right to have her body pressed against his. Plus, she could use someone to just hold her, and he could use someone to hold.
The arm across his stomach tightened as she suctioned herself even closer to him. Not sure he could have managed to slide a piece of paper between them, and he was okay with that. Luke squeezed her a little tighter, loving the feel of her there. He placed a kiss on her forehead, and he closed his eyes, just as she let out a loud buzz-saw snore.
Purchase In Walked Trouble from:
You can read my 5 star review of In Walked Trouble here.
The Under Covers Series:
Christina believes that laughter really is the best medicine, which is why in her stories she blends a healthy dose of hilarious hijinks with gritty suspense.
When she’s not writing fun contemporary romance or quirky romantic suspense, Christina can be found devouring books in every genre, watching Chris Hemsworth on TV, playing board games with her family, working out, checking out Chris Hemsworth on Facebook, napping, stalking Chris Hemsworth on Instagram, and shopping…for Chris Hemsworth’s latest DVD.
Christina lives near Baltimore with her husband and two sons, who give her an endless supply of humorous material to write about.
She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Maryland Romance Writers.
Places to find Christina Elle:
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