Today, Allison Martine is guesting. She’s here to talk about her latest series release The Bourbon Books, a contemporary romance. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
When I set my Goodreads Challenge at the dawn of 2020, I naively did the logical thing: took last year’s pattern and figured I’d nudge myself to “outread” 2019, if only by a little. What I didn’t anticipate? 2020.
Beyond COVID’s quarantines and social distancing and the complete upheaval of how most of us lived our lives, my reading life underwent three massive changes.
One: Beta Reading
At the end of 2019, I dipped my toe in this little thing called “PitMad.” (The “mad” part is not hyperbolic.) I stopped being a lonely little author, writing in my own corner of the world, and became part of an international community. I swapped my early drafts with new friends across oceans and on the other side of the equator, doing my best to help them polish their works before submission to agents and editors alike. Some, I read multiple drafts, even watching as an author “unkilled” a character. (I much preferred him “bad” to “dead.”)
Goodreads only tracks published titles; therefore, none of my beta reading counted towards my tally. Well shoot. (The exception? A few titles I beta read at the beginning of 2020 hit the shelves by the end of the calendar year. Score!)
Two: Comp Titles
If you would have asked me in 2019 how many romance books I planned to read, the answer would have been zero.
If you would have asked me in 2019 how many romance books I planned to write, the answer would have been laughter.
If you would have told me in 2019 that I’d be published in 2020 for a book I hadn’t yet written in a genre I don’t read, I would have wondered what sort of messed up Tarot reading I’d stumbled upon. Yet, all those things happened.
I did write romance. And then I wrote the sequel.
And to help get it published, I was encouraged to find “comp(arative) titles” to include in my queries. Easier said than done when you’re not familiar with the genre and aren’t even sure you wrote a romance. (We’ve determined “dibs,” is, in fact, a romance.) I still am grateful to the staff at Bookman in Orange for their guidance to this bookworm who rarely ventured out of the Science Fiction/Fantasy stacks (and even then, it was usually to Horror to see if there was any more Peter Straub I hadn’t read) to help me sort through their massive collection of romance to find comp titles that were contemporary (no dukes, pirates, or princesses please), humorous without being slapstick, and fell somewhere on the heat scale between holding hands and a nuclear meltdown.
I discovered new authors that way, and had other readers later compare my works to some of their favorites, too. I now know my way around Guillory and Holiday, Kinsella and Clayton, and hope that one day, my name ends up listed by theirs on someone’s favorite romance author list. (Well, my pen name, anyway.)
Three: Vox Vomitus Guests
2020 had one more curveball for my “TBR” stack, and that would be Vox Vomitus. Fake Latin for “word vomit,” (it might more properly be translated as “emptied voice,” but my Latin isn’t just rusty, it’s dead), I was invited to co-host a live, weekly podcast with one of the fellow authors I’d first connected with after PitMad. She failed to mention it would be a VIDEO podcast but by then I’d already agreed.
Every Wednesday, we’d go live with a bestselling author or creator, and while our show is most definitely unscripted, I’d do my best to read at least a sample of each of our guests’ work. I had the privilege to talk Lovecraft Country and 88 Names with Matt Ruff and ask about his hidden Easter Eggs (which were there, but the Margo in question wasn’t the one I had guessed), discuss which mashup best describes Natalie Zina Walschotts’ Hench (I’m sticking with The Boys meets Doctor Horrible, but with less singing), and I even fell in love with a Bot. (Thanks, Simon Stephenson’s Set My Heart to Five. I already named my Airfryer, but now I feel bad for putting it in a cabinet.)
Some of these authors I hopefully would have found on my own—eventually—since they’re in my science fiction wheelhouse (or adjacent) but so many of them defy easy categorization. (When in doubt, let the bookstore figure it out!) We’re set to talk to more authors, narrators, and I even managed to reach out to the author of a book I stumbled upon and have him booked for our show in February.
I have no idea what’s in store for me in 2021, but my TBR grows by the hour.
Series: The Bourbon Books #1
Author: Allison Martine
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Now a 2020 Kindle Book Awards FINALIST-Romance.
Not tonight, Olivia.
Blurb: Olivia’s ex-husband shut her down so many times before the cheating bastard left her that Olivia lost count. She didn’t realize she’d also lost the ability to banter, interpret body language, or accept that a man could find her desirable. None of that should matter when she leaves for a two-week training for her new job with the Ranchers, an outdoorsy nonprofit, but when her co-worker adds ‘halter top’ and ‘bikini’ to the official pack list, she has no idea what to expect on this trip.
It certainly wasn’t a perky blonde roommate who thinks their training is like spring break, but with a paycheck. It wasn’t the after-hours hot tub. It absolutely wasn’t the man with a rumble for a laugh who shows up on her flight and introduces himself as the colleague she didn’t know would be her companion for the next two weeks.
When blondie calls dibs on that same colleague, Olivia just wants to stay out of her way, but her colleague has ideas of his own. Ideas which involve Olivia, the hot tub, and shared sips of bourbon.
“Did I upset you?” he asked, voice soft. If they hadn’t been in a silent, closed elevator, she might not have heard him at all.
“What?” she asked, as much for clarification as for an increased volume.
“You won’t look at me,” he said. He didn’t seem angry. That wasn’t it. She risked a glance, saw it on his face. He was sad. Hurt, even. She looked away.
“What?” she repeated, stupidly. “No, of course not,” she protested. She owed him more than that. Didn’t she? What could she say? That she couldn’t look at him without being distracted? That she didn’t know how to interpret the signals she was certain she was misreading? That her roommate had called dibs on him and now was pissed, quite possibly because Lorrie could see those same signals Olivia didn’t trust herself to interpret?
The door started to open, and he reached over and hit ‘door close.’ He hit seven instead. The top floor. Stunned, Olivia rode along in silence.
“If I upset you, Livi, I’m sorry,” he said, his voice still low.
“You don’t need to apologize,” she told him, trying to keep brightness in her tone, not frenetic energy. “Promise.” The door opened on 7. Stayed open. Top floor,
nobody there. It closed but didn’t move. No buttons had been pushed. At least not elevator buttons.
“Lorrie seems pissed, too,” he said.
“Not at you,” Olivia said, instantly regretting it. He turned to look at her. She stared at her feet.
“At you?” he asked.
She sighed. She should just tell him about the mix up with the key last night. Dolores bought that story, didn’t she? No, she didn’t.
She took a deep breath. Still couldn’t look at him, but pushed out the truth. Or part of it anyway. “Lorrie is interested in you, and I think she’s upset you left the hot tub last night.” She winced at betraying her roommate. Wasn’t there some girl code that prohibited disclosing another girl’s crush to the crushee? “Forget I said anything,” she added, as if he could unhear her words.
He sighed, as if exasperated. “Eddie told me Sunday night. You’re not spilling any secrets.”
The elevator started moving again. Startled, Olivia punched the 4 so they wouldn’t ride back to the lobby.
“I can handle her being pissed at me,” he said, voice low again, the sadness returned. “Not you.”
Title: Since September
Series: The Bourbon Books #2
Author: Allison Martine
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Blurb: Most brides dream of planning every last detail of their wedding. Not Olivia Markham. She’d been down the aisle once already and regretted that decision, along with every other judgment call connected with her unfaithful ex. But she also never planned on falling for Adam Burkhardt, who proposed sooner than anyone could have guessed.
So when Adam suggests letting their mothers suss out the particulars for their big day, Olivia agrees, hoping it will assuage their mothers’ trepidation towards their upcoming union. She even relents to having a bachelorette weekend, for the sake of her friends.
Olivia shall endure more nuptial nonsense and play bride once again.
They should have eloped.
She sipped the white layer, a frothy coconut freeze set against the strawberry red, grateful it was rum and not tequila—she hated tequila—but still would have preferred a tumbler of bourbon. A tumbler of bourbon, and Adam, naked in bed. She shook the thought away. He wasn’t going to be naked, not tonight. She gulped the drink down, trying to focus on what Jamie was saying to Melinda.
“I’m just saying, we should have gotten four rooms is all,” Jamie chided, “if you were going to be making an obvious play for Dave.”
“I’m not being obvious,” Melinda protested, and Olivia noted she wasn’t refuting that she was, in fact, making a play for Dave, simply denying the tactic.
Lorrie giggled, sipping her own Lava Flow, as if she’d never been accused of making obvious plays for anyone. Olivia should have let it slide, but didn’t.
“You giggle now, Sunkist,” Olivia announced, “but Melinda is downright subtle compared to what I’ve seen you do,” she paused to sip the drink, “with my own eyes.”
Lorrie tossed her hair back and took the little umbrella out of the frothy drink. “Guilty,” Lorrie admitted, looking very proud of herself.
Melinda glanced between the two former roommates. “Olivia,” Melinda said, “I feel like you might have left out some details about your trip to Texas last year?”
“They weren’t my details, they were hers,” Olivia deflected, pointing at Lorrie. Lorrie gave a bemused shrug. Now Jamie was leaning closer, too.
“Why do I feel like if we wanted to know what happened in Texas, we should have called you?” Melinda said, addressing Lorrie Sunkist, not Olivia. Olivia regretted calling Lorrie out. She knew where this was going.
“Well,” Lorrie started, “what can I say?”
“Everything!” Jamie demanded. She ordered another round of Lava Flows, having finished hers. Olivia waved hers off, calling the bartender over.
“Bourbon, neat,” she asked. She would need a stiff drink to get through the night.
Title: Move On, Melinda
Series: The Bourbon Books #2
Author: Allison Martine
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Blurb: There are worse things than being a bridesmaid at your best friend’s wedding. Hitting on the groom? Ancient history. Hitting on the best man? Regrettable but forgettable. Getting pawned off on some random guy who came as his mom’s date? Could be worse. But more happened the night of the Burkhardt wedding than Melinda is ready to admit.
Now, Melinda is determined to move forward and leave all that behind.
She just has to survive the Ranchers’ All Staff Retreat, carpooling with her meddling boss, the fresh-from-their honeymoon newlyweds, and a certain unexpected passenger she’d hoped to avoid for the weekend—and the memories he stirs up.
“Ah! Miss Rice. Come have a glass. Mr. Sauveterre had just brought in the vintages Miz Wallace selected for our little getaway. She has excellent taste, our Jamie.”
Melinda smiled weakly and accepted the glass from the big boss man. Jamie could kill her later. Technically, it wasn’t her fault, and it really wasn’t even Mitch’s—not that she was defending him, even in her own mind—because any sane person would assume that case was for everyone. Any sane person who didn’t know Jamie Wallace and didn’t know that when Jamie went on the Rancher All Staff Retreat, the afterparty followed her. Mitch Sauveterre had never been to a Jamie Wallace Retreat Afterparty, and it showed. Melinda watched Mere Franks kill the first bottle. With the number of staffers and the hearty pours Mere Franks was doling out, Mitch never would; there’d be no afterparty, at least not to Jamie’s standards. The wine would be gone by dinner.
Melinda absently wondered what Mitch had done with his preciously-cradled tequila but was distracted by Sauveterre tapping his glass to hers.
“Cheers!” he said, and she raised her glass in return, but it was too late, and her mind was already starting the film reel to remind her of the last time he’d toasted her, except then it was champagne, not an accidentally-commandeered glass of a Jamie Wallace-procured wine, and she tried to drown the image in Syrah. It wasn’t working.
She nervously glanced around the room, looking for someone, anyone, to strike up a conversation with and get away from Mitch and the images he’d just sent dancing through her mind. She came up empty. A few of the other Territory Execs from other clusters had made themselves comfortable over by the massive fireplace that served as the focal point of the lodge’s main atrium. Melinda knew them, only in passing. They appeared to already be engrossed in conversation, one that did not involve her. She wasn’t sure she’d be welcome if she just plopped down with them, co-workers or not. She considered approaching anyway, just to be somewhere Mitch wasn’t.
Instead, she walked over to the French doors that led out to the back patio area, noting the outdoor dining space had already been laid out for dinner. The food would come later, but the staff had set out melamine plates and acrylic tumblers, and little parcels of napkin-wrapped utensils at each place. Her stomach grumbled in approval at the preparations.
She pretended to survey the space, hoping it would appear that she was lost in thought, or appreciating the beauty of nature, sending silent signals that might dissuade anyone from approaching.
“Spot anything you like?”
She sighed. Either her signals weren’t sending or Mitch wasn’t receiving, either deliberately or out of sheer density. He stood slightly too close, as if he were trying to peer out the exact same rectangle of glass in the French door that she was, perhaps to gain the exact same perspective. She wished he would just take a step back and give her—and her wine—room to breathe.
“Nope,” she answered, hoping her terse response would boost the Go Away signal by a factor of ten.
“Do we get to eat outside? I didn’t know we got to eat outside. I’d like to eat outside. Is that for us, do you think?”
She wanted to snap at him, point out that they were obviously the only group at the resort for the weekend, but realized he might not have known that. He’d only arrived, would have no way of gauging how big the property was, and possibly hadn’t even gone to his own cabin yet. He probably had no way of knowing that when the Ranchers came to stay, they took over, and if weather permitted, they’d be dining al fresco and all by themselves.
“Yup,” she said, almost sticking with her monosyllabic response before relenting to add, “We take up the whole property. Just us chickens.”
He took a sip of the wine Jamie should not have entrusted him to carry, as if considering. “Guess that’s why I got my own cabin, then.”
And she wanted to pretend her cheeks did not get warm when he said that and if they did it was because she had almost finished the glass of wine the big boss man had so generously poured and had nothing to do with Mitch declaring he had a cabin all to himself. She ran through possible follow up questions, rejecting all of them as being entirely too suggestive. She was not going to ask him what he did with that tequila, and she was not going to ask which cabin was his.
She gulped down the last bit of Syrah.
Allison Martine is a multi-genre novelist, focusing on literary science fiction, contemporary romance, and women’s fiction. Her debut novel, dibs, was declared a Finalist for Romance in the 2020 Kindle Book Awards, and Readers’ Choice: Category Leader for Romance.
She also writes literary science fiction under the pen name A.M. Hubbard.
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