Sharing a recent author interview about the
Wanderlust Romance Adventure/Suspense Series
Excerpts of each book below!
Q: Can you tell us a little about the Wanderlust Series as a whole?
Me: I originally started writing this series for my own entertainment as an author. Anonymity, the first in the series, came about after I had written a serious nonfiction book and needed to cleanse my mind and have some fun. I loosely based it on a trip my late husband and I took to Belize—adventure tended to follow us wherever we went! After that, people who read Anonymity loved the secondary characters, Bill and Savannah, so I toyed with the idea of a cave diving adventure in Costa Rica, which gave birth to Proximity. I've always loved the Cayman Islands and Larry, a secondary character from Riptide, has always been a fan favorite so I wrote Duplicity. I decided to create a series of adventure oriented romance novels that take place all over the world to share both my love of travel and my love of human relationships. Each can stand-alone, but it's designed to be fun so characters from previous novels make cameos here and there. I hope to transport readers to these places where they can experience the world without ever leaving their homes. It's my intention to give them a fun read with captivating characters in fascinating places.
Q: Aside from romance adventure and suspense, is there a common theme that links the series together?
Me: I'm glad you asked that. Yes, there is. In all of the books, I touch on the fact that we're all guilty of judging people based on first impressions when we really should try to look beneath the surface--the guy you write off as a playboy may have a huge heart, the woman who looks like a supermodel may be incredibly lonely, the situation that you may laugh off as insignificant might be the most important thing to ever happen to you if only you open your heart. In each book, the characters are forced to look at their own failings and realize that maybe they've been wrong all along. But there's a lot of sex and fun and adventure and all that good stuff, too. These books are purposely shorter than my longer romantic suspense novels--yes, there is a theme, but, yes, I wrote these solely to entertain the readers. I want people smiling!
Q: What's the best part of traveling, from your perspective?
Me: To me, the best part of traveling is truly immersing myself in the culture of the place I'm visiting. I always start out with a sense of wonder and curiosity—no matter if I'm traveling to the Caribbean or Iowa. I want to leave with a sense of the people who live there and with knowledge of the place I've been. What's the food like? How is it different than where I call home? What makes the people there happy? I always leave on a trip expecting to learn something and am never disappointed.
Q: When thinking of these stories, what comes first? Setting or characters?
Me: Characters come first for me. It doesn't matter if I'm writing romance adventure or romantic suspense, it is always the characters that I envision first. They tell me the story from that point forward.
Q: Do you have any writing habits that get you in the creative mood?
Me: Yes, I love to write with music and candles. I get into my zone when I'm at my desk, a particular soundtrack going that suits my mood at the moment, and either candles or incense burning. Oh, and my dogs. I always have at least one nearby.
Q: Speaking of adventure, what's the most adventurous thing you've ever done?
Me: I swam with sharks—intentionally. I thought they were magnificent creatures and I came away with a deep appreciation of their beauty and grace. There have been many more experiences that some might call adventurous, but I ultimately believe the best is yet to come.
Let's take a peek inside each of the Wanderlust books...
Series' landing pages on
Excerpt of Anonymity, book one (99 Cents as intro to the series)
Rain, river, followed by ocean...too much water in her near future as far as she was concerned. It was as if the sky had turned on a faucet. She huddled in the rain poncho and pressed close to Luke on the boat bench. Already an inch of water covered her hiking shoes and soaked through to her socks. She'd stuffed her sunglasses into the backpack, which was now securely on her shoulders and beneath the poncho, but now regretted doing so as she squinted against the slamming rain.
And this was only the first boat.
Maybe she wasn't made for adventure travel.
Luke steadied her with an arm around her shoulder as the boat rocked back and forth while it traveled upstream against suddenly high water. Gusty winds blew her hood off and made it almost impossible to keep the water out of the poncho. She couldn't wait to be dry.
"Do you think it's like this all the way back to the island?" She leaned close to his ear to ask the question over the howling wind.
"I'm afraid so. Did you seal your camera in a dry-bag...you know, a diving bag?" He pulled her hood over her head. "If not, give it to me. The water will seep into the backpack."
She twisted so that he could access her backpack beneath the poncho and took a moment to scan the rest of the guests on the boat. Huddled in yellow ponchos and hunched against the driving rain, they weren't exactly a merry bunch of travelers anymore. Reggie and Bobby maneuvered the boat over water that had become angry in a very short period of time.
Luke patted her shoulder. "Don't worry. It's all going to be fine."
"I'm not worried," she lied and squeezed his hand as she rearranged herself on the bench.
When the boat pitched precariously to the side, everyone made a "whoa" sound before it righted itself. Nervous laughter followed.
She gulped back fear even as the boat swung back onto its side, this time capsizing.
Snakes. Crocodiles. Those were the first words in her brain as she fought against the water sucking at her legs. Someone kicked her in the back during the chaos. Opening her eyes beneath the water, she could only see a murky darkness.
Luke pulled her out from beneath the boat. She spit water and blinked against the rain. The cooler floated by along with the boat back toward Lamanai. A few of the group clung to the top of the boat, their hands reaching in the water for others still in the water.
"I've got you, hold on." Luke wrapped his arm around her shoulders from behind and pulled them toward the shore.
She kicked, wanting to touch bottom but terrified of what might lurk there. The rain poncho ballooned around her and felt more like a hindrance than a help.
The force of the water pushed them downriver, wind and rain slapped them hard.
"Grab the branch!" He yelled against her ear.
She nodded, unable to speak, her gaze focused on the low branch over the water. In sync, they reached for it. He released her and struggled to get a grip on the tree. She used all of her strength to hold on and pull herself up, her fear of drowning only a little more severe than her fear of snakes or whatever else waited on shore.
Luke fell to his knees next to her once they were on land and gasped for air. "Do you see anyone else?"
Spitting water, she pulled long green slimy pieces of muck from her face and hair. Feeling like insects were crawling on her skin, she shook out the poncho and patted her shirt and pants. The ground itself squished when she struggled to stand and gain balance. She looked back toward the river, still pulling stringy green things from her hair.
Reggie stood on the opposite side, giving them a thumbs-up sign.
Really? A thumbs-up? She lifted her arms to the side and shrugged.
"Walk that way." He yelled and motioned upriver. "Follow the river to where we parked the bus and you'll be fine. I need to find the others. If you see anyone else, tell them to keep walking up river. It's all fine."
"He has a different definition of the word fine than we do," Luke muttered from behind her.
Several feet ahead of them, Bill balanced precariously on a boulder and held Savannah with both of his hands. Her backpack and poncho had wrapped around debris in the water. She had one leg up on the shore, both hands in Bill's, but the other leg was submerged.
"I'm stuck!" Rushing water whooshed against Savannah's face.
Luke ran to help, leaning into the river to untangle her from where she'd gotten snagged by underwater tree roots.
Raindrops felt like bullets pelting their faces. With each step toward the trio, Alyssa's shoes made a sucking sound when they pulled free of the grasping mud.
Savannah lay on the ground for a minute, eyes closed and face muddy. "Spa day. Next time I choose the one activity outside of diving we do."
Alyssa pushed her hands over her eyes and struggled to catch her breath. None of this seemed real. Maybe she should be grateful that they hadn't capsized at sea, but right now all she could think of was how long it had taken them to arrive here by boat. At least an hour, she thought. How many miles did that equal?
Luke sat on a boulder next to Bill, both men staring at the river with shock on their faces.
Hand over her eyes, she looked up and down the river, relieved to see people crawling onto shore and yelling for one another. She couldn't be sure, but it appeared most were okay.
"We'd better start walking. I don't want to sleep here overnight," she said to no one in particular before looking at the thick jungle they needed to traverse. "I don't suppose you have a machete in your special diving bag, do you, Survivor Man?"
He grinned and shook his head no. "Joking at a time like this? That beats hysteria. You're right. We need to start walking. It's going to take awhile to get back."
"We need to stay together. It will be easy to get lost with such thick underbrush." Bill helped Savannah to her feet.
Luke stood, grabbed her by the shoulders, and looked her up and down. "How do you feel? Anything broken? Any bites?"
"Bites?" Fear froze her in place thinking about what could have bitten her.
"Just be careful, there are snakes around and most of them blend. They'll be difficult to see in this weather and a few are pretty aggressive."
She thought of that yellow one they'd seen eating a bird on the way here and gulped. "Thanks for freaking me out even more. I really didn't need an image. I'm fine. No bites."
"Good." He yanked her toward him and kissed her. Hard. "Whatever happens, don't let go of me, okay?"
Excerpt of Proximity, Book Two...
She'd had a bad feeling about this trip before agreeing to go and should have gone with her gut. Instead, here she sat thousands of miles from home with friends who normally elevated her mood rather than sunk it.
She had just opened the door to her private balcony facing the canopy of the jungle when a hammering of knocks fell against the front door. Sighing, she ignored them, needing time to regroup.
Focus on the dive. That's why you're here. Look at that monkey staring at you. She squinted at the howler monkey perched in an adjacent tree. Gee, I hope he doesn't throw shit at me.
"You didn't lock the door. That's probably not safe." Bill stood behind her.
"You're certainly brining the drama on this trip." She sipped her Mai Tai and waited while he adjusted his long frame into the chair next to hers. "Emily told me that Lexi had an issue with our lunches and talks. I know you said that you didn't care what people said—and you know I don't—but it must be eating you up to leave the group. I'll quit, if that's what this is. You stay with them. Pretty soon the other guys will have similar issues with me, I'm sure. You're all too damn polite to say anything."
"Don't lie to me."
"Don't be a martyr."
She twisted in her chair to look him in the face. "We've been through snake bites, hurricanes, wicked currents, and years of shared secrets. Do. Not. Lie. To. Me."
He gritted his jaw but didn't look away. "Fine. I won't. Yes, I'm leaving the group because of you."
Well, damn, that hurts.
She felt like he'd slapped her. She'd been holding out hope that her insecurities were getting the best of her. She ripped her gaze from his and stared into her drink, absently poking the pineapple stalk into the alcohol before taking a big bite from it.
"I can't do this anymore. It's killing me," he said.
"What is?" She couldn't look at him. Sudden tears had blurred her vision.
"Choosing and never being chosen in return."
"What are you choosing? We're not playing a game of pick-up basketball. That's what you sound like—a child who isn't being picked for the right team." She rubbed a stray tear with the back of her hand. "What does that mean—choosing and not being chosen?"
"Nothing, Savannah. It doesn't mean anything."
"Now you're patronizing me." Goddamn it, he was pushing her buttons like never before.
"I'd watch that monkey if I were you...he's eyeballing your drink."
"I can handle the monkey." She slid him a gaze that she hoped melted him in place.
"You're overreacting to my announcement."
"Announcement? Stewart was right when he said you're treating us like your employees. What happened between my house and here? What aren't you telling me? Be straight, don't give me some bullshit story you've obviously made up on the fly. What is killing you? Your word...killing. Me? How? We're—"
"Stop it, Savannah. You're making everything worse." He stood and squeezed her shoulder. "Come back out with the guys. They're all pissed at me for driving you away. Let's hit restart on this adventure of ours and have a good night."
She'd rally because that's what she did—what she was known for, rallying and never breaking. Even after her fiancé had killed himself, she'd gone on with life and succeeded. She rallied. But right now she didn't want to laugh this off and be one of the guys. She wanted to drink her Mai Tai, order room service, and spend the rest of her night staring at the jungle surrounding them. Alone.
"Go do that then. I'm not coming."
"Savannah...this isn't about hurting you. You and I—"
"—Are such good buddies that you can't confide in me?" She met his gaze then, eyes devoid of tears, a skill she'd mastered over the years. "We talk every night. I thought we told each other everything, and here you have this resentment toward me—"
"—I don't resent you at all, couldn't, that's not—"
"Then tell me the truth because I know you're lying."
He shoved his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and stared at her as if weighing the pros and cons of confession.
"So it's true? You're still lying?" She stood then and poked him in the chest with the remainder of the pineapple stalk. "We are dive partners! I trust you with my life and you trust me with yours every damn time we go down. What could you possibly want to hide from me?"
"If I tell you, I'll lose you." He clenched his jaw but didn't break eye contact. "That's what you do, Savannah. Yes, we know each other really well, which means I know what I can and can't tell you."
"What do you mean that's what I do? Do what? You showed up at my house with Chinese take-out, all smiles and wanting to make plans to go to Denver for Alyssa and Luke's wedding—then wham you're suddenly moving to California." She gestured wide with her hands, more confused than she'd ever been about anything in her life. "Did you get bit by some Costa Rican bug and it's causing you to lose your fucking mind?"
Without hesitating, he grabbed the back of her head and ground his mouth against hers until they stumbled back against the chair and onto the railing of the balcony. The ferocity of his kiss weakened her knees and shocked her to the core.
She clenched at his shoulders for balance, conscious of leaning precariously against a bamboo railing thirty feet above the ground. Every inch of her trembled at the unexpected passion rolling from his lips and against hers.
But she liked the way he felt against her, enjoyed the way his fists pulled as he wrapped them tightly into her hair, liked the way he ground his mouth against hers until she kissed him back, thrilled at being thrown off balance and needing to cling to his strong shoulders to remain upright.
When she opened her mouth to deepen the kiss, he moaned his appreciation. The sound electrified her blood with a million tiny pinpricks of awareness that pulsated beneath her skin.
As suddenly as he'd kissed her, he let her go.
She sagged against the railing, hands searching for something to hold onto as she watched him walk away. Anger replaced desire in the blink of an eye.
She strode after him and caught him as he was stepping out the front door. "What the hell was that?"
He looked at her, his slow grin adding fuel to the fire burning in her gut. "If I need to tell you, then I guess I didn't do it right."
"Bill, I swear to God you've lost all sense," she whispered.
"Maybe it's the opposite."
She frowned. "I don't know what that means."
"There's the problem. Right there." He grabbed her by the shoulders, kicked the door closed and ground his mouth against hers again. Reckless desire communicated itself through the ferocity of his kiss.
She pressed against him, overcome with need and confusion. She matched his passion with her own, no longer thinking about what was right or wrong. Every inch of her skin quivered with awareness.
They fell against the wall, tripped over a low table, and collapsed against the floor in a tangle of limbs. Body heat ignited from the inside out, making the short dress she wore feel constricting even as it rode up her thighs. She writhed against him, peeled his shirt up his back and sunk her fingernails into his skin.
He moved his mouth from hers and trailed kisses down her neck. The weight of him pressing her against the wooden floor combined with the heat of their bodies and the feel of his mouth on her skin while surrounded by wild sounds of the jungle overloaded her senses.
"Savannah, I've wanted this for so long," he muttered against her shoulder.
His voice snapped her back to reality. She dropped her head back against the wood and closed her eyes. The pleasure of the moment conflicting with common sense.
"We can't do this," she said with a catch in her voice. "You're Bill."
"Glad you know who I am." He rose up on the palm of his hands and stared into her eyes. "Why not? You're the only woman I've ever thought of as a soul mate—look at how we are together. Friends, confidantes...why not lovers? Why not have it all?"
"Stop it. Soul mate? Where is this coming from?" She wiggled from beneath him and straightened her dress. Breaths came like tortured streaks of air ripping through up her throat. "This is because of your fight with Lexi, isn't it? She said something about me, about us, and it has you all stirred up. I am not going to risk our friendship for a good fuck."
"You want me as badly as I want you." He jumped to his feet.
She couldn't look at him with his hair a mess from her hands, handsome face dark with desire, and shirt half-up his hard chest without thinking of how good it had felt to have his body on top of hers. Her mind raced for an excuse that wouldn't damage their relationship.
She needed his friendship more than she needed a lover.
"We've got that covered! Why the hell do you keep saying that? What does my name signify to you? Is it that I'm your lap dog and nothing more? Have I been segregated into some weird place in your life where I am permanently in the friend-zone?"
Words failed her. She faced him and shrugged. The hurt in his eyes stabbed her in her heart.
"Bill, wait," she said when he opened the door again. She grabbed his arm, not knowing what to say but terrified that a crack had formed in their relationship that would never heal. "I need to understand."
"If I need to spell it out to you at this point, then maybe I've been wrong about us for a very long time." He met her gaze. "That's why I need to go. You confuse me. I want a life with a wife and kids and big family barbecues and all of that and I'm starting to think this...friendship we have...is standing in the way of the rest of my life. It's you, always you in my head when I'm with anyone else."
"You're my best friend," she whispered, fear making her voice quake. "That's always been enough."
"That's what I thought, too."
"Then what changed? We're Savannah and Bill, we have fun, we're each other's go-to person...Why complicate it? Why can't you have a wife and kids and everything you want with me as your best friend?"
"Is that what you want? Really?" He leaned close enough where the gold flecks in his hazel eyes were only an eyelash away. "Do you want to watch me marry someone else one day? Because I can honestly stand here and say that the idea of you being some other man's bride tears my heart out."
She cringed at the idea of being anyone's bride. "Why are you doing this? Now? Here? Before a dangerous dive?"
"It came up, that's all."
"Like hell it did. You're my partner and now you threw this—"
"Let it go, Savannah. Pretend I never came to your room." He twisted free of her grip and walked onto the suspended bridge.
Talk about a serious mind fuck.
Deciding to let him have his nervous breakdown on his own, she slammed the door closed and stomped toward the bed. Her dive buddies were her safe haven from the nutty men in the world—or at least they had been before Bill decided to go bonkers. She fell back onto the bed and blinked at the thatched ceiling. Absently, she touched her lips that still throbbed from his kiss.
Okay, so maybe she'd fantasized about him now and then. Perhaps she'd been guilty of comparing other men to Bill and finding them lacking. But crossing that line had never been an option for her. Couldn't be.
Mae West had once said that a man's kiss was his signature.
Savannah grinned against her fingertips. Now she knew what Ms. West had meant by that and had to agree. Damn, no man's kiss had ever curled her toes and boiled her blood like that.
Too bad it could never happen again.
Excerpt of Duplicity, Book Three
The world dipped and tilted a little. Maybe it was the undulation of the boat or the whiskey or the fresh sea air playing havoc with her equilibrium, but tension evaporated from her shoulders for the first time since she'd hidden in a closet hours ago.
"Do you know no one would miss me if I disappeared?" she asked, leaning a bit too close to him. "Not one person."
"Don't say that," he whispered. "You remind me of someone I used to know, someone who also thought she wouldn't be missed, and guess what? We all miss her."
"I bet she was nice." She took another sip of the whiskey.
"Not really. She was pretty fucked up, actually, but...never mind. Another lifetime ago." He turned, faced the sea, and leaned back on his elbows. "None of that matters anymore."
She thought it must matter a lot for him to look so sad all of the sudden. "I'm from Dallas."
His lips twitched. "I figured."
"What does that mean?"
He laid on his back, head tucked in his hands, and laughed up at the sky. "You've got an arrogance about you that screams Texan."
"Oh, really? Well, then let me ana-um-ana-analyze you." She tossed the now empty bottle aside and twisted to look at him. "You've got Californian written all over you. Am I right?"
He held up his tattooed arms and pretended to study his ink in the moonlight.
She laughed and punched him in his side. "You're a smartass."
"Better than a dumbass I always say."
She hesitated, torn between emotion and logic. Whiskey warmed her from the inside out. "I've made a lot of questionable decisions today."
She crawled over him and kissed him, never one to shy away from what she wanted even in the face of a life-threatening situation. She wanted—no, needed—to forget it all for awhile.
She wanted to feel, not think.
"Careful, Lex," he muttered against her mouth, not making a move to touch her. "You can't undo this."
"I bet you're wild." She sucked on his bottom lip, looking him in the eye through the shadows.
"Slumming are you?" He quirked an eyebrow, his breath hot on her skin.
"Make me forget." She licked her tongue over his lips and pressed her hips against his.
"That's the whiskey talking."
"Who the hell cares?"
"I do." He grabbed the back of her head, fisting his hands in her hair and held her face a whisper away from his. "Do you really want to know how wild I can be? I'm not the kind of guy who holds back."
He ground his mouth against hers in a kiss designed to scare her with its force.
Rather, it intensified the desire burning in her gut.
Tongues slipped over one another. Breath meshed. Lips smashed. Hips ground together through their clothing.
He rolled her over onto her back. Her skull ached from where he pulled her hair. His eyes glittered in the moonlight.
"I'm not one of the nice guys who play fair," he warned.
"Who said I liked nice guys?" She reached for the snap of his jeans and pulled it open. "And why in the hell do you think I play fair?"
He smiled, reached for the neckline of her shirt, ripped it down the center, and tossed the pieces of fabric aside. Without hesitating, he dipped his head and nibbled her neck while his hands claimed her bare breasts.
She arched upward, craving skin-on-skin, needing the feel of his hard body pressing into hers. The sea breeze kissed her nude torso, the coolness contrasting sharply with the heat of his mouth on her flesh.
She mimicked him by reaching up to the neckline of his already torn t-shirt and ripping it off of him. Shreds of material blew away in the wind. Sinking her teeth into his shoulder, she moved her hands frantically over his wide back. The more she felt, the more she hungered for more of him, all of him.
In a daze of whiskey and desire, she dropped the back of her head onto the cool surface of the boat as his mouth claimed her breast. Eyes open, she stared at the stars and sighed when he dipped a hand inside her shorts.
"We should go to the bedroom," he muttered against her mouth. "We might fall overboard."
"I can swim." She smiled against his mouth.
What are you waiting for? Take off on an adventure today!