Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Interview with Kelly Rimmer, Author of Before I Let You Go + Giveaway (US only)

I'd like to welcome Kelly Rimmer to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Before I Let You Go from Graydon House, a Harlequin imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Robyn! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Kelly Rimmer is the USA Today bestselling women’s fiction author of five novels. Her latest novel, Before I Let You Go, will be released in April 2018.

Kelly lives in rural Australia with her family and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than 20 languages.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which will hit shelves next week:

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As the weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhoods, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?

Both candid and compassionate, Before I Let You Go explores a hotly divisive topic and asks how far the ties of family love can be stretched before they finally break.

The opioid crisis in the United States was recently declared a national public health emergency, and yet you started work on this book nearly two years ago. What inspired you to write about an addicted mother and the struggles she faces within the relentlessly harsh legal system? What kind of research did you conduct to write so accurately about the current politics of addiction and recovery for this often unmentioned population of women?

Addiction is an issue close to my heart, so I have been watching the crisis evolve for some time. The situation has been at “crisis levels for almost a decade, and I’m relieved that it’s at least beginning to get some national attention—although there’s a very long way to go yet before it’s effectively addressed.

I spent almost a year interviewing, reading, and researching to gain an understanding of the science around addiction and the legal issues involved in the book. I also, of course, spent time researching the complex issues for those who leave fundamentalist religious sects like the one the sisters are trapped within as children.

The novel really showcases how blurry the line between right and wrong is when dealing with addiction, and yet so often, women who are pregnant and addicted are dealt with harshly and in ways that negatively impact them, their babies, their families, and their communities for generations. The legal impact feels especially drastic in the book’s scenes when Annie delivers the baby and almost immediately loses all legal rights as a parent. Is this situation a common reality for women like Annie?

Laws around drug use in pregnancy are set at the state level, and each state handles the matter differently—but there are countless real-life cases like Annie’s across the nation, where women have lost their children or served prison time. It’s actually impossible to know how many women have had their parental rights removed like this because cases like Annie’s are often handled in the juvenile courts—which means case records aren’t publicly available.

At its core, Before I Let You Go is a powerful story of two sisters—Lexie and Annie—and the bond between them and the bond they both have with Annie’s baby, Daisy. How did you write about this relationship in such a real, moving way?

There are few relationships in life as profound as those between siblings—it’s a uniquely enduring relationship. Who else sees into the corners of our lives, right from early childhood? I wanted to try to capture the way those sibling relationships can stretch and bend under great tension…but it’s just so hard to break them, despite the fact that these are also the people we might fight with sometimes! In the case of Lexie’s special relationship with Daisy, I actually thought of her easy willingness to care for Daisy as an extension of her endless love for her sister, in a roundabout way. Of course, Lexie cares deeply for her niece, but her bond with Annie is so deep and so wide that she’d do anything for her and her child—even going so far as to step into her role as “mom” when the circumstances demand it.

You write in your author’s note about a favorite uncle who suffered from addiction and how that has influenced you. Even though this book is a work of fiction and not autobiographical, was your uncle an inspiration for this book?

It was the loss of my uncle that sparked my interest in issues around addiction in the first place. He was one of the voices of my childhood, always cheering me on and encouraging me to believe I could do anything. When it comes to my writing career, sometimes I can’t quite believe the things I’ve managed to achieve, but I’m also fairly confident that if my uncle were still alive he’d be quite smug about it—I can easily imagine telling me, “Well, I knew you could do it!”

But there’s also no sugar-coating it: my uncle’s behavior could also be immensely destructive, and this deeply affected both his own life and the lives of those who loved him, and the damage lives on long after his death for some of our family members. This is the nature of addiction—it is ugly and brutal, and there are no simple solutions because real lives are changed forever. Once beautiful, vibrant people get caught in its grip. That’s why I dedicated the book to my uncle, and although the story in no way reflects his story, that’s how he inspired it.

You’ve written several bestselling, acclaimed novels. Was the process and experience of writing Before I Let You Go different than your experience with past books?

The nature of the stories I write is that my writing process becomes deeply personal—but that was certainly true in a more intense way with this book. I think I lived and breathed Annie and Lexie’s story for six months and then “woke up” and realized my real life was actually still happening outside of my office!

What’s next for you?

I’ve finished the first draft of my 2019 novel—I’m so excited for the next one! I can’t say too much just yet, as it’s still in the very early stages of development, but I think readers who enjoy Before I Let You Go will love it, too.

Very exciting! Where can you be found on the web?

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Kelly! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Before I Let You Go—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
Are you addicted to anything, or do you know anyone who is?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Kelly and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Me, no (other than internet or shopping addiction LOL). Sadly I think sugar addiction and alcohol/nicotine addiction are very rampant in my social circle. They may not seem as fatal as hard drugs, but can have health risks associated with them that society doesn't take as seriously.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at Little Bird Publicity!
Giveaway ends April 11th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to continental US residents only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt + Giveaway (US/Can)

We Own the Sky
Luke Allnutt
from Park Row // Harlequin

A triumphant story about love, loss and finding hope—against all odds

“We looked down at the cliff jutting into the sea, a rubber boat full of kids going under the arch, and then you started running and jumping through the grass, dodging the rabbit holes, shouting at the top of your voice, so I started chasing you, trying to catch you, and we were laughing so hard as we ran and ran, kicking up rainbow showers in the leaves.”

Rob Coates feels like he’s won the lottery of life. There is Anna, his incredible wife, their London town house and, most precious of all, Jack, their son, who makes every day an extraordinary adventure. But when a devastating illness befalls his family, Rob’s world begins to unravel. Suddenly finding himself alone, Rob seeks solace in photographing the skyscrapers and clifftops he and his son Jack used to visit. And just when it seems that all hope is lost, Rob embarks on the most unforgettable of journeys to find his way back to life, and forgiveness.

We Own the Sky is a tender, heartrending, but ultimately life-affirming novel that will resonate deeply with anyone who has suffered loss or experienced great love. With stunning eloquence and acumen, Luke Allnutt has penned a soaring debut and a true testament to the power of love, showing how even the most thoroughly broken heart can learn to beat again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Top 5 Shamelessly Fun Ways I Researched for The Italian Party by Christina Lynch + Giveaway (US/Can)

The Italian Party
Christina Lynch
from St. Martin's Press (MacMillan)

Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany's famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.

When Scottie’s Italian teacher—a teenager with secrets of his own—disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.

Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America's role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, Prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party is a smart pleasure.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Fatal Chaos by Marie Force + Giveaway (US only)

Fatal Chaos (Fatal #12)
Marie Force
from HQN // Harlequin

First the calm. Then the storm...

Escaping DC during the dog days of summer is one of the smartest moves Washington metro police lieutenant Samantha Holland ever made. Beach walks aren’t quite as romantic with the Secret Service in tow, but Sam and her husband, Vice President Nick Cappuano, cherish the chance to recharge and reconnect—especially with a scandal swirling around the administration.

No sooner are they back home than a fatal drive-by shooting sets the city on edge. The teenage victim is barely older than Sam and Nick’s son, Scotty. As more deaths follow, Sam and her team play beat the clock to stop the ruthless killers. With Nick facing his greatest challenge—one that could drastically change all their lives and even end Sam’s career—will the mounting pressure deepen or damage their bond?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Interview with Tessa Arlen, Author of Death of an Unsung Hero + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Tessa Arlen to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Death of an Unsung Hero, the newest installment of the Lady Montfort Mysteries from Minotaur Books, a MacMillan imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Tessa! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat, was brought-up and educated in the beautiful Chiltern Hills of England, when she was not visiting her parents oversees in Asia, India and Europe. Her books are set in the pastoral beauty of her native England among its flint-stone villages, softly rolling hills, and airy beech woods.

Greatest influences on Tessa's writing are hands down Kenneth Grahame and Richard Adams for their wonderful descriptions of the beauties of the English countryside, and E.F. Benson and Nancy Mitford whose characters are so quintessentially eccentric and wickedly funny.

Her pleasures in life are simple: cooking and enjoying good food with family and friends, long walks with short-legged dogs and planning her next garden project. She lives in Santa Fe.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves this week:

In 1916, the world is at war and the energetic Lady Montfort has persuaded her husband to offer his family’s dower house to the War Office as an auxiliary hospital for officers recovering from shell-shock with their redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson contributing to the war effort as the hospital’s quartermaster.

Despite the hospital’s success, the farming community of Haversham, led by the Montfort’s neighbor Sir Winchell Meacham, does not approve of a country-house hospital for men they consider to be cowards. When Captain Sir Evelyn Bray, one of the patients, is found lying face down in the vegetable garden with his head bashed in, both Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have every reason to fear that the War Office will close their hospital. Once again the two women unite their diverse talents to discover who would have reason to murder a war hero suffering from amnesia.

Brimming with intrigue, Tessa Arlen's Death of an Unsung Hero brings more secrets and more charming descriptions of the English countryside to the wonderful Lady Montfort series.

What inspired you to begin writing mysteries? Was the Lady Montfort Mysteries a series you always wanted to write?

Ever since I read Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes when I was fourteen I wanted to write mysteries. I particularly enjoyed the Golden Age mystery writers: Dorothy L. Sayers Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham often referred to as the Queens of Crime who wrote detective fiction between the wars. And it wasn’t until I started to write mystery that I discovered that they considered their whodunits as a game for both author and reader: the elements of the mystery must be clearly presented but in such a way as to arouse curiosity, to entice the reader to try and guess the outcome and if they were as clever as the author, to guess it before the denouement.

I also wanted to write about the great country houses of England with their enormous and gorgeous gardens in the 1910s, where life for the privileged few was idyllic thanks to their servants, their money and the rigidity of the class system. The "have-nots" of course had a much grimmer time of it. My two amateur sleuths in the Lady Montfort series are from opposite ends of the class system and struggle with issues in context with their time and place in history. Clementine Elizabeth Talbot the Countess of Montfort is from of one of the oldest families in England and her housekeeper, Edith Jackson, was raised in a parish orphanage. Together these two remarkable women step lightly across the great class divide of Edwardian Britain to unite their considerable talents in clandestine inquiries that take them into all walks of life in the new 20th century when even the status quo was on the cusp of great change.

You have wonderful leading ladies in Lady Montfort and her no-nonsense housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson. Are there any supporting characters that came easily to you in the writing process?

I am particularly fond of my villains: I think Teddy Mallory in Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is a perfect example of an Edwardian rotten apple and I had great fun writing him. I write a short biography for my murderers: their physical appearance, idiosyncrasies, their likes and dislikes. I really enjoy enhancing the more positive aspects of their characters to camouflage their evil side, and then revealing little glimpses of their particular flaws.

But writing Clementine’s children came really easily to me, because I have three of my own –now grown-up, who gave me tons of fodder. In Death of an Unsung Hero, my favorite supporting character is Lady Montfort’s daughter Althea, who has skillfully avoided marriage to a "man of substance and background with a bank account to match" and has managed to engineer all sorts of opportunities for world travel. In the first three books she is a distant figure always off on another jaunt, but now that Britain is at war she is marooned on the family estate and is trying her best to run the local chapter of the Women’s Land Army or the Land Girls as they were called. The WLA was an organization tasked with providing farmers with labor—terribly important to an island cut off by the German U-boat blockade from importing food from America and Canada. Althea has to deal with farmers who don’t like the idea of city girls, or girls at all, working on their land. At the same time she is causing her mother all sorts of headaches as she is particularly independent in spirit and often irritated by the petty convention that young women of that time had to put up with. Althea was great fun to write she is bright, generous and sunny tempered but determined always to have a say in her world, to be effective and to contribute in a meaningful way. Althea could in fact be any one of my three daughters! There are some great scenes between her and her mother on the business of chaperones, and some lively moments with her and her brother when they decide to help their mother and Mrs. Jackson with some sleuthing. I found myself sympathizing with poor Clementine as she tried to deal with her independent daughter and her son, Harry, temporarily invalided out of the war, both of whom would rather be anywhere than on their father’s country estate.

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out the research that went into writing Death of an Unsung Hero, and what time period Tessa looks forward to writing about next. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of the book, so you don't want to miss that either!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

From Aspiring to Published Novelist: Top 5 Lessons I Learned by Clarissa Goenawan, Author of Rainbirds + Giveaway (US only)

Clarissa Goenawan
from Soho Press

Set in an imagined town outside Tokyo, Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut follows a young man’s path to self-discovery in the wake of his sister’s murder.

Ren Ishida has nearly completed his graduate degree at Keio University when he receives news of his sister’s violent death. Keiko was stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, failing to understand why she chose to abandon the family and Tokyo for this desolate place years ago.

But then Ren is offered Keiko’s newly vacant teaching position at a prestigious local cram school and her bizarre former arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s ailing wife. He accepts both, abandoning Tokyo and his crumbling relationship there in order to better understand his sister’s life and what took place the night of her death.

As Ren comes to know the eccentric local figures, from the enigmatic politician who’s boarding him to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, captivating young female student, he delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren realizes that Keiko Ishida kept many secrets, even from him.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: A Dangerous Game by Heather Graham + Giveaway (US/Can)

A Dangerous Game (New York Confidential #3)
Heather Graham
from MIRA // Harlequin

Trouble always finds her...

Wrapping up a normal day at the office, criminal psychologist Kieran Finnegan is accosted by a desperate woman who shoves an infant into her arms and then flees, only to be murdered minutes later on a busy Manhattan street.

Who was the woman? Where did the baby come from? Kieran can’t stop thinking about the child and the victim, so her boyfriend, Craig Frasier, does what any good special agent boyfriend would do—he gets the FBI involved. And asks Kieran to keep out of it.

But the Finnegans have a knack for getting into trouble, and Kieran won’t sit idle when a lead surfaces through her family’s pub. Investigating on her own, she uncovers a dangerous group that plays fast and loose with human lives and will stop at nothing to keep their secrets—and they plan to silence Kieran before she can expose their deadly enterprise.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: The Longest Silence by Debra Webb + Giveaway (US/Can)

The Longest Silence (Shades of Death #4)
Debra Webb
from MIRA // Harlequin

A killer stole her voice. Now she’s ready to take it back. Don’t miss the chilling Shades of Death series from USA TODAY bestselling author Debra Webb.

Joanna Guthrie was free. She had been for eighteen years—or so she needed everyone to believe. What really happened during the longest fourteen days of her life, when she and two other women were held captive by a dangerous serial killer, wasn’t something she could talk about. Not with him watching. Not unless she wanted to end up like the ones who didn’t make it out.

But when more women go missing in an eerily similar manner, Jo knows her prolonged silence will only seal their fates. She’s finally ready to talk; she just needs someone to listen. FBI special agent Tony LeDoux can’t deny he finds Jo compelling—he’s just not sure he believes her story. But with the clock ticking, Jo will do anything to convince him, even if it means unearthing long-buried secrets that will land them squarely in the crosshairs of the killer...