A MelanieM Audio Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and Ramón de Ocampo (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

It was through another book recommendation that allowed me to find the perfect romance story and what I regard as an audio treasure,Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and Ramón de Ocampo (Narrator).  The only thing that could have made this even more splendid?  Finding out that the author,Casey McQuiston, had an entire back library to stories to dive into.  Alas, this is the author’s only published work.  But it’s such a gift that I immediately went out and also bought the ebook too.  Perhaps I’ll even see about a trifecta if a paperback version is available.  That’s how over the moon I am about this story.

I dunno.  I think that cover ought to glow or something just to give off a hint as to what awaits readers inside.  It wouldn’t be amiss as I feel as though Casey McQuiston has written the perfect contemporary romance story and Ramón de Ocampo has, in every way possible, given voice to it.

It’s her incredibly moving story, a straightforward narrative of two young men and their complicated path towards a relationship and love, but the actual novel format, which helps elevate the story into something that elevates it,  is interspersed with texts and emails, both funny and poignant, sometimes both, with the odd late hour phone call thrown in for good measure.  Alex and Henry use everything from emojis to moving literary quotes to relate moods and send deep love (as the relationship progresses).  And the structure immediately connects the reader into the “now” of the moment and the heart of whatever both men are feeling, alone and with each other.

The story works from the beginning to introduce us to these characters and yes, the entire cast of this story, all of whom are finely crafted, multilayered, and so memorable that I’m smiling now just thinking about them all. On both sides of the Atlantic.  Because while this tale is all about the romance and relationship of US first son Alex Claremont-Diaz and  HRH Prince Henry of Wales, it’s also about the people who support them (their sisters and friends like June, Nora and Pez, the people who protect them, and even  parents like the Senator and the President and more).  It’s also about service to one’s country, and about hope, and making the world a better place. And yes, total deep heart to heart love.

This story had me laughing, crying a box of tissues worth of tears, and then back to the puddle of heartwarming, hold this book tight, love affirming, hope filled, reader goo. When they put out that question “What books would you take to a deserted island?”, I now can answer firmly that Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is right there in the top 5, maybe top three.   If I can bring a narrator along then Ramón de Ocampo is coming too.

Because he may be a new favorite as well.  He swings effortlessly between accents, English, American, Hispanic….no problem.  And different people within those accents.  Again with ease. I didn’t want to stop listening…take the dogs out?  The story kept going.  Listened through dinner, lunch, even breakfast.  It was hard even to go to sleep until I had finished it.  It was and is perfection.  I really feel any words are almost inadequate to describe how beautifully written, how   gorgeous a story, how memorable a love story you will find within these pages.

And what a splendid job Ramón de Ocampo does with the author’s tale.

This will be in my Best of 2019 this year.  Yes, I highly recommend it in both ebook and audio.  Get both.

Cover art is cute, but honestly nothing on the cover will live up to what is inside.

Audio Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible

Audio Details:

Listening Length: 12 hours and 15 minutes

Audiobook
Published May 14th 2019 by Macmillan Audio
Original Title Red, White & Royal Blue
Edition Language English

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Intoxicating (Elite Protection Services #1) by Onley James

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

I like my erotic romances with some depth and this fit the bill. There are many triggers in this book so please pay attention to the tags: past and present abuse, off page rape, self harm, flashbacks, alcohol, drugs, and suicide attempts. Of course, this all means the hurt/comfort trope is quite strong. Wyatt is full of pain from parents who don’t know what love means; he is acting out recklessly in his hopelessness. Lincoln is hired by Wyatt’s father as a babysitter for him during the Senate reelection campaign.

Much of this story takes place in a fish bowl of forced proximity. The attraction is immediate for both of them and while a misunderstanding keeps them apart for a little while, once that is gone there is no stopping the lust from boiling over, even if it all seems like a horrible idea, bound for heartbreak all around. As an erotic romance, the sex scenes are plentiful and smoking hot if light Daddy play is your thing. My heart hurt for both of them pretty quickly. Linc’s usual scenes and after care haven’t prepared him for actually caring for a boy of his own. He is in denial about his PTSD from the service and glosses over his own childhood abuse. Wyatt’s never had a man care for him at all, in any capacity. This is completely dysfunctional, but at least Linc understands that. Linc is an intimate witness to Wyatt’s life without his consent; it is Linc’s choice to share his life with Wyatt in return. With this dynamic, I wonder if anyone who showed Wyatt affection would have sufficed. Still, the moment that it becomes less about play and more about making love, the sex is real including the fear, communication, and humor.

The pacing is fast due to the feeling of racing against the clock. This has an expiration date, not just because of the senator’s campaign, but because this bubble is not sustainable. There are thankfully some interesting supporting characters involved: Linc’s boss and former service buddy Jackson, Graciela the housekeeper, Charlemagne or Charlie as Wyatt’s best friend, and Wyatt’s grandmother Violet. Charlie has the largest, much needed role as support for Wyatt when he can’t support himself. Some might criticize her for not doing more, but I think she did what she could whilst not humiliating and outing Wyatt against his will. When he makes the choice to change his circumstances, she protects them all. I admit Linc and his sister’s circumstances make no sense to me: caring for someone who hurt, neglected and abandoned them over someone Linc is falling in love with seems like a fake box to put him in. Neither does Wyatt’s situation make a lot of sense: if at 22, Wyatt is so abused and mentally screwed up that he can’t get out of the situation with his father, then he is not fit to be anyone’s partner. There are two scenes where Wyatt shows he can be supportive of Linc also–enough to give me some hope. With all the angst I had to wade through, I would have liked to see the epilogue expanded to show more of the happiness a romance brings to the table. Their kinks and childhood traumas match enough for them to bond, but I do wish there had been a bit more as to why they would work as a couple in real world circumstances for a more believable HEA.

The cover design is by We Got You Covered Book Design. This doesn’t have anything to do with the story. This model is a bit more built than I pictured Wyatt and less built than I pictured Linc. The tagline makes this seem more about discipline or BDSM, which doesn’t match the flavor of this book at all.

Sales Links: Amazon | Universal Link 

Book Details:

ebook
Published July 12th 2019 (first published July 8th 2019)
Original Title Intoxicating
Edition Language English
Series Elite Protection Services #1

An Alisa Release Day Review: Rockets and Romance (States of Love) by Wendy Qualls

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

Love isn’t rocket science… or is it?

Julian Barlow has finally landed his dream job working for NASA. The catch? He has to move to Huntsville, Alabama—a daunting prospect for a gay pescetarian from Los Angeles who’s never been south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Fellow engineer Cody Ewing is an Alabama boy through and through, and Julian’s casual assumptions about the South in general and Southern homophobia in particular makes it dislike at first sight. Then NASA throws them together on a months-long project, and they have to make it work.

Forced to rely on each other, the two men develop a tentative friendship that becomes something more as Cody shows Julian Alabama’s good side. Julian’s insistence on secrecy and Cody’s hot-and-cold act could scuttle their chances before they ever get off the ground, though.

This was a nice idea for a story but I’m not sure it connected well for me.  Julian is thrown in the deep end moving to the south at the last minute.  Cody has grown up in Huntsville and embraces what goes on in his hometown.

This story was Cody and Julian getting along then Julian making assumptions/hurting Cody rinse and repeat.  I guess I couldn’t get past all the negative assumptions Julian made about his new home and how what Cody overheard him saying at the beginning was never addressed.  I don’t know, I love how open Cody was and the little bit that Julian actually opened up but I couldn’t get passed how quickly Cody would forgive Julian and then it just happened over and over again.

The cover art by Brooke Albrecht is cute and I love the visual of Cody and Julian together.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 90 pages

Published: August 2, 2019 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 978-1-64405-454-3

Edition Language: English

Series: A States of Love Story

A MelanieM Review: Stand In Place by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

One summer won’t be enough….

Kaenon Geary was done fighting the small minds in his sleepy Texas town when he made his escape and never looked back. But now, for the first time in more than a decade, he’s returned to Braxton to spend the summer with his beloved grandmother—her final summer—and no longer recognizes the home he’d left behind all those years ago.

Everything has changed.

Everything but the man he’s never stopped wanting.

Brody Scott was the local football hero who became a gridiron champ, but he retired from the fast lane to forge a new life as the Chief Constable of Braxton. He longs to put down roots in the community he is now sworn to protect. Though he’s not at all sure he can protect his heart from the quiet, earnest boy he once knew. The boy who has come back a man.

Starting something would be a mistake. Kaenon plans to fly away at summer’s end, but his love is something Brody desperately wants to have…and to keep. Their days together are numbered. Unless some simple hometown magic can make all the right things bloom and show them the true definition of love.

Stand In Place by Mary Calmes is a sort of fantastical mix of romance, forgiveness, family, and love.   Of all sorts.  Familial, friends, houses, gardens, the land they stand on, and of course, romantic love.  All lightly laced through with the aromas and touch of the mystical and magic.  Had that Practical Magic sort of feel about it….sans the murder mystery of course!

It starts with a phone call to Kaenon Geary from his beloved grandmother, asking him to come spring her from the hospital in his home town of Braxton, Texas.    It’s a phone call he can’t and won’t say no to.  Even though the town is a place he has nothing but bad memories and swore he wouldn’t return.  But it’s his grandmother and there’s nothing he won’t do for her.

The setup here is both heartbreaking and life affirming.  It’s about a journey that both looks back, inward,  and, eventually forward.  And it’s all centered in Kaelen who returns to the family, school kids, town who treated him so horrifically when he came out as gay,  All excerpt for his coach, two best friends and his grandparents and Aunt Peg who he went to live with when his parents kicked him out.

The setup is enough to rend one’s heart.  The impending loss of the last person he considers family, the return to the town who beat him for being his true self, and finally having to deal with all the memories and people Kaenon thought were deeply buried in the past.

Then come the gardens, the fireflies, and the magic.

All of which Calmes swirls around her characters like a witch with a wand.  A narrative one at that.

Kaeon is another one of the author’s golden boys she does so well, here given a glow imbued by a land that missed him so.  I believe in that, totally.    Just as I did in the romance between Kaenon and Brody Scott.   And the forgiveness that followed.  Character by character.

Too soon?  Too much forgiveness?  Others will admittedly hate that Kaenon forgave  so easily perhaps , but within this setting and context. I think the author made her case.

Did I want more?  Yes.  Of Aunt Peg, their relationship, the town, even more of Brody and Kaenon but I’m glad it ended where it did.  I didn’t need it to go past the summer and the vibrant return of the garden.  I was content to leave all three right where they were.  In that small house, facing the garden, savoring the summer night and the magic in the air.

And yes, I highly recommend this story.

Cover art: Reese Dante.  Love that cover, perfect for this story.

Sales Links:  Amazon |

Book Details;

Kindle Edition, 311 pages
Published July 17th 2019
ASINB07VCM4QK1
Edition Language English

Marguerite Labbe on a An Interview with Dakota Nye and her new release ‘A Beautiful Disaster (Geek Life #3)’

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A Beautiful Disaster (Geek Life #3) by Marguerite Labbe

Dreamspinner Press
Published July 30th 2019
Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Buy Links:

Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to welcome back Marguerite Labbe here today, talking about the next story in her wonderful Geek Life series, A Beautiful Disaster. Welcome back, Marquerite!

✒︎

An Interview with Dakota Nye

Hello everyone. It’s good to be back at the Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words blog. Yesterday we had an interview with Brenden Wade and today it’s all about Dakota Nye. There was a bit of an argument between the characters about who should interview him. Brenden wanted to do it, but Dakota countered that it should be his new broadcasting partner. Then Felipe insisted it should be him, but Brenden won out in the end.

* * *

Dakota: “Welcome back everyone to another special edition of Geek Wars, where we’re interviewing some of the people who make comicon conventions a memorable success. And it looks like we’ve saved the best for last.”

Brenden raises an eyebrow and taps his pen on his clipboard. “Never let it be said that you are humble. Hello everyone, I’m Brenden, an occasional guest on the Geek Wars podcast, and Dakota Nye’s second half for what seems like forever. We’re going to go off script today because I’m sure a lot of you listeners would really love to get to know the man behind this show.”

Dakota: “Wait, what? What do you mean offscript?”

Brenden: “What flavor of ice cream are you? Really? That’s an example of your hard hitting questions?”

Dakota: “Hard hitting? Wait a damn minute, this is supposed to be light hearted fun not a grilling, Bren.”

Brenden with a grin. “Sweating already, huh? I love it. So, tell your listeners Dakota, what got you into podcasting and why Geek Wars?”

Dakota grumbling under his breath. “Well, I have opinions and podcasting seemed like the best way to air them. I’ve learned over the years we’ve been doing shows and reading comics that when you get two geeks who like the same thing and there’s going to be a disagreement somewhere. The more geeks, the more there are heated opinions and I love playing devil’s advocate so getting people on a show and directing their venting seemed like it would be a lot of fun.”

Brenden: “I must say you play devil’s advocate well and all joking aside, you work to present multiple opinions, not just your own, which is far better than what I would do.”

Dakota: “Wow, thanks.” He presses a fist to his heart. “You get me right here.”

Brenden narrowing his eyes. “Are you fucking with me?”

Dakota grins. “You tell me.”

Brenden shakes his head and leans back swiveling in his chair: “Many of you listeners don’t know, but Dakota went to college on a baseball scholarship and had dreams of the majors until an injury sidelined him. I can tell you from going to his games that he was good. What was your favorite position to play and why?”

Dakota glaring at Brenden: “This is a geek show. No one wants to hear about baseball.”

Brenden: “They want to hear about you. That’s the point of this, getting to know Dakota Nye, not just the geek but the man. You’ve touched on Theo’s loss of his parents and Trask’s drug abuse among other things, so let’s hear about something that shaped you.”

Dakota shaking his head. “Next time, I’m not going to go easy on you. Just wait. Okay, fine, shortstop, because I like to be in the middle of everything. I need action and that was the most demanding position. Getting injured sucked. It really fucking sucked and definitely had me wandering aimlessly for a bit, but I’m at a point now where it’s okay. I enjoy going to games. I enjoy playing softball in town. I have new loves that occupy my attention.” His smile turns wicked. “Don’t they, Bren?”

Brenden points the pen in his direction. “Behave yourself.”

Dakota snorts: “Not likely.”

Brenden: “If you could have one song that summed up your love life before us what would it be?”

Dakota: “Damn, you surprised me again. I was sure you were going to angle for a love song.”

Brenden: “I know your long standing views on such things, besides, I’m curious.”

Dakota: “Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King.”

Brenden huffs out a breath. “That sounds about right. What do you say to those who don’t believe you can settle down and commit?”

Dakota: “I really don’t care what anyone else thinks. You have to live your own life. There’s only one person whose thoughts about that topic I care about and you’re sitting across from me. Like I said earlier, you are stuck with me.”

Brenden: “Excuse me a moment, I’m about to get sappy.” He captures Dakota’s hand and kisses his knuckles before Dakota snatches his hand away.

Dakota: “Jesus, Bren, not on the show. No more interviews for you.”

Brenden: “Okay, back to business, if you had to pick one all time favorite comic what would it be?”

Dakota runs his hands through his hair. “Damn, that’s a hard one. You’re killing me. If I had to pick one and I’m going to get you for this, Lady Death.

Brenden: “You always did enjoy the darker themes more than I did.”

Dakota: “Yeah, I was hooked from when she first appeared in Evil Ernie. I had a lot of angst back then and those comics just fit right where I was at. Right now I’m really enjoying Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda is an amazing artist.”

Brenden glances at his watch. “It looks like we’re running out of time so I’m going to wrap this up with one more question.”

Dakota: “Make it fun if you’re going off the list. You’ve already done the hard hitting so I don’t need to answer the ‘what fears keep you awake at night’ and you’ve already nixed the ice cream one which for the record would totally be Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked.”

Brenden: “No, you’re fully baked.”

Dakota: “I’m not the one who went on a bender that was you.”

Brenden straightens with a glare. “That was 100% your fault.”

Dakota: “Plausible deniability, my man, plausible deniability. You’d have a difficult time making that cause in a court of law.”

Brenden: “Okay, final question, your life, if you could do it all again, what would you change?”

Dakota’s eyes widen in surprise, then narrow thoughtfully. “Not a damn thing. It’s been a wild ride and I don’t want to get off. No regrets, Bren, I can’t live like that. Thank you for taking the time to grill me, but that’s all the time we have, until then, get your geek on.”

Blurb:

When best friends Brenden and Dakota launch the biggest comics and pop-culture convention of their careers, they finally realize what everyone around them already knows: they’ve been in love for years.

Now what are they going to do about it?

Meticulously organized Brenden Wade and easygoing Dakota Nye turned their love of geek culture into a business, running conventions all over the Chesapeake Bay area. Now the weight of their pasts is threatening not only their friendship but their dream. Brenden fears losing his foster family when his secrets come out, and though the last thing Dakota wants is to hurt his plus one, he doesn’t know if he’s capable of settling down.

One night of passion challenges both men’s preconceptions and forces them to evaluate what they want from the future. They’re both scared, and though they’ve always been able to figure out anything together, hearts are on the line. Will taking a chance on romance lead to a beautiful disaster, or just a disaster? 

About the Author

Marguerite Labbe loves writing stories about the beauty of love and the strength of family, whether it’s the family you’re born into or the one you create. She married her next-door neighbor and best friend, and they have one son, one dog, and two cats who rule them all. She has finally converted her Alabama born husband into being a Red Sox fan and now only needs to convince her son. She runs Apocrypha Comics Studio with her husband and they often trek off to comic book conventions on the weekend where they celebrate all manner of geek culture.

Social Media:

Author website: http://margueritelabbe.blogspot.com/

Twitter handle: @MargueriteLabbe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marguerite.labbe.3

Wendy Quall’s Special Character Interivew and her new romance release ‘Rockets and Romance’

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Rockets and Romance (States of Love) by Wendy Qualls

Dreamspinner Press
Publication: August 2nd 2019
Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht

Sales Links:  Amazon | Author’s Website

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Wendy Quall here today on tour for her new novel, Rockets and Romance.  Welcome, Wendy.

✒︎

It’s August, which means my new book ROCKETS AND ROMANCE is out! Instead of giving you a boring, coherent plot summary, I’ve asked my seven-year-old daughter Evelyn to help me “interview” my hero Julian. It… didn’t go in the direction I’d expect.

Me: All right, imagine you’re talking to my hero, Julian. what do you want to ask?

Evelyn: Is the character a boy?

Me: Yes, he is a boy.

[This is obviously a strike against him in her mind.]

Evelyn: Is the whole book about gay people?

Me: Two main ones. Julian is a gay boy who grew up in California. He got the job he always wanted with NASA, but he had to move to Huntsville to take it. So he left Los Angeles–that’s a very big city–and came to Huntsville and found that everything is very different here.

Evelyn: Why did you add people who are gay into it?

Me: Because I like writing books about different kinds of people falling in love!

Evelyn: Okay. And they’re in love in this story?

Me: Not at first… Look, let’s pretend that I’m Julian and you can ask me things like what’s my favorite whatever, anything like that.

Evelyn: Ummm… do you like tea?

Me, answering as Julian: Yes, but I prefer coffee.

Evelyn: Do you have a favorite kind of tea? And if so, what is it?

Me: Why all the tea questions?

Evelyn: I like tea.

[Note: she has recently discovered that I like iced chai and that it tastes loads better than the straight-up overbrewed green tea my husband drinks. I now find myself making random herbal flavors pretty regularly because I’m not sharing my sweet, sweet caffeine.]

Me/Julian: Iced tea, I guess. Iced tea in California is never sweet tea and that’s different here in Alabama.

Evelyn: Are you picky at all?

Me/Julian: Am I picky? I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t eat meat, but I do eat a lot of different things. I don’t mind spicy foods.

Evelyn: *makes face* What’s your favorite kind of spicy food?

Me/Julian: Probably Thai food. Spicy peanut flavored.

Evelyn: Okay… How many people are in the story?

Me/Julian: A lot! It’s about me and the man I fall in love with–his name is Cody. I used to have a boyfriend back in California, and we broke up when I moved here but he still talks with me on the phone when I’m feeling lonely. Cody has friends, too, and we work together so there’s other people there on our team. Oh, and Cody has two cats. One of them lives outside and one lives both outside and inside and she’s really sneaky.

Evelyn: What color of shirt do you have?

Me/Julian: I wear different shirts throughout the story…

Evelyn: What’s your favorite color?

Me/Julian: *totally blanking on color names all of a sudden* I… rainbow. Lots and lots of rainbow things I like.

Evelyn: Do you like cats or dogs better?

Me/Julian; I don’t think I have a preference, but Cody has cats. One is grumpy and the other is very sweet. And at least the sweet one likes me.

Evelyn: What’s your favorite thing?

Me/Julian: Space, I guess. I grew up watching space movies with my dad and that’s how I decided I wanted to work at NASA when I grew up. And so I became an aerospace engineer and I got a job there. But it wasn’t the NASA job I thought it would be, in Los Angeles–I had to move all the way to Huntsville without warning.

Evelyn: Why did you choose to work at NASA instead of any other astronaut place?

Me/Julian: Because NASA is the best! They’ve got the biggest budget for studying space and science things. And at NASA I can do work for the International Space Station. Who wouldn’t want that/

Evelyn: *long pause* Mom, when will I be old enough to read your books?

Me: When you’re old enough to be embarrassed that your mom wrote ‘em, kid.

********

So that clears everything up, right? 🙂 Seriously, though, if you want to read something that could only ever happen in one place and you like books about clueless gay nerds who initially can’t stand each other slowly falling in love, ROCKETS AND ROMANCE will be right up your alley!

Blurb:

Julian Barlow has finally landed his dream job working for NASA. The catch? He has to move to Huntsville, Alabama—a daunting prospect for a gay pescatarian from Los Angeles who’s never been south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Fellow engineer Cody Ewing is an Alabama boy through and through, and Julian’s casual assumptions about the South in general and Southern homophobia in particular makes it dislike at first sight. Then NASA throws them together on a months-long project, and they have to make it work.

Forced to rely on each other, the two men develop a tentative friendship that becomes something more as Cody shows Julian Alabama’s good side. Julian’s insistence on secrecy and Cody’s hot-and-cold act could scuttle their chances before they ever get off the ground, though.

*************

About the Author

Wendy Qualls was a small ­town librarian until she finished reading everything her library had to offer. At that point she put her expensive and totally unrelated college degree to use by writing smutty romance novels and wasting time on the internet. She lives in Northern Alabama with her husband, two girls, two dogs, and a seasonally fluctuating swarm of unwanted ladybugs. Wendy can be found on Twitter as @wendyqualls. She is represented by Moe Ferrara of BookEnds Literary Agency.

Website
Twitter