KAREN’S KILLER BOOK BENCH: Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
MERCY UPON US
BY AMBER LEA EASTON
Doctor Riana Wolfe has a perfect life–a private practice in Dillon, Colorado, two cute kids, and a handsome husband–until one night unravels it all. Her husband’s suicide rolls back the curtain on a web of lies so elaborate that she begins to question her sanity. Trapped in a spiral of deceit and betrayal, she and her children become targets and she has no idea why or who is behind it.
Brody Dalton has no interest in drama. A retired ski champion, he is rehabilitating his shattered leg and nursing a wounded ego when he hears the gunshot come from next door. He rushes to the aid of his former childhood friend, Riana, without thought of the consequences. Rumors in the small community abound about why Riana’s husband committed suicide and about what other secrets she may be hiding. He is battling his own demons, yet cannot stay away from his former friend’s obvious distress. As the rest of the community shies away from the widow, he puts himself in danger to help.
Drugs, secrets, and death chase Riana and Brody as they delve deep into the mysterious shadow life of her deceased husband. Through it all, they realize their bond from decades ago has never truly subsided, but the timing for love couldn’t be worse. As Riana struggles to save her children from harm and to salvage what is left of her shattered life, can she open her heart enough to trust Brody? Will they be able to overcome–and outrun–the darkness that haunts them both?
**may contain emotional triggers regarding suicide and drug abuse**
Editorial Note: Edited for language
Brody twisted his head toward them, unable to free himself from the fight with this dragon-masked man. Her feet dangled above the floor as the lion-masked man shook her against the wall.
“Money?” Hysteria made her laugh sound overly high and rapid. “There is no money.”
“Liar. Your husband was a liar, a junkie, a dealer, and a thief. He owes us.” He leaned his full weight against her, and forearm against her collarbone. “I will get what’s mine, Riana. I don’t give a damn if I hurt your little kids to get it, do you understand?”
“There is no money. Leave us alone.”
“Us? Do you really think I give a damn about your little family? Marshall used to say the same thing, beg me to leave him alone because of his cute little family. Guess what? I didn’t care then and I sure as hell don’t care now. I will never leave you alone until I get what’s mine.”
The Dragon Man was stronger than he looked in the darkness. Brody focused on the knife as they rolled in the hall. The other man kept kicking at Brody’s left leg. Dragon Man managed to swipe his shoulder with the knife but Brody refused to let him go. Gaze locked on the narrow slits in the mask, Brody slammed a fist into the guy’s jaw.
“This isn’t going to end well for you,” Brody threatened.
“You’re a dead man, Dalton.” Dragon Man abruptly disentangled from Brody’s hold and stumbled toward the door.
With that, Lion Mask threw Riana on top of Brody, jumped over them both, and ran toward the front door.
Brody was torn between his need to rip those two into pieces and checking to make sure Riana was okay—he hesitated. Stumbling to her feet, Riana flicked on the light as the men exited the front door.
“Don’t you dare follow him!” Brody yelled, his voice sounding raspy and strange. He watched her hesitate on the threshold before allowing the door to close and running back to his side.
He stumbled to his feet and looked down at the slashes in his shirt where Dragon Man had managed to slice into him with the knife. Blood oozed from open wounds and trickled over his wrist and down his fingers. His hip throbbed and his leg hurt like a demon fresh from hell.
“This is all out of control, Riana. If you know something, say it. You can’t protect Marshall anymore.”
“Protect Marshall?” She shoved both hands through her hair and held them against the crown of her head. “I am not protecting Marshall.”
He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and caught his breath before speaking; “Maybe you should call a lawyer—a criminal defense attorney—before you speak to the police.”
“Are you turning on me now, too?”
“No, of course not.”
“Don’t act like loyalty is a given. If I’ve learned anything in the past week, it’s that loyalty is a fragile and elusive beast.”
He opened his eyes when he felt her touch his shoulder.
She fingered his injuries and studied him as if judging the seriousness of the damage. “Superficial injuries,” she said with sadness darkening her eyes. “You might need stitches, though. You’ll need to go to the hospital.”
“Oh, please, stop it, Doctor Wolfe.” He pushed her hand off of him and limped toward the door.
“You had to go and be some goddamn hero and look what happened.”
“Lion and dragon masks…idiots.”
She squinted, long strands of her auburn hair falling across her face like a veil from the squirmish. “They are, aren’t they? How many places sell those up here? The police will have a lead.”
“They’re going to want details, Ri.” He met her gaze before focusing down the hall toward the open door to Marshall’s office.
“I don’t know anything.”
“Stop singing that worn out song. You know a helluva lot more than I do. You need to think—you’re not a pushover or an empty-headed fool, Ri. You know more than you think you do.”
“I can’t believe you just said that to me.”
“Someone needs to say that to you to wake you the f**k up.” He moved past her toward the Marshall’s office. He stopped short when he saw Ron lying in the middle of the floor with his throat cut—blood pooled around the carpet beneath his body like a target with him lying dead center. Around his body were ripped up photographs of stingrays and dolphins, the wooded frames broken on the floor. Open files lay scattered across the carpet. Sofa cushions had been gutted. Nothing had been spared from destruction. He stepped closer to Ron’s body, noticed the rolled up mask on his forehead before settling on his unseeing eyes.
“What is it?” She followed him into the office and gasped. “Oh, my god.” When she moved to enter the room, Brody grabbed her shoulder to stop her. “You should go…before the police see you here.”
“Why?” He frowned.
Red lights flashed through the front windows. He looked at the front door. Suddenly he understood her concern…this would be the second time in seven days that they were found together with a dead body.
Q: What inspired you to write a dark romantic suspense like Mercy Upon Us?
A: My real life experience as a widow of a suicide victim became the spark of inspiration for Mercy Upon Us. When my husband died, many secrets of his life came to light that truly made me question the life I had been leading. My real life wasn’t nearly as sinister and terrifying as the plot of Mercy Upon Us—thank goodness—but it definitely gave me a lot to chew on as I wrote this novel.
Q: There is a saying that goes, “every artist is a cannibal.” Did you feel like that when writing a fictional tale based on something so intensely emotional for yourself?
A: I suppose so—but all good writing is born from deep emotion. In Mercy Upon Us, I also look at themes of greed and drug use—opioids to be exact. Good people can do bad things because they become caught up in something like addiction that is much bigger than themselves. I know many people who have loved ones dealing with addiction and/or loss. It is a subject worth writing about and worth exploring. I use a lot of my personal experiences in all of my writing and I believe it adds a layer of depth with which readers can relate.
Q: When dealing with a dark story, was it difficult to weave a romance into it?
A: Yes and no. Yes, because I didn’t want the relationship Riana has with Brody to feel unethical or creepy considering the event that brings them together—a lot of editing came into play to create a good balance with that. Then again, no, because I saw the relationship between them being inevitable. I really like the character of Brody so I worked hard to tell his story too. He actually lightens the darkness so he is integral to the story’s balance.
Q: You also write a lot of romance adventure and more light-hearted romance as well as romantic suspense. Do you have a preference?
A: I prefer romantic suspense only because I like the structure of a thriller—the placing of clues, the relentless tension. It’s also what I prefer reading. Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown are two of my favorite authors. But I slip in some humor in my romantic suspense novels too. My romance adventure novels are fun to write and I try to throw those into the mix so I don’t become all doom and gloom researching drug lords and murder. In other words, the lighthearted work saves my sanity!
Q: You have quite a few novels based in Colorado because you lived here for twenty-five years. Now that you’ve moved to New Mexico, do you plan on setting any new work here?
A: Not yet, at least not as Amber Lea Easton. I did write an erotic paranormal romance under my pen name, Dakota Skye, that is based in Santa Fe, though. I do allow my environment to shape my stories. Colorado was a huge part of my life—always will be—and it definitely inspired me. I travel a lot as well, though, and have used places such as Italy, Spain, the Caribbean, and Central America for my stories too. I guess we’ll have to see where my next spark comes from!
Q: What’s your writing area like? Any routines that push you through writers’ block?
A: I write in a loft surrounded by random items that make me smile. I have figurine of a bear reading a book that’s right next to my computer, a few rocks I think are pretty, some candles, a framed photograph of my dad, a funky lamp my grandma made, and other items that hold sentimental value to me. As for writers’ block, I have found the best way to combat it is to step away from the computer. If I’m not feeling the creative vibe in the moment, I go do something else like yard work,playing fetch with the dog, cleaning, organizing…those may sound like procrastination techniques, but they actually help me get back into the creative groove.
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic suspense, contemporary romance and nonfiction. An avid traveler, she incorporates her real-life adventures into her novels as much as possible (minus any illegal activities, of course.) “Smart is sexy,” Easton says, which is why she creates smart heroines who have a lot to lose yet find the courage to face their fears to overcome adversity. She’s an avid reader of all genres or “whatever turns her on in the moment”.
Easton currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, where she gives thanks daily for her ability to pursue her passion and for her family. Love is her motivation for all things–whether it be writing, traveling, playing with her dogs or hanging with her two teenagers–if it’s not done with love, then what’s the point? For a full listing of all of Eastons’ books, check out her website at http://www.amberleaeaston.com.
Links to Amber’s website, blog, books, etc.
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/MercyUponUs
Thanks, Amber, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!