Awakened follows a warrior who is vampire royalty as he tries to protect a woman from evil as she tries to cope with her new reality and the connection between them. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
The books in the series follow members of the Circle of the Red Scorpion. Based on the storyline in Book 4, Returned, it made sense that Awakened was the next book in the series. I don’t want to give too much away but there has been a vampire power struggle brewing since Shattered. Though there is some resolution in Awakened, a future book in the series will end it – at least for a time. Vampires are forever so there will always be someone else who wants to take the power.
I really enjoyed the connection between Dominic and Chantelle. Was their relationship planned or did it develop organically?
I plan the relationships in the series since many of the stories are related and prior storyline planning for the series is necessary. A subplot may begin in one book but ends in another story. The same with growing attractions between two characters. I compare it to putting together a complex puzzle.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
I wanted Dominic to accept who he was despite his heritage and realize it was the flaws of others that caused the issues in his life, not him. His calling as a warrior was far greater than those issues.
This is the fifth book in your Circle of the Red Scorpion Series. What can readers expect in book six?
In Book 6, Pursued, Elemental demon, Moses Thorne, is investigating a string of grisly murders in New Orleans when he meets a woman he never thought he would see again. Would he be able to trust her?
As Moses tries to solve the murders, a vengeful demon plots to kill him. He can no longer evade the world of demons he fled over a thousand years ago.
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Awakened (Circle of the Red Scorpion Book Five) by Charlene Johnson is a paranormal romance about a half-vampire half-human warrior who has spent hundreds of years battling an evil vampire bent on torturing and imprisoning humans. Twice throughout the centuries Dominic Rinaldi believed Nicodemus Bartolome was dead, but now he has shown up again, when he attacks a human woman named Chantelle Mallory in San Francisco. But there is something different about Chantelle. As Dominic’s feelings for her grow, will she be able to accept learning the truth about what he is? And will Dominic be able to protect Chantelle from the evil stalking her?
I liked the variety of paranormal beings in this book, and how they worked together to stop magical creatures who harmed humans. I enjoyed reading the sections of the story that focused on the search for the voodoo priestess’s descendants and the romance developing between Dominic and Chantelle. Dominic’s sister, Carmella, was not a likable character when she was first introduced in the story, and I thought the author did a really good job of redeeming her in the end. Some of my favorite characters were the other members of the Circle of the Red Scorpion. I enjoyed the interactions between the team, especially Moses Thorne and Nick Savage, and I liked learning about their different paranormal abilities.
While I enjoyed this story for its emotional connection between characters, I felt that there was an abundance of backstory about various characters at the beginning of the book, along with some flashbacks throughout the story, that slowed the momentum of the book.
With that aside, author Charlene Johnson still tells a dramatic vampire romance story in this riveting fifth entry in her paranormal Circle of the Red Scorpion series. Awakened is a rousing supernatural love story with spellbinding lead characters and a story that will have readers hooked.
Pages: 289 | ASIN: B08H14WPR6
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Stephanie Xavier hasn’t wanted for anything her entire life. She is privileged, spoiled, and has everything at her disposal. Her family’s wealth is well-known, and she has never had to hold a job or support herself. As perfect as her life seems, Stephanie is in need of much more. She has spent the better part of teens and young adulthood moving through meaningless short-lived relationships and has never known true love. The friendships she has made can hardly be called true. In fact, the only two women who still manage to spend time with her are as emotionally bankrupt as she is. When she makes up her mind to change her life, will the ones she wants to take with her be ready and willing?
Changing the Rules, the second book in the Sterling Wood series, by Charlene Johnson, chronicles the tempestuous life of Stephanie Xavier and her quest for a meaningful and loving relationship. After spending years bouncing from one man to the next in an effort to compete in a game based on sexual conquests, Stephanie realizes she wants love and not physical attention. Her problem is the man she wants, Craig, has been burned and is sure he can never love again–especially someone like Stephanie. He has heard the stories about her sex club and he knows she is the last person to commit. Their relationship seems doomed from the beginning. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Stephanie–as privileged as she is, she is a truly sad character.
Romance fans will revel in Johnson’s work. From cover to cover, the main characters are embroiled in one gratuitous sex scene after another. Buried within the explicit scenes is a storyline that doesn’t seem to get enough attention. The prologue set me up with some high expectations for the plot, but this was less a thriller and more of a romance. This is a plot-driven romantic suspense novel, with intense sex scenes, but I really wanted to see much more develop between Stephanie and several of the other characters.
I highly recommend Changing the Rules to any romance fan. With an element of mystery to the plot, I can see romance fans being intrigued with Stephanie’s storyline, her turbulent life, and the constant conflict she faces with Craig–she is a memorable character and definitely leaves her mark on readers.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B08R81BYRT
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Blown Away follows a homicide detective tasked with solving a murder at his friends hotel when things quickly go awry. What were some sources that influenced this thrilling crime story?
Blown Away is part of a multi-author book series. The series was to take place in Las Vegas and the theme was to include casinos and/or crime/organized crime and four male friends. Each book was to focus on one friend and incorporate one or more of the other friends from the series.
Zack is a compelling character that I enjoyed watching develop as the novel progressed. What were some themes that were important to capture in his character?
One of the character suggestions for the series was someone in law enforcement. I chose a police detective with some personal baggage, a strong sense of justice and friends on both sides of the law.
What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?
The action scenes were a challenge. I wanted it to be fast-paced and for the action to flow effectively. I had to do research on weapons and security systems to ensure those scenes were realistic.
This is book two in The Crimes of Passion Series. What can readers expect in book three?
True Lies, Book 3 by Stephanie Nicole has been released.
I plan on writing another book in the series in 2021. The main character will be Sasha Petrov. Even before finishing Blown Away, I knew I wanted to write Sasha’s story.
Blown Away (The Crimes of Passion Series Book 2) by Charlene Johnson is a romantic suspense thriller about Zackary Daniels, a homicide detective in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police who also works as a security consultant at a hotel owned by his friend, where his past suddenly collides with his present. When a murder occurs at the Majestic Peacock Hotel and Casino, Zack must set aside his personal search for revenge in order to focus on his current case–discovering the identity of the killer and protecting the beautiful witness, Sonnet Banks. But Sonnet is not what she appears, and she’s not ready to reveal the secrets from her past. Can Zack gain her trust and stop the hit-man before he kills again?
I enjoyed thoroughly reading this book, but I had trouble getting into the story at the beginning. I felt that there were too many characters introduced in the first few pages (almost a dozen names were mentioned), and I struggled to keep them all straight. There were times when I had to go back and check who someone was when they were mentioned again because I couldn’t remember the details of that particular character. Part of the issue might have been that there was a lot of backstory explained all at once. I appreciated the detailed narrative of past events as it created an intricate and well throughout world, but it slowed the pace of the story prior to Sonnet witnessing the murder.
After this point the story accelerates with a consistently fast pace, engaging characters, and a gripping plot. I liked the surprises that were revealed about Sonnet’s character, which weren’t what I had been expecting and added much welcomed dimension to an already stand out character. There were several other unexpected twists in the story which kept things interesting and far from being your standard crime thriller. Charlene Johnson was able to make me care about Sasha Petrov, who seemed completely beyond redemption when we’re first introduced to him at the beginning of the story. But by the end of the book, when the truth about what really happened to Zack’s sister had finally been revealed, I wanted to read more about Sasha, and I was even hoping that there will be another story with him as the hero.
With well defined characters thrown into the middle of a perilous situation things naturally take off and go in unexpected directions. Anyone who enjoys a good crime thriller will find plenty to like.
Pages: 224 | ASIN: B087NSZJRG
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Homecoming follow Lily as she goes back to her small hometown where she discovers that someone is out to kill her. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
I grew up in a small town in Southwestern Pennsylvania and had relatives and friends that worked in the coal mines. Everyone knew each other , and it was a nice place to grow up. When I decided to write a Romantic Suspense, I thought it would be fun to create a small town and a storyline located in that area.
Lily was an intriguing character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
I drew very loosely from my own life for Lily’s character. The town where I grew up was predominantly white. There was a small group of black families living in town, and I was related to most of them in one way or another. In the local cemetery, blacks were buried separately from whites for the most part. After attending college and working for a few years in town, I wanted to see more of the country and advance in my career. There wasn’t much opportunity for upward mobility in my field of study. I took a job with the federal government, moved to California, and thirty-six years later, I still live there.
I enjoyed the mystery at the heart of this story. Was it planned before writing or did it develop organically while writing?
I’m a plotter, not pantser. I had the main storyline before I started writing. I planned to write a standalone, but as I developed some secondary characters, I thought they had stories of their own. Thus, why I decided to write a series. I’m planning five books in the series, but who knows? I created two other local towns while writing Homecoming that will play a role in the other books in the series.
This is book one in your Sterling Woods series. What can readers expect in book two?
I’m currently finishing up the 5th book in my paranormal romance series, Circle of the Red Scorpion. I will immediately start working on Changing the Rules, Book 2 in the Sterling Wood Series, and hope to have it done in the late 3rd quarter of this year.
Lily Sommers reluctantly returns to Sterling Wood to attend her Uncle Jimmy’s funeral – a town she left years ago.
Sterling Wood holds painful memories she’s tried to forget. One, in particular, is still raw and every time she returns pulls the scab off a wound that will not heal – Luc Pearson, the handsome high school sweetheart who betrayed her.
Seeing Luc again isn’t the only problem she has to face in Sterling Wood. Someone is trying to kill her, and she doesn’t know why.
She soon learns shocking revelations that could change the course of her life as a ruthless killer stalks her. Will the people closest to her be able to save her?
Things like that aren’t supposed to happen in Sterling Wood.
For Lily, a high school heartbreak had given her few reasons to be fond of seeing her hometown, and trips to Sterling Wood were as short and infrequent as she could manage. All that changed quickly, though, with the death of her Uncle Jimmy. Suddenly reconciled with her high school sweetheart while dealing with her grief, Lily becomes involved in a mystery with decades old origins, and twists that will change almost everything she knows about her family. Unshakable love, senseless murder, and shocking secrets will all be uncovered to rattle the small town of Sterling Wood.
Homecoming by Charlene Johnson is equal parts enduring love story and twisted murder mystery. Sterling Wood is depicted as the typical small town, full of people who are happy to stay and continue the status quo. Lily is the one who made it out, becoming a successful photographer with her own business and high profile clients. Her short trips home to visit family are in large part a means of avoiding Luc, the high school love who broke her heart. When she has to return for her uncle’s funeral however, she knows it will be a longer visit, and soon, years of misunderstanding are washed away and the two are an item again. It only takes a little longer than that before it becomes clear that someone has malicious feelings toward both Lily and her family.
Love, family, and maybe more accurately, what makes a person family, are the themes that are constantly revisited throughout the book. The idea of a small town that breeds intense friendships and well as deep seeded resentments is a common one, and Johnson does well to create her own version of it here. She uses a variety of concepts that can be found often, but infuses enough originality and backstory to keep it fresh.
The book quickly delves into an engaging and well thought out mystery. Many of the characters represent common personality tropes. While Lily is presented as fiercely independent and successful, it quickly becomes clear that most, if not all, of her motivations are driven solely by her past issues with Luc. Even when she returns to Sterling Wood and begins to uncover her family history, Luc stands as more of a driving force. I felt the the other characters in the book were interesting and well developed in comparison to Lily.
The compelling mystery at the heart of this enchanting novel kept me turning pages and I was very eager to find out the next twist. Although I would have enjoyed a deeper dive into Lily’s character, the big reveal at the end was well worth the read.
Pages: 270 | ASIN: B085SZP4B1