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Love Helps Them Heal

Patricia Leavy Author Interview

Celestial Bodies is the romantic saga of two people who are used to putting others first. When they meet, they discover more about themselves than they could imagine. What was the inspiration for this epic love story collection?

There’s a saying that ‘hurt people hurt people.’ However, sometimes that isn’t the case. Sometimes people in deep pain are able to love others in extraordinary ways without widening the circle of trauma. That’s what Tess and Jack’s love story shows us. These are two innately good people who have suffered trauma and grief. They have given tirelessly to others, but they’ve been unable to find personal happiness until they meet each other. At the core, it’s a story about people with visible and invisible wounds and how love helps them heal. Their love is so strong that I hope it runs off the pages and lives inside readers too. It has certainly done that for me.

What were some of the emotional and moral guidelines you followed when developing your characters?

These are genuinely good people trying to do good in the world. I tried to show this with how they treat others. There’s a gentleness or grace with which the primary characters—friends, lovers, chosen family—treat one another. I was also mindful that these characters have suffered various traumas in their lives and thus are always engaged in the lifelong healing process. So, there’s a balance with their strength and vulnerability, with how they treat others and with how they must learn to treat themselves.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Each novel in the collection explores love and another theme: healing, doubt, intimacy, trust, commitment, and faith. Together, it is an exploration of love in all its forms and textures. Some people have called the collection a love letter to love. Others have called it a prayer.

Were you able to achieve everything you wanted with the characters in the novel collection?

Originally, I had only intended to write one novel, Shooting Stars, which itself came to me in a burst. When I was done, I felt like there was so much more to explore with the characters, so Twinkle followed, then Constellations, Supernova, North Star, and finally, Stardust. So as a whole, in Celestial Bodies I was able to take the characters on quite a journey and where they end is very far from where they begin. That said, I love, love, love these characters so much and there’s always more to tell, so who knows, maybe someday I’ll return to them.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Celestial Bodies is a series of six novels that follow the epic romance of Tess and Jack: Shooting StarsTwinkleConstellationsSupernovaNorth Star, and Stardust. An exploration of the power of love, each novel focuses on love at the intersection of another topic: healing, doubt, intimacy, trust, commitment, and faith. While external threats occur in each book, this is ultimately a story about internal threats—the audio playing in our own heads.

Tess Lee is a world-famous novelist. Her inspirational books explore people’s innermost struggles and the human need to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Despite her extraordinary success, she’s been unable to find happiness in her personal life. Jack Miller is a federal agent who specializes in counterterrorism. After spending decades immersed in a violent world, a residue remains. He’s dedicated everything to his job, leaving nothing for himself. The night Tess and Jack meet, their connection is palpable. She examines the scars on his body and says, “I’ve never seen anyone whose outsides match my insides.” The two embark on a beautiful love story that asks the questions: What happens when people truly see each other? Can unconditional love change the way we see ourselves? Their friends are along for the ride: Omar, Tess’s sarcastic best friend who calls her Butterfly; Joe, Jack’s friend from the Bureau who understands the sacrifices he’s made; and Bobby and Gina, Jack’s younger friends who never fail to lighten the mood. Along the way, others join their journey: the female president of the United States, with whom Tess bakes cookies and talks politics; the Millers, Jack’s childhood family; and many others. Celestial Bodies is about walking through our past traumas, moving from darkness to light, learning to live in color, and the ways in which love—from lovers, friends, or the art we experience—can heal us. Written as unfolding action, this collection moves fluidly between melancholy, humor, and joy. It can be read for pleasure or selected for book clubs.

Celestial Bodies

Celestial Bodies is a beautifully written collection of six novels following the two main characters, Tess and Jack, and their love for each other. Written by Patricia Leavy, she details different aspects of their relationship with the different novels in the series. Together they must face different struggles: healing, doubt, intimacy, trust, commitment, and faith. These stories are more about internal dialogue that stresses the relationship rather than an external force that no one can control. Tess and Jack both have trouble putting their careers aside and finding their own happiness. However, this internal struggle leads them to an understanding and bond. Between the two characters, this understanding blossoms into an epic love story.

This captivating collection of novels combined into one book creates many parallels between the lives of Jack and Tess. Their similarities in life allow their love to come across as believable and likable. Leavy is extremely good at starting her story off strong and hooking readers in from the opening pages. Her ability to have the characters and their interactions feel authentic gives readers a feeling like they are part of the story.

When Jack and Tess first meet in the bar, it demonstrates much about the characters. It shows that Jack is protective and chivalrous while Tess is entirely able to handle herself but appreciates the gesture. Both characters have a painful past, making their stories interweave and mirror each other perfectly. When the two get intimate with each other and Tess first sees Jack’s scars, she is not taken aback or disgusted. She is instead intrigued and tells him something she hasn’t told anyone else. Leavy is showing that both characters are comfortable with being vulnerable with each other despite having just met and, on the surface, having little in common.

Leavy is also very good at explaining little metaphors and simple meanings that are believable to what people would say in real life. For example, Omar calling Tess a butterfly and her not knowing or asking what it means is credible. When the meaning is relieved, it adds depth to the secondary characters, making their presence in the storyline essential, even if they are not the main focus.

Celestial Bodies is an anthology of six contemporary romance novels that tell the love story of Tess and Jack. Each story builds upon the last, giving readers a cohesive and complete saga that focuses more on emotional bonds and self-improvement than physical intimacy and surface-level emotions.

Pages: 802 | ASIN : B09WZGRGML

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Grayality

The LGBTQ+ community has become more mainstream and visible than ever, but for those who live in small or rural towns, they may still struggle. Pate Boone, a young transman in his 20s, knows this all too well. When he moves to the tiny rural town of Cloverleaf with his best friend Oakley Ogden, he does not expect much. Neither does Oakley to be honest, but to their surprise, both end up finding love with mixed results.

Grayality by Carey PW is a raw look at what not only transgender people and those questioning their sexuality/identity go through on their road to acceptance. At times, Pate and Oakley’s story can get downright uncomfortable. Homophobic slurs and behaviors are thrown about in a way you would expect from a conservative and judgemental community. However, it does the job of painting the environment these friends are trying to navigate and survive in. Despite this, they still put their heart out there, trying to look for love. For queer kids, more is at stake than just their hearts.

No character is a hundred percent perfect. Pate and Oakley, themselves have their own flaws. The author creates these three-dimensional characters that you can’t help but root for. Some villains or bullies might appear two-dimensional, but any queer kid living in a small town will tell you how persuasive homophobia can be. This is yet another thing Carey PW gets perfectly in this book. He truly holds nothing back in his depiction of these homophobic townies (such as Bullet) who are fueled by their hatred.

I am giving Grayality written by Carey PW 5 out of 5 stars for its authentic portrayal of what it is like to be on the LGBT spectrum and the harassment that can be directed towards them. This might be a difficult read. Yet, this makes it such a memorable one! It holds no punches and has readers on edge till the end.

Pages: 297 | ASIN : B0B1F4TJJX

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Then Came July 

Then Came July, by Cornelia Allen, explores many different concepts such as politics, alcoholism, ageism, and more. I love how each slightly controversial topic is examined from both sides, for and against.

We first start the story with Police Captain Rick Mora. Rick is forty-five, hardheaded, intimidating, and almost scary in a sense. Rick is investigating a shooting that resulted in the death of a little girl. There are small glimpses of his kind heart, but only small glimpses early in the story. He tries to maintain a rugged exterior. Then, we meet July. Dr. July Sullivan is thirty-one years old. She works at a clinic that used to perform abortions in the past, but now they do not. She is a dermatologist that volunteers at the clinic. Still, there are protestors outside the clinic that try to prevent anyone from entering, harassing them every chance they get, mirroring real life. Rick and July’s paths cross when the clinic she works at is bombed, and Rick must protect July from the bomber.

The author does a great job of getting you hooked on the story right from the start. We follow Rick as he tries to protect July, but he also finds her annoying and charming, and I found their relationship to be intriguing. Allen’s writing immerses the reader into the story, and it seems you are watching a movie waiting for something terrible to happen. Rick’s character is one that you love to hate because he has a hard exterior, and his stubbornness is frustrating, but throughout the story, we see his character develop. July is intelligent but also hostile, and I don’t blame her because of what she has experienced in her past. I think many readers will find her character to be relatable.

I enjoyed getting bits of Rick’s and July’s thoughts as this made for an entertaining read, and I could get to know them better. The point of view changes from July to Rick allowing us to get a better sense of the way they think and their motives. The chapter with the bombing is where Allen’s writing shines. Her description of the scene and the immediate tension that arises from everyone being scared and trying to leave the building kept me glued to the pages.

Then Came July is a charming, witty, and action-packed romantic suspense novel that will have you wanting more. I highly recommend this book to those who are looking for a thrilling read with a dash of romance. I look forward to more books from this author.

Pages: 281 | ASIN : B0B4BDFF9T

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Trust. Hope. Forgiveness. Love.

Suzanne Smith Author Interview

The Brute and I follows a woman who dares to hope for finding true love again after a prior bad relationship that left her scarred. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

As dark as Alex’s story was, I intended for it to end on an optimistic note. I wanted Alex to heal from her past mistakes, and to find true love again. Before that was a possibility, she had to see herself as she really was. She had imagined herself a stoic robot, able to erect a numbing emotional wall and bury her pain and humiliation at will. But, the truth was that Alex was a troubled and insecure young woman who was missing vital pieces of herself due to years of neglect by someone she cared for deeply. When she fell in love with Marco, the dismal feelings of the past had dissipated, and the warm, tender feeling of love had blossomed. For a time, she’d felt whole and happy. But, that happiness was temporary, and soon her debilitating sense of insecurity returned. She became withdrawn, and the passion and intimacy that her and Marco had shared became strained, creating a breeding ground for jealousy and distrust. Violence and infidelity seeped into their imperfect relationship. Ironically, it was Marco’s single act of brutality toward Alex that had introduced a positive element of spirituality into the story and led them both on a path of self-discovery and enlightenment. Alex and Marco reopened the lines of communication between them, learned to verbalize their feelings, and came to trust and understand each other more than they ever did before. Reinventing herself and rebuilding her relationship with Marco was an uphill battle for Alex, but, in the end, I wanted to give the reader a sense that true love really did conquer all.

Alex wants to love again, but she has to overcome her past. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Denying her feelings and swallowing her pain had always been a big factor in Alex’s stunted emotionality. For years, she’d deceived herself into believing that she’d left her bleak past behind, and what had happened to her then hadn’t affected her present behavior in any way. When the man of her dreams, Marco, entered her life and pointed out that her inability to come to grips with her past was destroying their relationship, she started to question the efficacy of her bizarre method of coping with her many disappointments. Desperate to find out if Marco was right and to save what was left of their love, she enlisted the help of a professional therapist. Once she had immersed herself in the non-judgmental and welcoming group therapy setting, she dissected her past, and allowed the bitterness and resentment that she’d felt for as long as she could remember to come to the surface. The recall of these negative feelings had been so powerful that she conceded that perhaps there was some connection between the past and the present after all. She eventually came face to face with the dark void inside of her and discovered the true source and origin of her crippling pain. That discovery gave her a sense of empowerment and control over her life. She tore down her emotional walls and abandoned her ill founded illusion of invincibility. She’d come to accept the idea that the pain of the past would always be a part of her, but she was strong enough not to let it sabotage her happiness.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Trust. Hope. Forgiveness. Love.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I just finished a full length novel titled Lilah’s Limit. It takes place in New Orleans circa 1870. It’s a story about a scarred man who falls in love with a mysterious prostitute. It’s pretty much ready to be published now, so with any luck, that will happen soon.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

When Marco struts into Gigi’s grill, Alex wonders if she has found the one. When he takes the seat next to her and strikes up a conversation, She is immediately aroused by the heat of his animal magnetism. There is something she sees in his vulnerable, piercing green eyes that touches her heart. She realizes that she wants this handsome man to be more than just her bedmate. She wants him to be her soulmate.

Marco was instantly smitten the moment he fixed his eyes on Alex. There was something about her warm, sympathetic gaze that filled him with hope. Maybe he had a chance to overcome the bitterness and despair that had blighted his life. Perhaps finally some measure of happiness is within his grasp.

The love between them quickly blossoms, but there is a dark cloud on the horizon. For no reason Marco can see, Alex suddenly becomes sullen and withdrawn. He worries that she is slipping away from him. The idea of losing her affection and being forced to retreat back into the cold, black, pit of despair, is more than he can stand. He only knows one way to deal with the pain he is feeling.

Can their love survive the turmoil and grow into something good once more?

The Refusal

The Refusal by Eve M. Riley is the first book of The Techboys series and follows the story of tech billionaire Janus Phillips who has a glamorous life that only one can only dream of. Jo Williams, a young entrepreneur operating her own security firm, has a run-in with Janus and is offered a ton of cash to help him save his company. Unfortunately, Janus has a reputation as a “playboy,” so Jo is determined to keep things professional between them.

Author Eve Riley has added tech and romance into one steamy novel making this one book that you cannot put down. As the tension between both characters builds, so does your curiosity. Riley does a fantastic job of capturing and keeping the reader’s attention.

Both characters are likable and are not at all what you expect. On the outside, Janus looks like a playboy with a fast life, but that is not the case. He is sensitive and caring and is the perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Jo is one of my favorite characters as she is strong, intelligent, and breaks the stereotype by working in the tech world. She can be seen as an inspiration to young girls that they can fit into that world.

The thrill of the chase was intoxicating, and I didn’t want it to end. The intimate scenes are portrayed tastefully, and I was able to sense their passion for one another. Getting to see the perspective of both characters was the cherry on top, as it provided a sense of satisfaction knowing what both characters were thinking and feeling about one another. Several interesting side characters are also introduced throughout the book, and they had me laughing hard.

The Refusal by Eve Riley is an exhilarating read, and I recommend it to those who love a good steamy romance.

Pages: 314 | ASIN : B093G53X6P

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The Brute and I 

Love is never easy. Alex and Marco know this, perhaps, better than anyone. They simultaneously make the perfect and the most volatile of couples. Their history is long, troubled, and charged with an animosity that neither of them is able to verbalize. This, in fact, may be the downfall of their relationship. When every battle they have been fighting comes to a head one night, violence threatens to end what they have worked so hard to build, and the two are forced to look at their relationships and themselves in an entirely new and terrifying light.

The Brute and I, by Suzanne Smith, is an utterly stunning piece of fiction. Not quite a romance and not exactly in the spiritual vein, this short novella delivers one of the most powerful messages of hope I have ever had the fortune to read. Alex and Marco have a tumultuous relationship, and readers see the result of their dynamic in the first few paragraphs. It is harrowing to read, triggering for some readers, and incredibly impactful by the story’s end.

One of the most gripping aspects of Smith’s plot is the focus on rationale versus raw emotion. There is nothing more realistic than the battle between these two when it comes to love, and the author is a master at conveying this through her characters. The first-person narration adds to the emotional impact of Alex’s story. Her fears, her jealousy, and her own disappointment with herself will grab readers from the first sentence. As a survivor of domestic abuse, I felt Alex’s trepidation as she grappled with staying with Marco or leaving him behind. The author has truly done an amazing job of creating a believable cast of characters with whom many readers will be able to relate.

The thing that sets Smith’s work apart from so many other books that deal with domestic abuse is that the characters’ experiences offer hope. Alex and Marco are both strong-willed and determined, but they are set on making their relationship work–no matter what it takes. Readers are taken on that journey and hold hands with Alex as she seeks the therapy she needs to heal. Marco’s journey is an absolutely breathtaking one. His healing, though different from Alex’s, is no less amazing.

The author delves into some frightening areas of the human psyche, and it is a ride I am glad I did not miss. The emotions of the main characters are raw from beginning to end and give readers a lot to process as they watch Alex and Marco move through some very challenging stages. I highly recommend Smith’s work to anyone looking for a psychologically rich story with well-developed and relatable characters. This is a one-sitting book and, hands-down, one of my favorites this year.

Pages: 211 | ASIN : B07F95G2FS

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Glissando

Glissando by Debbie Burke is a compelling story of love, lust, and jazz revolving around Ellie Greenberg. At 23, Ellie is love-struck immediately when she meets Rudy. She marries him, but their matrimony is short-lived when he steps out on her. Now, In her mid-fifties, juggling an amiable social life and a flourishing career as a paralegal at Schneider & Snee, Ellie joins a community jazz band where she meets and falls hopelessly for musician and somewhat jazz legend Vince Keyes. To her dismay, he is married to a much younger woman. Ellie starts dating co-worker Stan while contemplating whether to pursue Vince or not.

Debbie Burke has a way with words. It is impressive how she comfortably switches from one story to another and still carries the reader along. Ellie’s love for jazz illuminates the pages. Her character is relatable and intelligent enough to know what she wants. The fallibility and realistic portrayal of Ellie’s character, not to talk of her quirky soliloquies, will constantly make you laugh.

The story is fascinating, even without a lot of drama. It is the story of a successful divorced woman that is trying to figure out her own love life in her fifties. It is realistic in the sense that sometimes people don’t know what they want and have to work out in their own minds what is important and what they really want. However, I feel that some of the chapters seem to have a monotonous sound with many filler scenes that held no significance to the development of the plot. Glissando is still a book worth reading as Ellie is a great character to read about and get to know.

We all love a woman who has a mind of her own. Readers with a knack for resilient female protagonists will find Glissando enjoyable. I particularly loved how Ellie retained her youthful sensuality and imagination, proving that middle-aged women can still have fun.

Pages: 264 | ASIN : B08QR27H6F

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