I realize that I can’t stay here any longer as your live-in mistress. I need more than that. Please, do not search for me. Sell my car and jewelry and keep whatever money you get as partial payment for the rent that I owe you.
“Where to, lady?”
“You realize I got to charge you out-of-city rates since you’re more than ten miles outside the airport?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“You got it, lady.”
The driver wasn’t chatty, which she appreciated. He dropped her off at the correct terminal and unloaded her suitcase. She paid in him cash, including a modest tip. Luckily, the past six months of living rent-free with Pyotr had given her a fat bank balance. She felt guilty about sponging off him, but now she needed that cash to carry her until she could find a job.
Having never flown before, she carefully read all the signs in the airport before proceeding to the ticket counter. She waited in line for what seemed to be an inordinately long time until she could speak to the attendant herself. After showing her identification, confirming that she was checking just one bag, and answering a few other questions, she began to wonder why she hadn’t just driven to Texas. Oh, yeah, it was a long, long drive through areas that saw real winter.
“Your flight’s on a one-hour delay,” the attendant informed her as she handed Cecily her boarding passes. There were no direct flights from Cleveland to San Antonio. “You won’t have to rush through security.”
Cecily thanked her and made her way to the security line where she realized that there was absolutely no rushing through security. Moving with all the speed of a crippled tortoise, the security line finally cleared her. She put her shoes and coat back on and collected her purse. Reading the overhead signs, she proceeded to the gate where she found a seat and waited.
“May I speak to Cecily?”
“She’s not here today.”
“What do you mean?” He walked to the bedroom and stood in the open doorway. His heart thudded a rapid beat inside his chest.
“She called in sick.”
Pyotr saw the iPad he had given her lying on the nightstand. He rushed over to the dresser and yanked drawers open. His keen eye for detail immediately noticed clothes missing. He jerked the closet door open. More missing clothes.
“Nyet!” he shouted. “O, Cecily, gde ty?”
Emotion demanded that he drop to his knees and weep. Training ordered him to think, damn it, think. On stiff legs, he walked back to the kitchen, figuring that he might as well do something productive—like wash the dishes—while he thought. When he reached the sink, he noticed the note lying flat on the counter beneath two sets of keys. Before reading the note, he realized that Cecily had not been forcibly abducted; she’d left of her accord.
He read the note. Tears brimmed, blurring his vision. Pyotr leaned against the counter.
“Zachem?” he asked as his heart shattered into tiny pieces of pain. Why?
He picked up the keys and dumped them into his pocket. They hit bottom with a clunk that reminded him of the small box he’d carried with him all day, the box that he never got around to giving to Cecily that morning before his clumsy tongue had driven her away and Maksim’s call had pulled him away.
Like an automaton with stiff, jerky movements, Pyotr washed the dishes and wiped down the countertops. Then he sagged and staggered to a chair. Again he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed.
“Vitaly, she left me.”
“Cecily. She left me.”
The scenario is familiar: human female explorer gathering information on an alien planet is captured and forcibly "mated" to a native. Of course, she enjoys it. That's typical for this type of romance. Realistic? No. Common? Yes. The native's race--of course--faces extinction due to some catastrophe that wiped out (or nearly so) their females (especially, the fertile ones). If it wasn't already, the native society becomes supremely male dominant with biologically compatible females needed to repopulate their species. In these stories, the males protect their precious females from serious harm and seek to produce as many offspring as possible. Of course, this means that these males demand and expect obedience from their females. The women, after some initial rebellion, always comply and find contentment. The woman gives up everything for the pleasure of that man (or men).
It's a pretty fantasy, isn't it? The fantasy builds upon millennia of indoctrination: exchange freedom and occupation for safety and security. My own romances take cues from that cultural fantasy: a protective and possessive male who sees to his mate's every physical need. Let's face it, ladies, we are physically weaker than men. We can be strong in our own right, but we don't have their brute strength. A lack of physical strength, however, does not correlate to a lack of mental strength or weak principles.
Something's missing in this book and all of those like it. While we cannot ignore our biology, we must acknowledge that we are more than our biology. Beyond fulfilling physical need, the mental and emotional aspects of humans also require nurturing and care. In the romance such as I began reading, I fear that the heroine will acquiesce to eternity, submitting entirely to his culture and failing to introduce any change either to his culture or to his perception and treatment of her.
Thus comes the "I can do better than that" challenge.
So, I'm writing an alien abduction romance that's also a reverse harem romance. (Hey, why not add another SEO keyword?) Yep, the reverse harem is another female fantasy. Men have enjoyed multiple wives and concubines for ages, so what's good for gander must also be good for the goose. The upshot is that my heroine reacts more like a real human being, more like a woman of modern times, more like a woman whose principles don't dissolve beneath the deluge of lust. She's more than just her hormones; she has a mind and isn't afraid to use it. Here's where the real twist comes in: the three males who capture her as their shared mate find themselves adjusting to fit. In short, both sides must compromise.
The story will end in an HEA (happily ever after). That's a given, because the book is a romance. I daresay the book will fade into eternal obscurity immediately upon publication, because it doesn't stick to the well-worn, familiar, and--dare I say--comfortable trope. That happened with The Barbary Lion and Russian Gold. (Reviewer response can be summed up as "How dare the heroine demand autonomy and respect?") But I hope it won't. I hope readers will find the story well-written and the characters relatable. I hope readers will appreciate my stretching the barriers of the sub-genre, perhaps even break through them just a little without venturing recklessly where no man or woman has gone before.
Take a walk on the wild side where adults find happiness through compromise as well as passion. I'll keep y'all posted on the progress of my next book, Triple Burn.
I listen to a mixture of music, mostly depending upon my mood and the season. For some weird reason, I listen more to classical music in the autumn months. I particularly enjoy Spanish madrigals. I don't know what makes them Spanish madrigals, but whenever I hear one my reaction is, "I liked that."
I enjoy classic rock and some not-so-classic rock. From the Animals to the Zombies, if it's got a good beat and at least a catchy refrain, I'll bop in my seat for hours. I also enjoy the softer stuff, pop, Top 40, etc. Air Supply gets a lot of derision, but I always did enjoy their music. Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Eagles, Simon & Garfunkle, Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, Dan Fogelberg ... it's all good. Heck, let's throw in some ABBA and KC & the Sunshine Band, too. Then we'll swerve to Hozier, Theory of a Deadman, Fiver Finger Death Punch, and Disturbed.
When my preference doesn't really veer to rock 'n roll or classical, I'll turn on country. I particularly like 80's and 90's country: Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Vince Gill, Wynona Judd, Clint Blank, Andrew Jackson, etc. But I also enjoy listening to more recent stuff from Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, Josh Groban, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, etc.
And then there's the outlier, the "where in the heck did that come from?" contingent of my musical preferences. We're talking about Celtic folk music, from the haunting strains of the soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans to stuff called "Lords of Iron" and other such dramatic names. And Enya. Can't forget Enya. If only I could sing like her ...
When I sing, dogs howl.
Jazz? I can take it or leave it, but I don't seek it out. I dislike rap and hip-hop. You can argue all you want about the merits of those two genres, but you won't convince me to like either. I like big band, too, even though I don't seek that out, either.
The pleasure I take in music in no way translates to any musical skill of my own. I took piano lessons as a child and was no more--and often less--than an indifferent pianist. I disliked music classes taken in school, having no interest whatsoever in music theory. I inherited much of my musical preferences from my father and grew up listening to the tunes of his youth, particularly the Beach Boys. I still like 'em.
Sometimes, however, silence works best. It all depends upon my mood and what I'm working on .
(Russian Love Book 2)
by Holly Bargo
Now that she and her best friends are out of danger, Cecily Carrigan is restless. Pyotr’s boss bought a restaurant and installed her as head chef. She lives rent-free with a with a sexy beast of a Russian mobster who treats her like a queen, but hasn’t offered marriage. She detests Cleveland, cold weather, and the Bratva. Conflicted and confused, what's a girl to do when she suffers a crisis of conscience?
She removes herself from temptation and leaves.
Moving to San Antonio where the weather's warm and the restaurant scene fiercely competitive, Cecily works to find herself and rebuild her self-respect... and discovers that she left the secret to happiness behind in the form of a big Russian with a heart of gold.
“I’m not weak,” she protested.
“No, but your strength is different.” His eyes glinted. “You will make such beautiful babies.”
“Babies!” she spluttered, spraying bits of egg.
He leaned back in his chair, gaze assessing her. “What? You did not think I invited every woman whose body I enjoyed to live with me?”
From the darkening expression on her face, he could see that he’d not expressed himself well. Cecily set down her fork with a distinct clink.
“That’s all I am to you? A body to enjoy and an incubator for your babies?”
Not much scared Pyotr, but this cold, hard expression on his beloved Cecily’s face did. Thus far, he’d managed to keep her bound to him by virtue of a job she loved and frequent, amazing sex. However, dread churned his belly as she rose from the chair.
“Thank you for breakfast,” she said with chilly politeness and left the table, her food mostly uneaten.
“Cecily!” he called after her.
She ignored him and disappeared into the bedroom.
He rose from the table to go after her, but his cell phone rang.
There was no polite inquiry as to whether that was a good time, only the command, “Come, you are needed.”
There was only one possible response: “On my way.”
Wishing he could pursue Cecily, apologize, and explain what he really meant, he heeded Maksim’s call. Instead, he poked his head into the bedroom and said, “I must go.”
Cecily, tugging on a comfortable pair of jeans, nodded her acknowledgement without turning to look at him. The snub stung.
When dressed, Cecily stood in the room, completely unsure of herself. Slowly, she walked to the nightstand where her phone lay plugged into recharge. She unplugged it and dialed.
“What’s up, Cece?”
“Latasha, are you busy?”
“Girl, I am always busy, but never too busy for you. What do you need?”
“I—I need to talk.”
“Did that big, dumb Russian hurt you?” her friend growled.
“Er, no, he wouldn’t hit me.” She knew that for truth. The big, brutal Russian treated her with utmost care. Gennady hurt women, not Pyotr, and liked it.
Latasha’s sigh seemed to hit her ear with a long-distance gust of air. “You working tonight?”
“My shift doesn’t end until four o’clock. God, hospital hours are crazy. Anyway, I can meet you during your break tonight or…” The silence lasted about three seconds. “No, no, that won’t work. Tell me now, girl, what’s got you so upset.”
“Well, duh. What did the big oaf do?”
Tears welled up and ran down Cecily’s cheeks as she blurted, “He said he wants me for sex and babies!”
“Whoa, there,” Latasha cautioned. “Are you sure that’s what he said?”
I have no complaint with regard to the event's co-host and venue, Mother Stewart's Brewing Company. They were fabulous. The venue charmed most of the participating authors with its unique character. And the brewery's owner even supplied my caffeine habit with a smile and personal delivery of a cup of coffee to my table.
Parking again proved to be problematic with authors not understanding where to park their vehicles, despite providing people with directions, a map, and explicit instructions not to park in the brewery's parking lot. The brewery posted a sidewalk sign: EVENT PARKING. Apparently, few people saw it. However, we soon got everyone straightened out, freeing the brewery's limited parking space for patrons.
Author registration for this event extended beyond those authors in Ohio. We had one author from Illinois and another from Kentucky. Frankly, I had a harder time filling the available tables than the first go-around. I think the season may have been a factor: weather and travel conditions in February in southwest Ohio are notoriously unpredictable and usually unpleasant.
As noted, most seemed to like the venue, which is an historic industrial building converted into a craft brewery and tap room. One author expressed dissatisfaction, stating a preference for a more traditional location. I think the brewing room terrific. It's interesting and unique. After all, you won't find those huge wooden beams and exposed brick walls in a modern hotel conference room. Nor will you get natural light through windows from a modern hotel conference room.
Mother Stewart's does not serve food, so they maintain a rotating roster of gourmet food trucks that operate just outside the building's front entrance. The food truck scheduled for February 10 was Bistro de Mohr, which came up from Cincinnati. They offered an interesting menu of gyros, goat tacos, pulled pork, and hog balls. Don't ask. It was delicious. We worked out a cross-promotion deal by which we helped promote the food truck and they helped promote the book fair.
Several factors worked against our hopes for unqualified success. Social media analysis suggested that the event would draw in a sizable crowd. Snow and nasty road conditions squelched that. (Of course, Sunday's patronage differs from the Saturday's for reasons so obvious I won't list them here.) Anyway, we had a steady, but thin, trickle of people wander through. Just about every author sold a book or two.
As always there are lessons to be learned. Here's my short list:
- Shorten hours of operation. With cold, snow, icy roads, and early nightfall, several authors bugged out well before the event closed at 7:00 PM. For the next Winter Book Fair, we'll keep the hours more reasonable, say 12:00 - 4:00 PM or maybe 5:00 PM.
- Omit the social hour. Author feedback from the first event last August showed a desire for a "meet-and-greet" when authors could mingle and get to know one another. Yeah, no. That idea fizzled. Authors barely nibbled at the snacks I brought and didn't take advantage of the opportunity to socialize in the hour before the book fair opened, which meant that attendees wandering through got to help themselves to free munchies.
- Keep the drink tickets. I believe authors appreciated the drink tickets which they could redeem at the bar for soft drinks or beer. One participating author suggested offering sandwiches, etc., but that would compete with the food truck. I don't want to do that. Food service adds more complexity to the organizational effort than I care to deal with.
I met some wonderful and interesting people. Event like this really do bring together people together who otherwise wouldn't normally ever meet. Introvert that I am, I enjoyed that part tremendously. It's more than just professional networking, it's the opportunity to make new friends who do what I do and understand the vagaries of being an author. They get it.
"Failed to meet expectations" does not translate into a failed event. We've already scheduled the Summer Book Fair for Saturday, August 17. (Registration for the Summer Book Fair will open in May. Stay tuned!) For summer, we'll keep the longer hours: 12:00 - 7:00 PM. We'll bank on the larger Saturday crowd and begin establishing an event pattern that people will expect and anticipate. With luck perseverance, our audience will grow.
#SpringfieldOHBookFair #Winter #Books #Authors #HenHousePublishing
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
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