Thanks for having me here today at Into the Dreaming to talk about my newest release, Guarding Poppy, featuring one of my favorite characters, Alec Lambert.
Characters are the most important element to any good story and, as a writer, I feel I’ve grown up right alongside Alec. We initially meet him in the first book of my first series The Charmed. He is young, impetuous, charmingly witty and most of all confident, a confidence that borders on arrogance. He has been raised since boyhood knowing he would someday ascend to Elder, the highest ranking position within a secret organization called The Brethren. That confidence/arrogance (a trait I firmly believe someone has to have to be a good leader) will serve him well in the future. Yet, in many ways, the reader can see Alec is not ready for the responsibility. The difficult experiences and ultimately the final battle scene that occurs in The Charmed Trilogy change Alec. He grows up fast, but not all of the changes are good.
He witnesses the death of his best friend at the hands of his now vampiric uncle, and his anger and grief have hardened him as a leader. He is completely driven towards his goal of protecting humans and would do anything to protect the people with whom he’s charged . . . but he is also grieving. He just refuses to acknowledge it.
That is where Guarding Poppy starts.
Guarding Poppy is the second book in my Men of Brahm Hill series and my very favorite reason to write connected series is so I can have the opportunity to build a strong, fleshed-out backstory for a character before they are front and center in their own story. My hope is when the reader starts Guarding Poppy they see Alec’s flaws but they are also routing for him to find balance and happiness.
Enter Poppy Honeywell . . .
Poppy, an incredibly clumsy woman, enters Alec’s life and he finds his whole Brethren world turned upside down. This man of confidence, who is used to having everything under control, suddenly begins to see he doesn’t have everything under control and that scares him more than any supernatural being. That loss of control and the unraveling that follows makes Alec the best kind of character for me. He is layered, he is complicated and he won’t always do what the reader wants him to do. And isn’t that great? Who wants to read about a Hero who does everything you expect him to? Characters are only characters if they are flawed and frustrating and real . . . just like we are. That’s how we relate to them as a reader. And when you see them make the turn in the right direction you just want to cheer because you are invested in that character.
And that’s the way it should be.
ONE NIGHT . . . ONE VIOLENT, SUPERNATURAL BATTLE . . .
AND FIVE STORIES OF THE MEN WHOSE LIVES WILL BE CHANGED BY IT.
Alec Lambert was born to lead. He’s a ruling Elder of The Brethren, possessing steely confidence, natural smarts, and decisive problem solving abilities . . . and he’s not too bad on the eyes, either. Everything in his life has gone exactly according to plan—until the night of Brahm Hill. Alec loses his best friend at the hands of the uncle he trusted like a father, along with his previously unshakable faith to lead those with whom he’s charged. Despite this, he continues to press ahead, and for his next assignment he’s asked to protect a very beautiful but very clumsy Dhampir who’s being hunted by a powerful warlock. Suddenly, he finds his whole Brethren world is turned upside down . . . and he finds himself harboring a desire for her he can’t explain.
Poppy Honeywell knows she’s far from perfect. Bad things tend to happen when she’s around. She’s more than a little clumsy, with a phobia or two mixed in. Not to mention that her name is certainly unusual. But she doesn’t have time to worry about all that because she’s on the run and not about to back down from the arrogant Elder who’s just been assigned as her protector, claiming he has all the answers to her problems. The real problem, though, is . . . she’s irresistibly drawn to this man who faces constant danger and takes charge so naturally. But Poppy also sees that taking charge of others helps Alec mask his own very deep pain.
WILL ALEC FIND HIS WAY OUT OF THE DARKNESS AND SURRENDER TO HIS FEELINGS FOR POPPY BEFORE THE WARLOCK CHASING HER CATCHES UP TO THEM BOTH?
Poppy is on the run for her life, being hunted by a warlock who killed her mother before her eyes. Now Alec is charged with keeping her safe, and he is determined to do it with or without Poppy’s cooperation!
There was a lot to like about this book. Alec was a strong, likable character who made for a terrific romantic hero. In fact, I think he made the book. He was dealing with a terrible loss — the loss of a friend he himself sent into battle. I was immediately drawn to him both as a man and as a human being.
There was a world full of magical creatures, secret organizations, evil arch nemesises (nemesi? 🙂 ) and complicated relationships between more than just the main two characters. I am always drawn into stories with complex relationships. World building in urban fantasy these days offers a lot of sameness; IMHO overcoming it requires well-developed characters.
The writing style was easy and smooth, largely getting out of the way of the story. It did hit a couple of my pet peeves — the dreaded !? and the use of “questioned” in place of “asked” — but that could just be me. I did notice some typos and a few awkward phrases.
I did have some reservations as I read, largely involving the title character Poppy. She spent her whole life thinking she was cursed but cursed in what way? It was all very vague, even knowing it was going to turn out all to be in her own head. Part of the problem may have been that her unwillingness to interact with people was inconsistent. And her protestations that she needed to be alone were weak. All in all, I vastly preferred Alec’s viewpoint.
The pacing had some ups and downs, with a solid start and some great, immediate scenes that kept me turning pages. In between these scenes I did feel some drag, but overall this was an enjoyable read.
If you like magic, romance, vampires (and other magical creatures), you may like this book!
Sovereign Elder Joseph Davin stepped forward to embrace Poppy. “You’re not safe here, little flower.” Now Alec really felt like he was intruding on a private conversation. “I must protect you the best way I know how. I promised your mother.” He then motioned back to Alec. “I trust Alec. He’s a former Guardian—and a very good one. You yourself said that you can feel Irina getting closer. Let Alec take you someplace where he can protect you and you can know what it feels like to be safe. In the meantime, I will find a way to deal with Irina.”
Poppy dropped her head quietly, and for a moment it seemed she wasn’t going to answer him. “I feel safer here with you than I will with a stranger.”
“He’s right,” Alec finally said as he came slowly to his feet, realizing he needed to do something to gain this woman’s trust—though he could hardly blame her for being guarded after spending a lifetime on the run. “I may be a stranger to you, but I can protect you. And more importantly, I can give you all the tools at my disposal so you can protect yourself. If you have a sense for recognizing the warlock who’s threatening you, your Dhampir instincts are telling you that you’re in danger. You need to start trusting those instincts.”
Those huge gold eyes of hers locked on him fully with a look of utter determination as she walked right up to him—thankfully, straight this time. He had to admit, he flinched just a bit with the possibility she might trip again. “I don’t want any part of witchcraft, Dhampirs or vampires. That’s not who I am.”
“Yes, it is,” he challenged her without hesitation. “That’s exactly who you are.”
Her eyes narrowed as if she were preparing to blast him with a thousand different reasons why that was not true, but instead she replied, “I will agree to go with you on two conditions.” Alec simply crossed his arms in front of his chest. What was it about women and their conditions? Why couldn’t they just agree? “One, you’ll agree to never disagree with me again.” Alec’s brows arched high at that rather impossible request. “And two, I will only go with you if it doesn’t require us crossing an ocean in an air-”
Poppy’s words were cut off by her small squeal when Alec caught sight of Joseph sticking a needle into her arm. Her eyes widened in shock and she tried to turn to Joseph, but her limbs gave out from under her almost immediately. Alec reached out and caught Poppy when she would have otherwise collapsed to the floor. “What in the world did you do that for?”
“No worries,” Joseph assured him. “It’s just a little something to help her relax for the trip.”
Alec blinked at him. “Relax? She doesn’t like flying?”
Joseph shook his head. “Terrified of it, actually. Unfortunately, Poppy lacks an appreciation for the severity of her current situation. We need to get her out of London tonight—hence, something to relax her. But once she’s someplace safe she’ll be no trouble at all.”
Alec’s gaze narrowed shrewdly. By what he had already witnessed in the few scant minutes he had been in this woman’s presence, she was the very definition of the term high maintenance.
So he doubted that very much.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Christine is a graduate of Washington State University where she received a BA in Interior Design. And true to form of using mostly her ‘right brain’, she splits her time between her commercial design career and her imaginary world of writing. She lives in the scenic Pacific Northwest where she enjoys hiking, camping and photographing many of the wonderful places that served as inspiration for her writing. Her biggest reward in life is any given day when one of her books connects with a reader because she herself is such a lover of reading. Some of her favorite authors include Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and Kimberly Derting.
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristineWenrickBooks?ref=hl
Twitter: @CWenrick https://twitter.com/CWenrick
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