Into the Dreaming Imaginative Fiction from Author, Editor, and Writing Coach Christine Amsden

Tag Archives: Romance

Finish the Story Grand Opening Special: FREE First Chapter Edit

This week is the Grand Opening of Finish the Story.

I’ll be working alongside Claire Ashgrove and Dennis Young, two fantastic fellow authors/editors, to offer a greater variety of services than I could on my own. We are a full-service editing company, which means we strive to help you prepare for publication no matter where you are in the process. We include services such as book fixing, for books that need a little doctoring before they’re ready for editing, and formatting, for authors who are ready to publish. Our package rates bundle services to keep the costs down, and give you access to more than one editor through the different phases of editing to ensure that your finished product is as error-free as possible.

All genres of fiction welcome! Non-fiction and memoirs welcome!

Give us a try! Now through the end of March, send us your first chapter (up to 5,000 words) and get a FREE, no-obligation developmental-style edit.

Learn more at Finish the Story

The Quest for the Three Magic Words

Put simply, the quest for the three magic words is an irksome phenomenon I’ve witnessed in novels with a strong romantic component, characterized by the stubborn refusal to say the words, “I love you.”

In a broad sense, the goal of any HEA romance is for the characters to fall in love, and often the realization of this love is the climax of the story. The dramatic tension in such a story (or subplot) is the constant interplay between that which brings them together and that which keeps them apart. When these forces are in perfect balance, when we desperately want the couple to find true love and happiness but desperately believe in the obstacles preventing such a union, there can be a moment of true emotional pain.

On the other hand, when he loves her, she loves him, they are both acting on this love, showing one another this love, and the only thing holding the HEA at bay is that one or both is afraid of saying three little words, then you have the quest. What is keeping them apart? Maybe he is afraid of commitment or doesn’t believe in love. Maybe she’s been burned before or doesn’t believe in love. (I get a lot of the whole not believing in love thing, especially in the male’s perspective.) Whatever the reason, they would be blissfully happy together if only one or both would pry open those lips and say a few words. Nothing else really needs resolution – there’s no anger, mingled feelings of hatred or jealousy, or even guilt over betraying a deceased love with this new love. (Though I should say that in all of these situations, when the angst goes on for too long, I’m still liable to brand it a quest.) There’s just a refusal to say the words and possibly a fear of commitment (which becomes all the more ridiculous in regency romance novels in which the couple is already married).

As far as dramatic tension goes, this quest quite simply puts me to sleep. In fact, in a straight-up romance with no subplot, I’ll usually stop reading as soon as the story devolves to this quest. Why? Because I know how it’s going to end. Sooner or later, they’re going to say the words and live happily ever after. It’s just not that interesting to find out how he or she finally comes to realize what is already so incredibly obvious. She’s afraid to risk her heart? What? It’s already gone!

I’ll tolerate the quest if another parallel plot such as a mystery or suspense is holding my interest, but even then it often earns an eye roll. This is because of the other issue I have with the quest for the three magic words: In my mind, it is more important by far to actively love someone than it is to say you love someone. Call me quirky if you like, but I guess I’ve taken the old writing advice, “show, don’t tell,” to be more than a useful trick for bringing a story to life. It works in real life relationships – show me you’re my friend, don’t just tell me. Show me you’re an expert, don’t just tell me. Show me you love me, don’t just tell me. Yes, you can say the words too, but in the grand scheme of things it simply is not that important. And that is the key characteristic of the quest for the three magic words – they’ve already reached their HEA. I know it. I feel it. They’ve shown it. They just haven’t said so.

I suppose the point of the quest is to show a person coming to a turning point in his or her life in which they finally realize the truth about themselves, a truth previously blocked by a host of preconceived notions (eg the hero doesn’t believe in love). And since the quest for the three magic words is such a popular part of the romance genre, I imagine that it must work for a great many readers, perhaps readers who have had a different experience with life and love than I have, but for my part, you can feel free to imagine me rolling my eyes anytime you see these words in a review: I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a quest for the three magic words.

Book Review: Total Surrender

Total Surrender (Sin Brothers, #4)After three amazing books in this series, what a disappointment!

So if you’ve been reading this series, you know the setup. The Sin brothers were created in a lab to be raised as soldiers. They have special abilities. They kick ass. They escaped five years ago and ever since then have been searching for a way to disable the kill chips embedded near their spines. They’ve been searching frantically for three books now and the clock is ticking.

SEVEN DAYS TO GO…

Jory is in a cell. Piper is a computer hacker trying to disable his kill chip. Why is it so much trouble? Apparently, when he was shot, one of the bullets nicked the chip and now it won’t respond to wireless communications. Great start!

But it didn’t take long at all for the problems to begin. Most notably, the chemistry between Jory and Piper was way off. In the other three books I felt it right away, but for these two it simply wasn’t working. Part of this might have been situational. Jory was locked in a cell, using “psychological tricks” to get Piper’s cooperation. (I put that in quotes because I wasn’t convinced by them.) Piper, meanwhile, was convinced Jory was a traitor to her country AND at the same time she was desperate to gain the love and respect of her father — the commander.

TIMING

The biggest problem with this book was timing. With seven days left to live, I felt that the tone of the book was not nearly immediate enough. It got worse when we started counting down the hours. They kept talking when it was time to act, and having sex when it was time to act… and I couldn’t get into it.

The timing was off in another sense too. Piper had to choose between her father and Jory in this book, something that could have been a terrific conflict in another situation but here I struggled with it. She spent the first half of the book waffling, during which time I had trouble buying any romantic attraction on her part. She just wasn’t in the right place, emotionally speaking. I think this is a big reason that the chemistry was off, and the reason why she rubbed me the wrong way. She wasn’t unlikeable, exactly, she just didn’t seem like the right girl for Jory at the right time.

The attraction between these two was so poorly timed that I skipped the sex scenes!

OTHER PROBLEMS

There was a plot twist late in the book that I found both implausible and utterly unnecessary. It never went anywhere.

Piper had a boyfriend at the start of this book who turned out to be a distraction in a book where there was already too much being packed in a short space of time.

The sappiness in this volume got to me more than in the other books. Not sure if there was more of it or if it came down to another timing problem — ie “Will you shut up about how much you love one another already and work on not dying?”

REDEEMING QUALITIES

There was another plot twist relatively early on that I loved and that could paves the way for more books in this world. This was probably the #1 thing that kept me reading to the end.

CONCLUSION

I’m not giving up on this author. Despite the rocky conclusion, this series remains an excellent example of steamy military suspense and I would totally recommend it. Prolific authors are bound to have a dud now and again. Plus, it’s always possible that the chemistry issues between Jory and Piper were my own problem. (I did my best to explain them so you could decide if they’ll be a problem for you.)

Book Review: Blind Faith

Blind Faith (Sin Brothers, #3)This series just doesn’t quit! I can’t remember the last time I got so hooked. I can’t even say that the books are super unique … to tell you the truth, I saw almost every twist coming. But I didn’t care because I so enjoyed the ride. This book was like chocolate … you just want to eat it up. And sure, there’s Creme Brulee and sometimes that’s good too, but for pure comfort, you can’t beat chocolate.

That’s what this series is for me…chocolate. Really good quality chocolate.

Nate and Audrey’s story was just as good as the first two. The four brothers are still in danger, there’s a chip that’s going to explode in a couple of weeks and they’re youngest brother is missing. I cannot wait for the final book in this series! I almost cried when I saw it wouldn’t come out until march!

I highly recommend.

Book Review: Sweet Revenge

Sweet Revenge (Sin Brothers, #2)As soon as I finished the first book in this series I dashed off to read #2 (hence the reason my review of #1 was so short 🙂 )and it was just as good! This time it’s the oldest of the four brothers, Matt, who finds a soft, sweet girl to love.

The four Dean brothers were created in a lab and raised to be killers. They escaped as adults, wanting nothing more than family and a normal life. But they have a kill switch implanted near their spine that is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Plus, they still don’t know what happened to the youngest of them, Jory.

I am really enjoying how each of these stories can stand on its own and yet at the same time it builds the bigger story arc. For that reason, I would recommend reading in order.

These books are fast-paced, fun, and steamy. The author has captured the perfect man and pretty much duplicated him four times — he’s strong, capable, loyal, ruthlessly protective, and dominant. If that’s the kind of romantic hero you like, this series is definitely for you!

Book Review: Forgotten Sins

Forgotten Sins (Sin Brothers, #1)
I loved this book! I read it all in one go. I could not put it down. It was fun, adventurous, suspenseful, and the romance was steamy! And okay, so an enhanced soldier waking up with amnesia isn’t the most original idea in the world, but I honestly didn’t care. This story was fast-paced and well-written. I immediately connected to the characters and can’t wait for more. I highly recommend!

99 Cent Sale!

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PLUS …

Every book in the Cassie Scot series will be discounted through the end of November!

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Read the First Chapters Here

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Book 1)

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Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

  • *Winner of the 2013 Global Ebook Award for Fantasy
  • *Finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Awards

Buy now in print, ebook, or audio…

Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)

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 Cassie Scot, still stinging from her parents’ betrayal, wants out of the magical world. But it isn’t letting her go. Her family is falling apart and despite everything, it looks like she may be the only one who can save them.

To complicate matters, Cassie owes Evan her life, making it difficult for her to deny him anything he really wants. And he wants her. Sparks fly when they team up to find two girls missing from summer camp, but long-buried secrets may ruin their hopes for happiness. Sequel to Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective.

  • Winner of the 2014 Global Ebook Award for Fantasy

Buy now in print, ebook, or audio…

Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)

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Beware your heart and soul…

Evan broke Cassie’s heart two months ago, and she still doesn’t know why. She throws herself into family, friends and her new job at the sheriff’s department, but nothing helps. The only thing that finally allows her heal and move on is the love of a new man, mind mage Matthew Blair. Cassie finds him…irresistible.

Matthew may also be the only one who can help keep the non-magical residents of Eagle Rock from going crazy over the murder of a beloved pastor’s wife. It looks like a sorcerer is to blame, but while Cassie tries to figure out who, others take matters into their own hands. With tensions running so hot, a single spark might set Eagle Rock ablaze. Book 3 in the Cassie Scot series.

  • *Winner of the 2014 Global Ebook Award for Fantasy

Buy now (Print, Ebook, Audiobook)

 Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4) 

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Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood’s grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie’s father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

But things may not be precisely as they appear.

Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own? Conclusion to the Cassie Scot series.

Buy Now in Ebook and Audiobook

Trade Paperback: November 15, 2014

Praise for the Series:

“When sorcerers call the shots, what’s a girl without powers to do? Get ready for a ripper of a murder mystery full of romance and intrigue, where magic potions bubble, passions spark and vampires are definitely not your friend Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective grabs you by the heart and won’t let go until the very last page. Well written, immersive and unputdownable. This is urban fantasy at its best. More please!” — Kim Falconer, bestselling author of The Spell of Rosette, Quantum Enchantment Series

“Amsden continues the story of the only mundane member of a supernaturally-gifted family in this middling sequel to Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective. Cassie, stubborn and proud, is bravely trying to live on her own after her family disowns her. Struggling to make ends meet, she accepts a case involving a pair of magical girls who disappeared from summer camp. With the aid of the handsome Evan Blackwood, to whom Cassie is attracted despite her family’s disapproval and her own better judgment, she follows the trail of the missing girls. What she finds is a dark side of the magical world, and the hidden depths of her family’s past force her to reconsider long-held assumptions. The growing complexity of Cassie’s world makes this an entertaining installment, focusing as much on the will-they, won’t-they romantic chemistry between Cassie and Evan as on the primary mystery. An inconclusive ending is clearly intended to feed into the next volume.” — Publisher’s Weekly 

About the Author

Author_2013Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for 
everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work. Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

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Book Review: Sin Brothers Series by Rebecca Zanetti

Forgotten Sins (Sin Brothers, #1)I may as well review the first three books in this series together because that’s how I read them — together! I picked up the first book and couldn’t put it down. The series … not just the one book! When I finished the third book and saw that #4 wasn’t ready yet I practically mourned my need to wait.

The books are: Forgotten Sins, Sweet Revenge, and Blind Faith. Together, they introduce us to the Sin Brothers, four (well three, more on that latter) brothers who were created artificially and trained brutally to be part of an enhanced soldier program. Eventually, the brothers escape and begin planning revenge on the people who hurt/used them.

Sweet Revenge (Sin Brothers, #2)Sound familiar? Okay, okay! I didn’t say it was original. Just addictive. This series is like really good chocolate. Nothing fancy, but oh how sweet!

The first book begins with Shane, who can’t remember who he is. (No, don’t put it down yet! It’s okay.) His wife is called in to identify him and take care of him … except, his wife hasn’t seen him in two years and is pretty ticked off at him for running out on her without a word of explanation. She was just about to file divorce papers when he shows up, and it is her greatest desire to have him sign them.

Things don’t go according to plan. Shane doesn’t want a divorce, and there’s someone trying to kill him — or her. They’re not sure. Plus at some point he begins regaining bits of memory. That’s when his brothers swoop in.

These books have a high steam rating … so be prepared! There’s also plenty of action, adventure, and mystery. I found the mystery to be a bit predictable. I guessed at the endings most of the time, especially after the first book. But some books are predictable in an “I really couldn’t care less now that I’ve figured it out” way and other books are predictable in a “I’m still enjoying the ride” way. These books definitely fell in the latter category.

Blind Faith (Sin Brothers, #3)The best thing about these books was the brothers themselves. Each one was super good looking of course, but more than that — smart, strong, capable, and enhanced. They had super hearing, among other things. And underneath the rough exterior was a marshmallow heart. Each book begins with a prologue that shows the brothers as kids, just trying to survive in their harsh environment with nothing but one another for support. As adults they want a family more than anything else, and I wanted to read about them getting it.

Each book focuses on one brothers … Shane, Matthew, and Nate. The last book will focus on the missing brother, the one who disappeared two years ago and who they fear is dead. (That’s not a spoiler, it’s pretty obvious from the first book.) They also have another problem they are struggling to work through. They’re going to die soon if they don’t get these chips implanted near their spines disabled.

I can’t wait to see how this ends!

I highly recommend this series to readers who enjoy steamy romantic suspense with a mild scifi/fantasy twist.

Book Review: Leopard’s Prey

Leopard's Prey by Christine FeehanRenny is a New Orleans cop (and a leopard shape shifter) hunting a serial killer who murders in a strange, ritualistic manner. Meanwhile, he falls hard for a rock star turned jazz singer who is just emerging as a leopard and has no idea who or what she is.

There was a lot to like about this story. For one thing, it was satisfyingly steamy romance with all the wildness of a shape shifter story and all that implies — inner animals, mating, etc. The characters were reasonably well developed, though I have a sense that I might have understood Renny better had I read the prequels first. I’m still not sure I understand his past, or his problem with saying the three magic words, just from reading this story. The book was fast-paced, difficult to put down, and very engaging.

But this wild ride didn’t end very well, and I knew it wouldn’t from pretty early on. I had the identity of the serial killer pegged from the moment we met him and nothing swayed me from that certain knowledge for a second. I complained recently about books in which there are absolutely no clues present, making the ultimate revelation is stupid and arbitrary. I said I would prefer the other extreme if I had to choose between the two and I stick by it. Even knowing who it was, I did enjoy the wild ride, especially sine the book was as much romance as mystery. Still, in a perfect world the mystery is somewhere in between obvious and unguessable. 🙂

I also realized early on that the romantic tension would be a quest for the three magic words. Honestly, there’s not a lot left when you establish two characters as soulmates from a previous life who have just recognized one another in their current incarnation thanks to the instincts of the beasts within. It’s kind of cool at first, and very steamy, but not great for sustained romantic tension.

All in all I would read more books by this author and I recommend this book to people who enjoy steamy shifter romance.

Rating: 3.5/5

Title: Leopard’s Prey

Author: Christine Feehan

ISBN: 0515151556

Published May 2013

Book Review: The River of no Return

The River of No ReturnWell-constructed, well-told, well-characterized… these are phrases I so rarely associate with time travel that I had no choice but to give this book five stars! What a great read. I could not put this down. My only reservation about this book is that the ending called for a sequel, yet an Internet search shows no evidence of the existence of one. I know this doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but I would feel so much better about this book if the author would just have “work in progress…” or “coming soon…” on her web page!

Nick is a 19th century Marquis who finds himself in the 21st century. He jumped forward in time an instant before he would have died on a battlefield in Spain — apparently, not an uncommon occurrence. The Guild collected him, educated him on life in the early 21st century, and told him there was no going back. Except, they lied. And when they need him to go back to 1815 to take care of a problem, they start telling him small pieces of the truth that make him more suspicious than ever.

Come to find out, there is more than one group of people trying to control time travelers and the river of time. Nick has to decide which side he’s on, a decision that becomes more complicated when he learns that the future itself is in danger.

I found Nick to be a credible man-out-of time, and I liked that it was hard for him to slip back into life in the early 1800’s after life in the early 21st century. There was a bit of romance in here that was okay, although it didn’t drive the story. Julia has problems of her own, and secrets she’s been warned to keep.

I highly recommend this book to fantasy/scifi readers who like time travel.

Rating: 5/5

Title: The River of No Return

Author: Bee Ridgway

Published April 2013