Book Review: “Something Lost” by Bernadette Marie

Good morning ladies and gents. Once in a while, especially now that I’m trying to carve out more time in my packed days for reading, I like to offer up a review of some of the books I’ve read. In particular, I love being able to share authors with you who are great a story telling (fiction), offer excellent advice (nonfiction), and who’s styles are captivating, whether in fiction or nonfiction.

It makes it even more fun when it’s an author I’ve met and like, because I get more insights into their creative process, their style, and the quality of their work.

So, today, I’m reviewing “Something Lost” by Bernadette Marie, the first book in her Funerals and Weddings Series. Bernadette is an incredibly accomplished and prolific writer with more than 50 books published (Jesus, I’m slacking over here). She is also the head of 5 Prince Publishing as well as a mother of five (all boys…ya’ll this woman has raised 5. Boys.) And somehow, in her spare time she’s also earned a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. So, she’s just all-around awesome. To find out more about her, her books, and audiobooks, please visit the links above.

Now onto “Something Lost“.

The book begins at the funeral of Coach Diaz, a beloved basketball coach, father and mentor. His favorite five players, now grown up, return to pay their respects. Among them, is Craig Turner, a once troubled youth who found balance and stability on his team and with Coach’s support. He also once dated the coach’s daughter, Rachel, despite being warned not to. The two meet and rekindle the flame after having lived through some rough and terrible events.

The book is so well written that the story almost plays out like a movie in your head. Readers experience the ups and downs of a relationship that has painful ties to the past, while hope for a different kind of future. Bernadette’s ability to connect readers to her characters through their emotional honest and head-on exploration of hard topics like suicide, depression, self-harm, and abusive parents deepen this book into more than just an average romance novel. “Something Lost” explores what it is to be human, what we do to survive terrible loss, and how we come back from it to be stronger people still capable of honesty and love. The story moves quickly and the chemistry between Rachel and Craig is playful and heated.

I love that Bernadette Marie gives such sexual power and freedom to her female leads. One of my favorite parts about the book is how Rachel admits and prides herself on the fact that she means to seduce Craig and make him hers. And she’s strongly determined in this goal. Another brilliant and timely theme in the book is about the awareness of mental health, the openness of the characters in talking about it, supporting one another, and justifying the importance of it with seeking help and being active participants in their healing process. It’s an important concept that is long overdue to be accepted and practiced in mainstream. I’ve always believed that genre fiction stands as a bellwether for societal change and Marie approaches it with love, respect, and honesty.

The character dynamics between the main characters are wonderful, passionate and sweet, but the dynamics between the side characters (the other members of the team, Rachel’s mother and brother, and her best friend) help to build an interesting world of connected lives that are each unique. This is an art for any author writing series as it makes the reader want to know more about the ‘side’ characters, and promotes the next books focusing on them.

All in all, I loved being able to wind down at the end of a busy day with this book. It wasn’t that it was mindless–quite the contrary, it was a way for my overworked brain to relax and let someone else tell a good story to me. I’ll definately be checking out the rest of this series and all of her titles. With over 50, it should keep me in books for at least a couple of years.

Heat Index: What Spicy Pepper is Your Novel?

Photo by Rosie Ann on Pexels.com

Hands down, one of the dumbest blog titles I’ve ever come up with. But what are you going to do? We all have seasons of creativity in our lives, and sometimes I’m in the winter of title production. Today is that sometime. On to the point. What is a Heat Index?

Great question! Well, if you don’t write/sell/promote romance, you probably don’t need to worry about it, but as it’s the month of ‘love’ or whatever made-up hallmark holiday craze February represents to you, I thought I at least owed ONE blog about passion, romance, and how to make sure the right readers for your work find you.

Heat Index is, as in spicy peppers, a way to grade the level of sexual interaction (description of and frequency) in your books. Now, romance has a wide and varying range of heat levels. This blog will help you understand where yours falls, where you might need to edit to keep it in a certain level, and how and who to market it to based on it’s score.

Below is the breakdown of Heat Index. Keep in mind, this may vary from publisher to publisher, but in general the levels correspond pretty closely.

  1. “Wholesome”, Sweet” or “Clean” (I’m not a fan of either of these terms as it denotes that anything outside of this classification suggests that sex is dirty or nasty–and those are ‘bad’?) These are sometimes called ‘inspirational’ romances, and often fall into Christian Romance sub genres. They might have kissing, holding, etc, but rarely is a bodily fluid exchanged and the romance is built heavier in the emotional/ spiritual attachment.
  2. “Sweet”, “Closed Door”, “Off The Page”, “Gentle”, or “Quiet”— This level of heat says that there is sex in your novel, but it happens without the reader being included. The characters may kiss, fondle, make out, and get excited physically but they will shut you (the reader) out in the hall while they get down to business. More mainstream women’s fic will employ this index more often, and there’s something to be said for leaving a few things to the imagination of the reader. I’m not sure about the terms “gentle” or “quiet”–as we don’t know what’s going on behind that door. Ha. Sorry.
  3. “Sensual”, “Sex on Page” and “Minimal Description”–This level the readers definitely know that sex happened, as it’s written down, but not poured over. Minimal description can mean an author uses euphemistic language, very basic terms and ideas, or even is more mechanical in description. They sort of beat about the bush, without getting into it. Ugh, sorry, I had to. Nobody else laughing their ass off, just me? Ok.
  4. “Sexy”, “Sex on Page” and “Explicit” also “Erotica”–In other words, if you’re at your kids karate/dance/hockey/ soccer practice, it would be wise to not let anyone read over your shoulder. These scenes get as close as any good OB/GYN or proctologist might (but in a less clinical way). Sometimes the lines between 3 and 4 are more blurred. My rule of thumb, is that if it makes me blush, feel warm all over, and a bit flustered after reading it (or writing it), it’s probably a level 4. What constitutes “Sexy” might be more based on the female main character’s exploration of fantasy. “Erotica”, has much more to do with the physical aspects of romance and can be broken down by ‘special interest’ (ie bondage, monogamous menage, reverse harem etc.). In both cases, these are not “letters to playboy” books, even with more descriptive love scenes, they still have emotional attachment and a satisfying (nearly said ‘happy’) ending.

Well, there you have it. If you write romance, and especially if you’re looking to query your manuscript, it helps to know what you’re selling and if the publisher is a good match. If you just like reading romance, look for these keywords (often in online descriptions and sometimes on jacket covers) to make sure you’re getting the romantic endorphin hit you crave most.

Happy Reading!

Romancing The Story

Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers these movies. I think, they may be partly to blame for my current profession (not the karate instructor—the other one, that pays even less). I loved the quirky, unrealistic way that the original frumpy romance novelist came upon adventure and began living the kinds of stories she only wrote about before. I also loved that by the second film we see her living this exotic and adventurous life and still suffering writers block brought on by lack of romance in her characters.

How I imagine I look as a tough-ass romance novelist
What I actually look like, flannel pjs and all.

Because no matter how much adventure, vine-swinging, sheik angering, and Jewel finding you do, if you’re not in love with your novel, no one else will be either.

Bam. Mic drop. Blog finished, I can go take a nap….

*sigh* ok, I’ll elaborate.

Romance isn’t just about what happens between the sheets in a typical Harlequin. Romance is about creating a smolder, a heat, an intrigue between your characters, and between your story and your readers.

When I titled this blog, I worried I would lose those writers who focus on different genres and have little need for ‘romance’. Suck that (respectfully), we all need romance. Humans are born to seek out connection. Now, the phases of it and levels of requirement are different. But the truth remains that if there isn’t chemistry between your characters…be it platonic, hate, or lust…the story will fall flat.

Well, gee whiz, Sarah, what do I do about my Scifi Cowboy Inter-dimensional six book series where no speaking women exist because I’m THAT kind of author.

how much talent, great story writing, and acting did we lose in this era from all the stereotypical, misogynistic bullshit? The world may never know.

First of all—ugh, way to cut out 50% of the entire thinking, capable, and amazing population and demote us to some hot object in a skimpy space suit, so 1960’s of you. Secondly, your ‘lone star’ lead has to have some connection to someone or something. A loyal side kick, his long-lost brother, his space ship, or *puke* if you must, even some hot object in a space suit.

Otherwise, he lacks a pathway for your reader to connect to him. Characters that ‘don’t need anybody’ are fine, but you may find that attitude extends to your readers. They won’t need him either. Characters, even the lone wolf, are better if they really do need people and are just too afraid to say something, until somewhere in act three.

“Hurrumph—well, I write non-fiction only. There is no romance. Its fact and common knowledge. I do not deal in fluff.”

Lady, (or mister?) listen. The numbers of readers you will get from a book that is all fact and no heart (i.e. romance) will be disappointing. I can’t think of a single person who goes back to their high school American history book and eats up 100 pages on the American Revolution (I’m sure they exist okay, there’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ informative book). I can, however, name numerous people all salivating over Hamilton tickets. Why? Because THAT story, makes us fall in love with the characters. The writer found romance in the people, situation, and actions of the time. It created a bond by connecting us to common feelings, needs, and emotions. And that’s what romance is really about in writing. Appealing to the human divine in all of us.

So, in this made-up month of love, explore your current work in progress and ask yourself if you are in love with these characters, their story. Ask if your character is hell-bent and heart centered on someone or something three-dimensional to ground themselves to. Is it throwing spice into the reading? Or is the plot fizzling? Where and how can you use romance to draw in and maintain your reader’s attention?

After all, romance is not romance, if it doesn’t have an anchor of reality at its heart.