Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Midnight Exposure by Melinda Leigh (Author Interview / Book Review)

Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Melinda Leigh, author of Midnight Exposure!

Author Interview

Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews, Melinda! 

Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

I'm a former banker, then stay at home mom who turned to writing as a second career. Plotting books is way more fun than analyzing financial statements all day. I love my family, dogs (all animals, really), books, martial arts, and dorky documentaries. 

How long have you been a writer?

I started writing when my youngest child went to 1st grade. As a lifelong geek, I spent a good portion of my childhood with my nose stuck in a book. Writing was a dream. I wrote in a hobby fashion for a few years. Then, on a whim, in 2007, I entered a manuscript in a writing contest and won. Suddenly, it occurred to me that maybe I had a knack for this. I started seriously pursuing writing as a career. 

Do you have a day job, or is being an author your career?

I am lucky enough to write full-time. I have enormous respect for writers who juggle two careers, but I'm glad I don't have to do it.

Please give a brief description/storyline about Midnight Exposure.

Reluctant tabloid photographer Jayne Sullivan is searching for an exclusive artist in rural Maine when she exposes a cunning killer and become his next target.

What was the inspiration for this story?

Midnight Exposure was inspired by a television documentary on the ancient Druids. I started thinking, I wonder if people still worship like this. They do! Modern Druids even participate in ceremonies at Stonehenge. Wouldn't it be fabulous to see one?

How did it feel to have your first book published?

The best word I can use to describe the feeling was surreal. One of the hard parts about being a new writer is that I didn't have time to sit back and smell the newly printed pages. When She Can Run was released, I promoted it extensively. Montlake Romance had already bought Midnight Exposure. There were edits to work on. I was simultaneously writing the sequel to She Can Run. (She Can Tell releases on December 4!)

Do you write books for a specific genre?

My books are romance/mystery/thriller hybrids. Each one has its own unique mix. Not limiting my stories to one specific genre gives me flexibility and keeps my writing fresh. 

What genres are your favorites? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?

I read across genres. I love mysteries, romances, thrillers, horror, science fiction, and the occasional literary novel. Some of my favorite authors color outside the lines, like Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series.

Do you have a special spot or area where you like to do your writing?

I have a dedicated office, but I've been known to write in the car outside my daughter's guitar lesson or at the gym while my son trains. In a pinch, I can write anywhere. 

How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?

Ideas come from a variety of places. News headlines can be great jumping off points. I don't click through to the article, but instead, start formatting my own story.

When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?

Professional writers can't wait for inspiration. We are on deadlines. The book has to get done. I try to set a daily word or page count goal. Sometimes the words flow easily and I meet my day's goal quickly. Other times, I'm up until midnight struggling to fill pages. 

What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?

Join a writers' group and talk to other authors. Writing is a solitary pursuit that only other authors truly understand. It's important to interact and socialize to keep yourself sane. 

What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?

I love reader email. There's nothing better than readers getting excited about my stories and hungering for my next release. To me, this is the definition of being a successful writer. 

How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?

Social media and email are the easiest ways to reach me. There's a contact page on my author website. Readers can also connect with me on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Is there anything in your books based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?

My life is not filled with dangerous exploits (thank goodness!), but the people in my life (and dogs) find their way into my books. People and their interactions with one another are the basis for all stories. 

Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?

I just finished writing the sequel to Midnight Exposure. Midnight Sacrifice will be released sometime in Spring 2013. The hero is Jayne Sullivan's brother Danny, who is introduced in Midnight Exposure. Danny will pick up the plot thread left dangling at the end of Midnight Exposure. Next up, I'll start writing the next book in the She Can Run series, hopefully to be released in Fall 2013. 

Thank you Melinda for visiting Jersey Girl Book Reviews and sharing a bit about yourself and your writing career with us! 

About The Author

Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. A life-long lover of books, she started writing when her youngest child entered first grade as a way to preserve her sanity. in 2007, she joined Romance Writers of America, learned a few things about writing a book, and decided the process was way more fun than analyzing financial statements. It was time to get serious about making her hobby a career. She began submitting her work in 2008. In 2009 she signed with an agent, who sold Melinda’s debut romantic suspense novel, She Can Run, in 2010 to Montlake Romance. 

Melinda’s stories have won writing awards including Put Your Heart in a Book, The Marlene Award, Where the Magic Begins and The Gateway to the Best. She Can Run released in November 2011 and became the #1 Bestseller in Kindle Romantic Suspense. She Can Run has been nominated for a 2012 Thriller Award for Best First Novel. 

Melinda is also an avid martial artist. She holds a 2nd degree black belt in Kenpo Karate, studies Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and teaches women’s self-defense. She lives in a messy house in the suburbs with her husband, two teenagers, a couple of dogs and one neurotic cat with an inexplicable fear of ceiling fans. With such a pleasant life, she has no explanation for the sometimes dark and disturbing nature of her imagination.

Book Review

Midnight Exposure by Melinda Leigh
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: August 21, 2012
Format: Paperback - 306 pages / Kindle - 517 KB 
ISBN: 1612184758
Genre: Mystery - Suspense - Thriller / Romantic Suspense

BUY THE BOOK: Midnight Exposure

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review, and for hosting a virtual book event on my book review blog site.

Book Description:

Point, click, die.

When two hikers disappear, their hometown in Maine blames the blinding storms. But the truth is far more sinister. Unaware of the danger, tabloid photographer Jayne Sullivan follows an anonymous tip to find the most reclusive sculptor in the art world. Instead, she finds sexy handyman Reed Kimball—and a small town full of fatal secrets.

Five years ago, Reed buried his homicide detective career along with his wife. But when a hiker is found dead, the local police chief asks Reed for help. Why was a Celtic coin found under the body? And where is the second hiker? Avoiding the media, Reed doesn’t need a murder, a missing person, or a nosey photographer. Then Jayne is attacked, and her courage is his undoing. Reed must risk everything to protect her and find a cunning killer.

Book Excerpt:

“Dude, I swear I’ll get us out of this.”

“It’s OK.” John bit back the whine hovering on the tip of his tongue. Camping sucked. And being lost for two days in the middle of the Maine woods sucked even more. He sniffed. Frozen air stung his nostrils. Wood smoke cut through the heavy scent of pine. “I smell smoke.”

“Yeah, me too. Cool.” In front of him, his roommate, Zack, hefted his pack higher on his narrow shoulders. “Going in the right direction then.”

“I guess.” Doubt laced John’s voice. A scant half inch of snow dusted the game trail like powdered sugar. How had his roomie talked him into spending their fall break camping? “Long as it’s not a forest fire.”

“Not this time of year.” Zack shook his head. “Gotta be a campsite close by.”

John’s gaze swept the shadowed, desolate forest surrounding them. Bare tree limbs pointed to the overcast sky like skeletal fingers. “That’s what you said an hour ago. You sure you don’t want to stop here?”

Zack stopped and turned around. “Tell you what, city boy. If we don’t run into campers in the next half hour, we’ll pitch our tent and start a fire.”

“Man, it ain’t the cold that bothers me. Chicago isn’t exactly the tropics. It’s just so freakin’ quiet.” And dark. No streetlights, no headlights, no neon signs. John pulled his fleece hat lower over his ears and stamped his feet. Inside his boots, his toes stung.

Zack sucked in an audible breath and blew out a puff of steam. “It’s peaceful.”

“Creepy,” John corrected and sent a silent prayer skyward that his transfer application to the Art Institute of Chicago had been accepted. “Dude, I don’t blame you for losing the trail. Everything looks the same out here. But you’re crazy if you think this is fun.” John’s parents had thought he’d be safer attending college out here. Not. Didn’t they know Stephen King was from Maine?

The trail curved around an outcropping of boulders. An erratic, pulsing glow shimmered ahead as faint murmurs carried over the crackling of fire. Hope flared warm in John’s chest. “Do you hear that? It’s people!”

“I told you everything’d be OK.” Zack slapped John’s shoulder as he hurried forward. Ice and dead pine needles cracked underfoot. “Hello?”

Instead of the expected greeting, the voices ceased, cut off suddenly like somebody’d pressed the Pause button. A shudder started at the base of John’s spine and quivered up to his nape. He stopped.

Zack moved ahead. “What the fuck?” His voice dropped to a puzzled whisper as he stepped through a patch of underbrush.

John pushed aside an evergreen bough. “What?”

The tree limb snapped back and John ducked under it. Straightening, he faced a clearing the size of a half basketball court. A circle of upright wooden posts, thick as telephone poles and tall as men, ringed the space. Five shorter poles formed a half-moon in the middle. In the center of their arc, next to a large flat-topped stone, tall flames rose from a shallow pit. The tingle on the back of his neck surged into an electric charge. The wilderness might be foreign to him, but John recognized creepy shit when he saw it, and this whole place had a disturbing woo-woo feel.

John scanned the clearing. Where are the people? He’d heard voices. He knew it. Heat from the fire reached out to his frozen fingers, tempting him to step closer.

But he didn’t. 

“Hello?” Zack called out again before John could stop him.

“Shhh.” John’s harsh whisper echoed. “Something’s not right.”

This place was giving off nasty vibes. Zack was the expert on trees and animals and crap, but the street smarts that had saved John’s ass from those gangbangers last spring wanted him to beat feet.

John’s gaze dropped to the ground. Just inside the ring of posts, a dark line cut through the thin glaze of frost, as if someone had poured liquid in a giant circle, marking it for something.

John reached for Zack’s arm to pull him back into the trees, but Zack was already moving forward.

Into the circle.

“What are you doing here?” A man stepped out from behind one of the posts. Silhouetted, with the fire to his back, he was featureless.

John’s arm dropped to his side. Firelight gleamed off a dark hooded robe that draped the stranger’s frame and pooled on the ground around his feet. John’s weirdo-meter went ape shit.

“We’re lost.” The enthusiasm drained from Zack’s voice.

The man took three steps. The expansive hood obscured his face like the Emperor’s from Star Wars. He was close enough to touch Zack now. “You crossed the line.”

John knew he should step forward with his friend, but his legs wouldn’t budge. His feet refused to cross into the circle. There was something critical about that line. John could sense it.

The robed man shifted. A blade flashed silver in the moonlight, flicked at the white skin of Zack’s neck. A gurgling gasp issued from his lips. Shock choked John like a hand clamped around his neck. His friend’s body crumpled to the frozen earth. Zack’s head hit last, bouncing twice on the frozen ground. One final breath clouded the night air as dark liquid gushed from the wound onto the frost in a wet streak, like the first brushstroke on a blank, white canvas. 

Steam rose from the pooling blood in a lazy swirl. Staring, numb with nightmarish disbelief, John’s empty stomach turned. He blinked and ripped his gaze from his dead friend to the shadowed figure. The man’s head swiveled toward him. One hand clenched the knife by his thigh. A thick drop of Zack’s blood dripped from the point and stained the snow next to the man’s boot. 

Horror paralyzed John’s brain, but primitive instinct guided his feet. He turned away from the warmth of the fire, away from the man he’d thought was going to save them, and fled toward the darkness of the surrounding forest in a dead and panicked run. The rubber treads on his boots slipped on the slick ground. He crashed through a curtain of pine boughs. His gaze darted ahead. Which way? He paused and listened, disoriented by the monotony of the landscape. Footsteps rustled through the underbrush behind him, unhurried, as if his pursuer had no reason to rush.

John stumbled away from the sound. His legs pumped awkwardly, like pistons in need of lubrication. Branches whipped his face. Pine needles sliced his frostbitten cheeks like razors. He ducked behind the wide trunk of a towering tree and clamped a shaking hand over his mouth to quiet his breaths. His panting echoed over the rush of blood in his ears, the sound of futility.

The man was going to hear him.

He was going to find him.

He was going to hunt him down and kill him as if he were a well-fleshed buck.

Branches creaked over his head as the wind blew powder from the tree’s limbs. The crisp night air closed in on him, caressed his sweat-coated skin. A hollow at the tree’s base tempted him to curl up and hide like an exhausted rabbit.

Like prey.

A twig snapped to his left. He pushed away from the tree trunk and staggered forward—into a solid, robed chest. John bounced backward and lost his footing. A hand snagged the front of his coat, righting him, hauling him closer, up onto his toes. John’s heart plummeted as he raised his gaze. Icy blue eyes stared back at him from the narrow slit of a black balaclava.

A huge fist slammed into John’s temple. Pain exploded behind his eyes. His senses faded.

That's it, then. At least it can't get any worse than this.

But as blackness closed in on him, his last thought was that he could be wrong.

My Book Review:

Midnight Exposure is a gripping romantic suspense thriller that will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat.

While on a camping/hiking trip in the snowy woods of Maine, college roommates Zack and John for the past two days have become lost in a blinding snowstorm. October 31st ... Halloween ... while searching for signs of civilization they smell smoke and hear faint murmurs of people's voices, they come to a clearing and spot a fire burning and run into a cloaked man with a knife ... unfortunately they are at the wrong place at the wrong time ... One of the hiker's body has been discovered, but the other hiker is still missing.

Two months later on December 15th, photographer Jayne Sullivan, in an attempt to financially help her three brothers save their tavern in Philadelphia, and help pay for brother Danny's Iraq combat related medical bills, has reluctantly taken on an assignment with a one-week deadline for a sleazy tabloid, and traveled to Huntsville, Maine, to track down and photograph the reclusive renowned sculptor, R.S. Morgan.

Reed Kimball is an ex-Georgia police detective, who has moved with his seventeen year old son, Scott, to Huntsville, Maine, after the murder of his wife. Seeking seclusion in his forest retreat, this reclusive man is determined to keep his new beginning as a sculptor from being revealed.

While searching for the reculsive sculptor, Jayne runs into Reed, who claims to be a handyman. There is an undeniable attraction between them, but secrets from their past, and a serial killer who has targeted Jayne as his next victim, threatens their budding relationship and survival.

Midnight Exposure is a riveting fast-paced romantic suspense thriller that will captivate the reader's attention and keep them guessing. Author Melinda Leigh weaves an intriguing tale written in the third person narrative with alternating perspectives from Jayne, Reed and the villain. The story is full of complicated twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes as the mystery of the characters' and town's secrets unfold. The author's creative writing style tantalizes the reader with clues behind Jayne and Reed's past and secrets coupled with an intriguing look into the mysterious Druid cult's customs and sacrificial rituals. With a great mixture of mystery, suspense and romance, Midnight Exposure is one heck of a page turning thriller that you won't be able to put down.

The author creates a cast of characters who are realistic and complex people, with past histories and secrets that draw you into their lives. Jayne and Reed both wear scars from their troubled pasts, there is a palpable emotional pull of strength and feelings that they embrace as survivors. I loved how the author portrayed the villain, he is one creepy dude that is seriously demented, I couldn't help but be intrigued by his obsession with Jayne. With a great supporting cast of characters, a scenic setting rich in detail and vivid description, and a riveting storyline that is so chilling and leaves the reader with an anti-climatic cliffhanger, Midnight Exposure is the first book in a series that will keep you wanting more. The second book in the series, Midnight Sacrifice, will be released in Spring 2013, it will pick up the storyline with the story surrounding around Jayne's brother Danny.


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