I've got a dashing visitor from the past on Vintage Vonnie today. More than four years ago, he'd been very important in my life. His name is Niko Reynard, hero of a Romantic Suspense released under the name of Mona Lisa's Room. His first meeting with Alyson, the heroine went like this...
When the door to the interrogation room opened and two men walked in, the testosterone level rose by a factor of five. Even though the first man, middle-aged with graying temples and silver-framed glasses riding low on his nose, was handsome in his own right, it was the second male who commanded her attention—and her fascination.
He was striking. Or, as Brooke, her free-spirited sister, would say, “Oh my God, he’s make-my-panties-damp gorgeous.”
While the young man wasn’t blatantly tall, he was excessively male. Sex appeal oozed from every pore on his skin. Alyson’s body responded, which surprised her.
She judged him to be around thirty, with the firm and muscled, yet slender build of many European men. He had an olive complexion and short, wavy black hair styled like that of a GQ model. His eyes were dark and angry.
What’s his problem? I’m the one held here against my will, hungry and thirsty. And, dammit, I have to pee.
The older man sat while Macho Male prowled the room like a tightly-reigned panther.
“Ms. Moore, I’m Field Supervisor Henri Moreau. I head the French task force on counterterrorism. The irritated man behind me is my second in command, Niko Reynard.”
The young man deigned to spare her a nod in greeting. Oh, she knew the type.
She nodded once in return with a dose of her own attitude. After all, she hadn’t been a teacher all these years without perfecting a piercing glare. One of his eyebrows quirked in response and a corner of his mouth quivered for an instant as if he were a heartbeat away from laughing at her. She hiked her chin and held eye contact with him for a few seconds.
Okay, so she was being bitchy, but after all she’d been through today, frankly she didn’t give a shit.
This book was the first of three under the series title "The Red Hand Conspiracy." All were set mainly in Paris, my favorite city. Writing them was a blast, like walking back in time, retaking a vacation, if you will.
The series never sold well. Yet, the crazy thing is the books hold the highest ratings of all my books at Goodreads and Amazon. Go figure! Mona Lisa's Room won the HOLT Medallion of Merit for Best Romantic Suspense. But for some reason, it just didn't sell.
Now that I have the rights back for the series, I'm planning to self-publish them. So my Street Team and I have been examining things; looking for what could have caused its failure. Was it the titles? In addition to Mona Lisa's Room, I had Rain is a Love Song and the final book, only two-third's written, called Jazzbeat of Surrender. Can we all agree I suck at titles? Is it no wonder my publishers give me a list of titles and say, "Here are the names of the books you're going to write"?
Was it the covers? I'd loved them. Each had elements germane to the story within, but since they belong to my previous publisher I'm no longer allowed to use them. Gosh, I hoped it wasn't the writing; not with all the 5-stars they garnered from the few who'd taken a chance on buying them. Perhaps the publisher's lack of distribution? Or my scarcely known name at the time? Not that I'm so well known now. ACK! We could go round and round on all the possible "whys", couldn't we.
Obviously, I have a lot to do to prepare this series for the Indie market where no one knows me at all.
I've changed the title of book one to--
Love and The Red Hand Conspiracy, Book One
I'm having a new cover designed with a picture of Niko on the front along with the bloody handprint, the macabre calling card of an International band of terrorists who call themselves The Red Hand. In each stand-alone book, a segment of The Red Hand is eliminated at the end of the story. By the end of book three, the reader learns the identity of The Architect, the shadowy, demonic leader of this band of deadly radicals.
Book two will be named for its hero: JEAN-LUC. BASTIEN is book three's hero.
I'm part way through NIKO, improving my prose and laying strong, yet hidden hints for identity of The Architect so when he appears, the reader will think I'm not surprised rather than No, freaking way!
The book is longer than I like so I'm trying to tighten the writing and delete some things yet still retain the charm, the suspense, and the passion of the original story.
Dressed, Alyson stood beside the bed as if frozen to the spot. Her face was pale, her blue eyes wide with fright. Being scared was one thing, but being immobilized with terror would not help her. She had to be able to move, to run, if necessary. He had to make her angry, hoping to tap into her passion. What could he say to piss her off again?
“Well, Mrs. Moore, you no longer resemble a sloppy American.” Fact was she looked good in that low-cut sundress. Damned good. While he’d always been a leg man, he had a healthy appreciation for the breast portion of the female anatomy, and her breasts were quite eye-catching. The wide skirt that emphasized her trim waist skimmed shapely calves. The woman was trouble in a sexy little package.
His calling her Mrs. was evidently like a cold slap to her face. She gave the desired response. “Let me give you a lesson in life, Niko. Never call a woman who endured twelve years of a cold marriage to a cheating husband by the title Mrs.” She grabbed her hellacious ugly baby-shit-colored purse and slung it over her shoulder.
He fought back a smile. “Yes, ma’am.”
She fisted her hands on her hips and glared at him. “Lesson number two. Never call a woman, who is one day shy of turning forty, ma’am. My first name, Alyson, will do nicely.”
He retrieved her carry-on from the bed and opened the door a crack. After checking the hallway and finding it empty, he glanced back over his shoulder, winked, and purposely lowered his voice to a sensual purr. “Anything else you’d like to teach me, Aly?”
Niko is watching me very closely as I edit and update, don't think he isn't. He's second in command of the French Counterterrorism Unit. Mr. Alpha is used to giving orders. And I'm not the best at following them. We've knocked heads before and I suppose we'll be eyeball to eyeball, yelling at each other again. I can't wait for the fun to begin!