Ever read a review that made you cry?

… and not because it gave a book one star. You’d think that since I wrote the book, there were no more surprises for me, right? Think again.

On July 1, Dolly Sickles at Heroes and Heartbreakers reviewed The Longest Night, with a twist. She has firsthand experience with loss in war and PTSD.

It’s been interesting to follow along with the news and witness the changes occurring in the military—most notably, female soldiers who continue to be closer to the front lines. These women are often categorized differently than their male counterparts, but experience many of the same traumas while deployed.

That trauma is one of the issues dealt with in Kara Braden’s The Longest Night. There could be no more current military romance reflective of the state of our Union than one with a female soldier struggling with PTSD and her debilitating battle to regain her balance. The Longest Night is not sugar-coated; Marine Captain Cecily Knight is not a prissy, hysterical woman struggling against her place in nature (her chosen exile) … she was a prisoner of war, who has fought her way back to defeat blackouts and panic attacks, to live off the land and hunt for her food in the quiet of the remote Canadian wilderness, where over-populous towns can’t send her reeling.

So go read the review. Especially this part:

The crux of their whole potential, the whole underlying possibility of love they might find with one another, comes down to this: “You’re not going to hurt me, and I’m not going to hurt you.”

In most scenarios in life, that could be a throwaway concept. But The Longest Night is a metaphor through and through. Pain and suffering isn’t always evident from the marks (or lack thereof) on your skin; fragility isn’t defined by your gender. One of the greatest concepts of the romance genre is that love finds a way. It always does.

Reading that made me realize, “Hey, I really did write that.” I didn’t set out to write The Longest Night as anything more than a really good story. I wasn’t trying to put in hidden meanings. But in keeping the characters real and focusing on how their separate past experiences would affect their motivations and future interactions, it seems I did just that.

Wow.

The Longest Night: What makes it “new and exciting”?

My very first review was from Publishers Weekly, and it was a starred review! One thing that stood out is this:

In this touching and stupendously fresh debut, Braden proves that one doesn’t have to turn an entire genre on its head to get something new and exciting.

This review on Amazon articulates it perfectly:

It is so refreshing to read a romance where where the guy doesn’t feel the need to push his interest when he gets back off vibes. Patience, honesty and consent are very sexy.

For the longest time, I’d avoided the romance genre because so many books think the opposite. “She says no, but she means yes” is (or was?) rampant. Dear Author has a great piece on consent, both on reader consent (a reader’s willingness to overlook realism for the sake of the story) and, relevant to my reviews, on consent, sexual force, and rape fantasy (also called forced seduction).

The villain’s threat of violence against the heroine is not substantively the same as the hero’s use of sexual force against the heroine, for example. While both instances may constitute fantasy on the most generalized and superficial level, potential rape by a villain is generally not a rape fantasy in the sense that the heroine’s imposed sexual submission to the hero is likely to be.

There are a million reviews out there discussing Fifty Shades of Grey and how it portrays BDSM. And while you can cheer that it brought BDSM into mainstream discussions, it did so in a way that glorifies rape and abuse–mental, physical, and emotional–for the sake of a “hero” who is anything but. Google “fifty shades of grey rape” if you want to spend a few days being disgusted. I can’t help but wonder how many naive people have ended up sexually assaulted or worse because they were using it as a template for sex.

In contrast, Nalini Singh’s paranormal romance, the Psy-Changeling series, does a great job at ensuring that the dominant alpha male hero (literally, in the case of the shapeshifting changelings) gains consent from the heroine. In the case of the “mating dance”–the process of bonding two people together as lifemates–it’s the female who has the last yes or no, to the point where a male who starts the mating dance but is then rejected has to live with the consequences for the rest of his life.

Talk about a fresh perspective on alpha males who respect a woman’s right to say no!

Consent can be sexy. Respect can be liberating. Hell, not can be. Is!

And that’s what I tried for with both The Longest Night and the sequel, The Deepest Night. My heroes aren’t perfect by any stretch, but they both have a very strong respect for a woman’s right to say no. Maybe that’s the “new and exciting” aspect that the Publishers Weekly review picked up on.

So what about you, readers? Books are fantasies, and a fantasy’s boundaries are a lot more malleable than reality.

Oatmeal cookies that even I can’t ruin

cookies
These are cookies that even I can get right about 80% of the time–which given my baking history isn’t bad at all! I don’t like normal chocolate, but I love white chocolate, so I throw in a bunch of white chocolate chips. Butterscotch chips are too sweet (though they might be okay if you cut down on the sugar). Regular chocolate chips should work just fine, though. You can also add nuts, raisins, or probably cinnamon chips. There’s already cinnamon in the recipe, so they’d probably work really well.

And the cookies are really fluffy. Like, really fluffy.

yummy cookies

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Are you dying to know how Cecily and Ian spend Christmas? Want to know what happens the first time they go out for pizza? Or maybe you’ve got another story in mind, set in a whole other ‘verse?

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The Deepest Night – Cover reveal!

I’m so excited to be able to share the cover of The Deepest Night!

The Deepest Night

The Deepest Night

This cover is absolutely perfect for the book, from the gorgeous beach and crystal clear water to the isolated little B&B up on the cliff and the hillside… I don’t know how they did it, but everything is right out of the book — and they designed it before I’d turned in the manuscript!

And the people… They really are Ray and Michelle.

(Secretly, I believe that in this scene, Michelle is thinking, Oh, my God, he’s going to kiss me. He’s really going to kiss me. Calm down, Chelly. Breathe. It’s okay. He’s going to kiss me, and hot guys never kiss me, but it’s okay. Stop panicking! And Ray is just thinking, Shit, she probably hates me after I burnt the bacon this morning and tripped the smoke alarm. I need to make that up to her. A kiss. That’ll do it. Then we can go to the grocery store in town and buy more bacon.)