Whatever It Takes-Guest Blog

Today I have the pleasure of introducing Leigh Fleming as my guest blogger. Please join me in welcoming her.

Whatever It Takes

by Leigh Fleming

January 8, 2019

Contemporary Romance

Available through Amazon 

Some secrets aren’t meant to be kept.

Whatever It Takes, the fourth book in the Whatever series, takes place in the small fictional town of Highland Springs, WV. Its heroine is Darla Heartwood, a successful realtor and Citizen of the Year in the close-knit rural town. On the surface, Darla is a spunky, go-getter, but she has a secret she’s carried for over eighteen years. A secret she’d been determined to bury forever.

The story was inspired by a show I heard on NPR in which a woman had given up her baby to adoption many years ago. One day, her biological child reached out to her, requesting they meet. She didn’t want to reunite with the child she’d given away. It was never revealed in the NPR story as to why she didn’t want to see her child. That got my wheels turning.

Darla’s story began as a secret baby book, but turned into a testimony to the #MeToo movement. Her experience is not unlike many women, and in fact, was loosely based on a work-based sexual harassment situation I endured when I was nineteen. Thankfully, my story ended better than hers.

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Short Synopsis

Secrets are best left buried in the past, something Darla Heartwood knows better than anyone. She’s hidden the truth for eighteen years until the night of her birthday when she receives a call asking if she gave birth to a baby girl. Suddenly, her perfectly ordered world, successful business, and public persona come unraveled.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it to. Jason Byrne found that out the hard way. Left to raise his baby daughter on his own, he’s made a quiet life for them, teaching at the local college and dedicating his time to being a single dad. He had hoped to avoid the promise he’d made to Meghan—to find her biological mother when she turned eighteen—but when his healthy, athletic daughter collapses and doctors aren’t able to determine why, he can’t put it off any longer.

Meeting the daughter she gave up and the handsome, distinguished man who raised her, Darla decides it’s time she faces her fears. Meghan deserves a strong, brave role model. To earn her respect, Darla must confront the powerful man who left her pregnant at fifteen. She has to do Whatever It Takes to forgive herself, stand up and be heard, and open her heart to love and family.

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Author Bio 

Leigh Fleming creates unique characters facing life’s challenges but who are always rewarded with their happy ending. Her latest release, Whatever It Takes, is the fourth book in the Whatever series. Stay Hidden, the first in her Hidden series, won the Lone Star Writing Contest for romantic suspense in 2017.

A member of Romance Writers of America and the Washington Romance Writers chapter, Leigh lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia, with her husband, Patrick, and her deaf French bulldog, Napoleon, and is mom to adult children, Tom and Liza. When she’s not writing in her windowless office, she enjoys reading, travelling, scrapbooking, and spending time with friends.

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Star Crossed-Book Review

Star-Crossed

Star-Crossed by Pintip Dunn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not my first book by Dunn but by far my favorite. Love the tension between the two young lovers, the doubts and fears in Vela’s heart, the subtle social message, her relationship with her father (made me cry a bit), and most of all the ending. I’m not going to lie I was yelling at Pintip last night as I approached the ending. Things were not looking good, lol. But she delivered a satisfying end. Well done.

View all my reviews

A New Year Begins…

With the approaching of a new year, we all begin making resolutions or at least dreaming about what might be.

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“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

― Brad Paisley

I love this quote not only because it pulls at my writer’s sensibilities, but also because it’s true. Obviously we are not always in control, and lots of what will happen may not be of our own doing. However, we can at least strive at doing the best we can.

Every year I have all these dreams of what I will accomplish or at least try. Like with most people, those things normally end up at least partially undone. As I get older though, I developed this sense of hurry, of urgency that was not there when I was younger. I’ve always been patient, willing to wait, never rushing. But for the past three or four years, I’ve had this need for speed. It’s almost as if, as my life draws near to the end, I realize I still have so much to do and possibly not enough time to do it. When you’re young, time just drags and old age is a very distant and abstract idea. When you get to my age, the end is suddenly very concrete. Most of the adults of your childhood are either dead or dying, your heroes, your idols, everything is dwindling down and you know that you’ll go sometime next.

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I had always wanted to be a published writer. I had a knack for writing and did it constantly since very early on. My dream finally came true four years ago. Nine books later, I still find it hard to believe it actually happened. My next “dream” is to actually be mildly successful at it. It’s a very slow process and I get antsy. I don’t have a life in front of me to wait patiently for the world to discover my stories, I need it now. Talk about self-induced anxieties, lol.

Those of you who are in the last quarter or so of your life, getting ready to become silver foxes, do you feel this way too? This anxiety to accomplish a thousand things all at the same time and frustration of not having enough time for it? Or energy? It has gotten so bad for me, I avoid things I used to love (and still do) and that helped me relax so that I have time to finish that story, or work on that ad, or interact with my audience. It’s exhausting.

So for this new year I still want to accomplish all of that, but I also want to learn to relax, to allow myself those moments of blissful peace when there is nothing to do, no place to go.

What are your plans for the new year?

Sparkler

The Slandering of Fairy Tales

A few days ago I was watching a news’ report about how several female celebrities are raging a war against Disney movies, claiming they’re sexist and promote rape culture (I’m paraphrasing). I get very upset when people bad-mouth Disney movies. I’ve been a groupie my whole life and before Disney, I was a fairy tale nut (still am) and I really don’t like the insinuation that I am supporting sexism by watching those magical creations of human imagination.

Fairy tales were written a long time ago when things were very different from today, but they are also works of fiction that ooze symbolism while trying to teach important lessons. No, I don’t think the lesson is “girls can only succeed if a man comes to rescue them”. Instead I’ve always thought that the message is that nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams, and that kindness and honesty are always rewarded. The men in the stories are the mere personification of the girls’ goals and not necessarily meant to be taken literally.

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I’ve been on a solid diet of fairy tales and Disney movies since I was a little girl and never once hoped or expected a man to come and make all my dreams come true. Yes, I dreamed of being loved (who doesn’t?) but I wanted to succeed on my own, have a career I loved, achieve my dreams. Never did I make plans for a big wedding and wished to stay home and take care of babies while my husband went to work and reached out for the stars.

Fairy tales don’t teach girls that they are helpless without a man. Cinderella dreamed of “moving up” and she did. The Little Mermaid wanted adventures, to learn new things, and see a new world. And she did.  Snow White (not my favorite character) managed to control seven guys on her own (Reverse Harem anyone?) and got rescued by a kiss. She was an unloved child who, like everyone else, needed to be loved and have someone to love. Love does not equal subjugation or dependency. It’s a vital emotion that all humans need for a happy life. Does it have to be the love of a man? No, but fairy tales are simplistic stories trying to convey a message in a way that will grab the attention of readers. The man in fairy tales represent dreams to be achieved. And yes, back when these stories first were imagined, the world was a very different place and marriage was indeed a female goal because there weren’t many other options for women. But what those men symbolized then hasn’t changed: they still represent dreams come-true, wishes realized–even if those dreams have changed substantially.

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Don’t underestimate your daughters. If you teach them right, they won’t think that the message behind a fairy tale is that the only way for a woman to succeed in life is getting married. I’ve been a feminist my whole life and I love fairy tales for what they are: magical stories about finding what we always dreamed of. Nothing more, nothing less.

What do you think? Do you think fairy tales and Disney movies are sexist and they give the wrong message to little girls everywhere? Or do you think they are simply stories that entertain and feed the imagination of children around the globe?

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Infinite Blue- New Release

Infinite Blue

by NatalinaReis

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BLURB

When a shifter and a human are bound by fate, neither man knows if their connection will be enough to save not only their growing love, but their lives.

Shahin Halcón has been taught that if and when he meets his soul mate, he’ll know immediately. Always the rebel, he doesn’t believe it until the day he crosses paths with Cai, a full-human.

Plagued by unsuccessful relationships and heartache, Cai Banes’s life is quiet and unexciting. When he meets young and wild Shahin, his life is turned upside down, and he’s not sure he likes it.

But neither can deny the powerful pull that draws them together.

Old secrets and ancient myths about cross-species relationships plague their romance and threaten to put their happiness and life at risk. Will their love for each other be strong enough to survive?

Excerpt

Cai handed Shahin his helmet and stared up at the sky as if looking for something. “What are you looking for?” Shahin followed his gaze, but saw nothing more than the darkness of the evening.

“Nothing. It’s just—” Cai lowered his gaze to him and smiled. “Dumb really, but I’ve been followed by a hawk for a while now.” Shahin squirmed in his seat. “I know, stupid, right?”

“No, not at all.” It was so tempting to tell him. He bit his tongue. “Hawks are smart animals. Did you know they mate for life?” He had never really believed it until he met Cai. Now he was convinced the stories the elders had told the fledglings all their lives were actually true.

Cai shook his head. “I can’t say I know much about hawks,” he confessed. “They are magnificent, powerful birds, but I never heard of one following a human around. It’s bizarre.”

“Does it bother you?” He had to know.

“No, it’s just a little unsettling. Do you think it would attack me?” Shahin shook his head vigorously. “I mean, they are birds of prey after all.”

Shahin shook his head again. “No, it would never attack you. Ever.” He may have been a tad too emphatic. Cai looked at him, an eyebrow raised. “I mean, I never heard of a hawk attacking a human.”

The other man scratched his head, smoothing the few hairs that stuck up. “I hope you’re right.” He raised his eyes to Shahin’s. “I had fun. Thank you for inviting me, Sha.”

The casual use of the nickname made him melt. In one fluid movement, Shahin swung his leg over the cycle and crossed the few feet between them. He held on to Cai’s peacoat lapels, pulled him toward him, and covered the other man’s lips with his. The heat they produced ran quickly through him, like a tidal wave of desire, making him shiver and tremble. Cai pried Shahin’s lips open and caressed him with his tongue. Surprised and incensed by the unexpected heated reaction from serious, timid Cai, he pulled him closer, crashing his hard chest against the other man’s. Cai’s taste held a promise. Shahin had no clue what his mouth was promising, but he allowed himself to relax against him, enjoying every second of their tongues’ sensual dance.

When they pulled apart, their ragged breaths mingling, Shahin was not sure of anything anymore. He was normally the one in control but his companion had taken over, stunning him by bringing up feelings he was having trouble processing.

“Come over for dinner tomorrow.” Cai’s whisper surprised Shahin, who still held on to the coat’s lapel as if to a lifeline. “I’ll cook.”

Shahin gulped and nodded, unable to utter a word. Cai smiled and brushed his hand across Shahin’s face before turning around and walking into his house. Still stunned, Shahin didn’t move for a while, standing on the curb and staring into the empty space where Cai had been just a few moments before. Shahin had always enjoyed his freedom, the long string of lovers with no attachments, no responsibilities, but now he was thinking long-term, forever. It was a very scary idea.

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Reviews

“A brilliantly fast paced book, that kept me hooked with the intensity of the love that these two characters have for one another.

This brilliant book has reminded me of just how much I love fantasy romance novels and I absolutely cannot WAIT to read more from you!!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars from me…..addictive, sexy and intense. Pure perfection”  (head_in_a_book_18)

“As a reader, reviewer, and, blogger, it is safe to say that when a certain type of indescribable book presents itself, said reader should probably throw-in the proverbial white-flag.  *Throws in flag*  So, speaking for this particular reader, as a book-hangover of all book-hangovers has currently made-itself-known, it is clear to say that..Infinite Blue is one of those rare types-of-books and has landed on my list of Top Books Read for 2018.  I am so glad to have read it..:)”      (Laura~Passion flower)

BIO

Natalina wrote her first romance at the age of 13 in collaboration with her best friend, Susana. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes. She’s the author of nine romance novels that reflect the amazing diversity of humankind and the universal power of love.

After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she’s taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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Writing a Strong Broken Character

A couple months ago I finished writing a romantic comedy that is close to my heart for a few different reasons. If you have read any of my books you know they are not just about romance and happy endings (even though they definitely have both) but they normally touch on something a bit heavier, sometimes darker.

This one is no exception. I wanted to write a character who is being emotionally blackmailed. This was an important subject for me because it’s something I experienced personally. I had always considered myself a strong woman. Not the most assertive one, but emotionally strong. Until the day I discovered I had been manipulated by someone I considered my best friend at the time. Worse even this had been going on for years. I lived in a state of confusion and hurt without a clue of who or what was making me so miserable.

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Emotional blackmailers use traits of your personality (good qualities more often than not) against you. In my case, she used the fact I would do just about anything to help and/or defend a friend and turned it into a weapon against me. She also used the fact I choose to believe the best about people to make herself believable in my eyes. She was the victim, the one that needed help, everyone was out to get her. And I ate it up even when my conscience and common sense told me there was something wrong with her stories and/or her attitude.

When I began writing this story I wanted my main male character (who in romance are kind of expected to be alpha males) to be a victim of emotional blackmail. As I wrote the story I had the suspicion I was making him look weak, which was not at all my intention. Strength has nothing to do with this. The most put together, emotionally stable person can be the victim of one of these predators. Because make no mistake, these are predators as ruthless as any other.

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I submitted the manuscript thinking that I would get it back with the comment, “he comes across as weak”. I was right. That’s exactly what happened. So now I’m faced with the challenge of portraying someone who has been “broken” by his girlfriend but still seems strong and capable–which he really is. Not an easy task but I have all confidence I’m on the right track. I agonized over it when I was writing it the first time, I’m agonizing over it now as I revise it. I want to be true and fair to my MMC and not make him look like the weakling he is not.

I’m hoping I can make my guy just as strong and awesome as he is broken and confused. Have you ever have to write a character like that? What did you do to balance his state of mind with his personal strengths?

 

The Insidious Impostor Syndrome

On my last blog I wrote about my experience at a book signing recently–an experience colored by many anxieties and doubts. I’m very happy to say that despite my irrational fears, I was indeed invited back for next year’s event.

Today I’d like to talk to you about something related, impostor syndrome. A lot of authors suffer from this condition and I’m no exception. Recently, I was reminded of how much this affects me as a writer and a human being.

As the majority of writers today, I struggle to make myself known and get people to buy my books. I work my butt off and sacrifice a lot to sell a handful of books a month if I’m lucky. One of my books, Desert Jewel, is part of a series I’m very proud of: The Jewel Chronicles, a fantasy with a strong romantic element which I wrote using a world I knew well in my past to create a parallel-type universe as my setting. Some of you know I spent a lot of my childhood and  young adult years in Africa. I used what I knew to create a speculative world where everything was the opposite of the real one. I buried deep personal beliefs about prejudice and superstition in the plot and colored it perhaps with a bit of anger against the power-hungry men who even today keep the people of many African nations poor and helpless.

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As I write the third and last book of the series, I find myself procrastinating, making excuses not to write. Because I very rarely do this, I began wondering why that is. Is it because my story is coming to an end and I want to hold on to it as long as I can? Is it because I’m afraid of not knowing how to further push the story forward? Or is it because I’m discouraged by the extremely low sales of the past two books?

I guess it is a little of all three above, but I also realized something else–I’m suffering from a serious bout of impostor’s syndrome. Let me explain.

In May of this year a young adult fantasy was released to almost instant success and critical acclaim. I didn’t know much about it, other than it was set in an African-like world. Being the African groupie that I am, I was curious and checked out its synopsis. I immediately found several parallels with Desert Jewel–not the same plot but many of the same elements. The story incorporates Afro-Brazilian mythology, the idea of a girl with a special gift who will save a repressed people, and a romantic attachment with someone on the “other side” of the rail tracks, so to speak. Being an expert at self-doubt, my first reaction was, “This was her first book and she sold thousands of copies already and is in every freaking bookstagrammer’s page. I’ve sold a handful of copies of my book in over two years. I suck at writing obviously.”

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Ever since then I’ve carrying this growing doubt with me–am I a good enough writer? Are my stories interesting enough? Am I tricking myself into believing I can write? A doubt that has been hampering the writing progress of my WIP. This, my friends, is what impostor syndrome is all about. I have a publisher that believes in me, a few readers that love my books, good–even if not tons of–reviews and yet I still doubt myself. Frequently.

How many of you suffers from this too? How do you fight this self-defeating feeling? I fight it by writing on, despite that little voice that tells me nobody wants to read what I write. I keep writing even when I’m scared people think I’m an old fool who has nothing interesting to say. I keep on writing because it’s where my voice is, the one thing that gives me wings.

You can read more about impostor syndrome here and here and here.

Tales of an Introvert

This is the story of how I managed to sabotage myself thanks to my introvert anxieties.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend SaSS18, a much anticipated and large romance authors’ signing in Norfolk, Virginia. It was a dream come true (I got in because someone had to cancel at the last minute) and I was determined to make this opportunity my foot-in into the circle of wonderful authors who always seemed to be invited for these events.

Frightened and stressed young business woman

Even before the day of the event arrived, my anxieties were already kicking in and by the time I checked in at the hotel I was not feeling so good. It only got worse. When the doors opened to the public I was totally overhwlemed. A nonstop stream of self-defeating mantras flashed in my head:

  • You suck as a writer.
  • Nobody reads your books.
  • People think you’re boring.
  • You’re too fat.
  • No one wants to talk to you.
  • They all think you’re an idiot.
  • You don’t belong here.

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No matter how much I fight these inner voices, they are often too strong for me. And this was the case that weekend. Afraid that I would be the one in a corner alone while everyone else was having fun, I ditched all the fun events, those where I could make an impression by talking and networking with other authors and readers.

Afterward came the self-loathing, anger at myself for once again making myself invisible. Apart from a couple of people, no one will remember that middle-aged woman who barely moved out of her table for the whole signing.

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Names have already began being picked for next year’s event, and I’m not holding my breath–why would they pick someone they can’t even remember? I’m in about three event pictures out of hundreds and I have no one else to blame but myself. Everyone was sweet and welcoming, but my anxieties did what I had promised myself I wouldn’t allow them to do; they ruined something I had looked forward to so much.

Have your anxieties ever done anything like that to you?

Snow Jewel- New Release

Title: Snow Jewel
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Series: The Jewel Chronicles, bk 2
Release Date: June 30, 2018
Cover Designer: Soxsational Cover Art
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 On sale for half price! 
All other links: books2read.com/snow-jewel

A princess on the run, an ex-slave returning home. Together they must battle prejudice and superstition if their love is to survive.

When Princess Milenda arrives at Isvärld, a land of snow and ice, she’s hoping for a quiet life with her new husband, Jaali. What she gets is anything but.

Even though happy he’s returned, Jaali’s people can’t see past the color of Milenda’s skin, a color she shares with the hated Mabaya Warriors who have been stealing and selling their children into slavery for centuries.

Freya, a goddess of the icy kingdom, tasked with protecting the princess and her man, doesn’t seem trustworthy, and their only true ally is Milenda’s flying lizard, Mjusi. But even the mutsi is acting strangely.

Will their love for each other and Milenda’s special gifts protect them from the dangers around them or will they meet their doom in the one place that promised them safe harbor?

Snow Jewel is the second book in The Jewel Chronicles. A unique interracial romance set against a breathtaking fantasy world with complex characters and twists at every turn. Let Snow Jewel take you to another world.

SJKiss

 

 On sale for half price! 

The Jewel Chronicles 

Desert Jewel

book 1

on sale for 99c

books2read.com/desertjewel

Author of We Will Always Have the Closet, Desert Jewel, and Loved You Always, Natalina wrote her first romance in collaboration with her best friend at the age of 13. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes.After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she has taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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Heart’s Prey-The Journey

I’ve been an introvert all my life. Sometimes I feel that in spite of all my travelling, my life experiences, my education I’ve never been quite part of the whole. I’ve always felt much like an outcast of sorts, always on the outside looking in. Always afraid of voicing my strong opinions and beliefs, but feeling them deeply within my heart nevertheless.

All my novels reflect that in one form or another. But none so vividly as Heart’s Prey.

The world of Heart’s Prey is a world divided by prejudice, where society is parceled out between castes. When that world is attacked by monsters of their own creation, life as they know is crushed. My characters come from different castes and must somehow ignore the fact that they were brainwashed into hating each other and unite in order to survive.

As the plot develops the reader comes to find out that even within the castes there are divisions, prejudice, and cruelty. Nothing is what it seemed to be.They come to discover that the woman from a privileged caste was not very privileged after all, that she had been subjected to terrible things at the hands of her own people because of flaws in their system. They come to find out that in the end they were all outcasts and that if they are to survive, they must destroy those barriers of suspicion and fear, and learn to build a society that doesn’t judge, divide, or punish  those who are different.

I’m very passionate about this book, my only self-pub so far, and its message. I love the characters and the way they stick together even when faced with the horrors of the genetically-engineered creatures loose in their ravished world.

I’d love to hear from you and find out what you thought of my book.

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Blurb

The world Jia and Cees knew no longer exists. Amidst chaos and terror, they find each other and fall in love—a love that goes against all castes’s rules. As their civilization is ravaged by genetically-altered beasts, the caste system relied upon for ages crumbles. The privileged and wealthy are just as vulnerable to the onslaught as are the disadvantaged.

Faced with impossible odds and unsettling secrets about their society, Jia and Cees must decide which part of their dying world to take with them and what they should leave behind. As they travel in search of a safe haven, they face unspeakable horrors, which shake deep-rooted beliefs and their old way of life.

Will they look past prejudice and centuries-old traditions to join forces against annihilation? Or will they give in to society’s pressure and fight alone?

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BIO

Natalina wrote her first romance at the age of 13 in collaboration with her best friend, Susana. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes. She’s the author of seven romance novels that reflect the amazing diversity of humankind and the universal power of love.

After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she’s taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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