Thursday, November 6, 2014

**Review, Excerpt & Author Interview** PRISONER by Skye Warren & Annika Martin


He seethes with raw power the first time I see him—pure menace and rippling muscles in shackles. He’s dangerous. He’s wild. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

So I hide behind my prim glasses and my book like I always do, because I have secrets too. Then he shows up in the prison writing class I have to teach, and he blows me away with his honesty. He tells me secrets in his stories, and it’s getting harder to hide mine. I shiver when he gets too close, with only the cuffs and the bars and the guards holding him back. At night I can’t stop thinking about him in his cell.

But that’s the thing about an animal in a cage—you never know when he’ll bite. He might use you to escape. He might even pull you into a forest and hold a hand over your mouth so you can’t call for the cops. He might make you come so hard, you can’t think.
And you might crave him more than your next breath.

"Sexy, dark and thrilling. I loved every second of it!" ~ New York Times bestselling author Katie Reus
“Dark, sexy, and intense, Prisoner is an emotional ride that does not let go until the end. I loved it!” ~ USA Today bestselling author Kristen Callihan


I’m coughing, wheezing. I had asthma as a kid, and that’s what it feels like now as the pepper spray stings me all the way down. “Get off!” I gasp. “You’re too heavy—I can’t—get air.”

“It’s the spray you hit me with,” he says. “Breathe normal.”

I gasp for air, panicking. “I can’t!” Is this how I die? Suffocation?

“Pretend,” he says, letting up his knee. He shifts so that he’s straddling my back. He grips my wrists now, pressing them above my head, and I feel his boots locked over my thighs. His weight is off my back. “It’s something every thug like me knows, how to not breathe in the fucking Mace.”

I choke and cough. I still can’t breathe. He’s going to let me die. He’s going to sit on me and watch me die.

“Relax,” he says softly. “You’re making it worse by panicking.”

Hoarsely, I try to get air. The sounds scare me. I really can’t breathe. I suck faster as the panic rises.

“Hey,” he whispers. “Shhh.” He brings his head near mine, breath tickling the back of my neck. “Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent, okay? It swells your throat and sinuses, but it doesn’t shut them.”

I gasp.

He continues to speak in his calm, strangely soothing voice. Why is he soothing me? I can feel him rattling against my defenses with every word. “You’re still getting air, okay? Focus on that, Ms. Winslow. That little passage of air you can still breathe through. Slow it down now, got it?”
I can’t slow it down. It’s like I don’t know how to breathe anymore, and I’m shaking.

And suddenly he’s stretching his big body over me, on top of me. His weight isn’t entirely on me, or else I’d be squished; it’s more of a dull weight, as though he’s holding himself against me, warming me, pressing me to the forest floor. Into my ear he whispers, “Breathe with me.”

I suck in a faint breath. “Get off me, you caveman!” Why is he even trying to help me?

“You’re okay, baby,” he says. “Match my breath.”

I feel his chest expand against my shoulder blades. He’s like a big, warm animal on me. I twist, but there’s no moving. He presses down harder, and something about his weight soothes me. I hate that he’s actually calming me, helping me. I don’t want him to make me feel good—he’s my enemy.

I wheeze lightly.

He breathes on, hot and slow against me. A bird calls in the distance. I can hear the hum of the highway, the drone of a helicopter. My eyes tear, and my limbs feel floppy and warm, and suddenly I’m doing it—I’m breathing. I take an almost regular breath.

“There you go,” he whispers.

“Fuck you. I don’t want your help.” I gasp in another breath.

His whisper caresses my cheek. “Nice and slow, Ms. Winslow.” There’s something sensual in the way he says it. “Nice and slow.”

He breathes again, as if to demonstrate. On the next breath I match him. Soon we’re breathing together. It’s strangely intimate, like we’re two wounded creatures under the forest canopy. It’s almost like dancing.

Almost like having sex.

I crane my head around just enough to see that he still has his eyes shut tight, dark eyelashes wet with tears from the irritation of the spray. Did I hurt him? Did I burn his eyes?

“Stop moving around,” he growls. “Lie still.”

Like I have any choice with him pinning me. My heart pounds under his weight.

Breathe in, breathe out.

It’s as if we’re in some kind of time-out, a no-man’s-land with the two of us fucked up and lying on the forest floor on a bed of pine needles that actually feels sort of soft and nice. The moments stretch on and on. I wonder how long it will take him to recover.

Maybe I really injured his eyes. Could I have hurt his eyes permanently?

He shifts, and I think maybe he’s getting up. But he doesn’t.

In a weird way I’m glad. If he got off me, that would end this strange, relaxing time out. It would bring back the harsh reality of who we are to each other.

For now, there’s nothing I can do with him lying on my back, and I let my limbs go soft, let my breathing calm, giving myself permission to relax. I feel like jelly suddenly, spread underneath him, spine flattened out. Us breathing together.

My eyes drift closed. The warm patch on my neck feels lit up every time he breathes out, and I imagine his lips hovering just over my skin.

I imagine him kissing me there, and a wave of forbidden feeling swells through my core.

My eyes fly open. There is no way I’m turned on.

Except I am.

My heart races. My breath gets fitful again.

“Hey,” he says. And then more softly. “You’re okay.”

I become aware of a hardness against my thigh. An erection. A melty sensation pulses through my pelvis. I’m trembling deep down, and it’s not just fear; it’s excitement.

Horrified, I try to shake him off, and he tightens his legs and arms around me. I feel his weight and warmth keenly now. “You don’t want to give me any more trouble, do you?”

“No,” I whisper huskily.

The energy of sex runs wild between us, and I don’t know how to stop it. Does he know? I flash back on him in the prison waiting room, the way he looked at me, and all that power and beauty barely contained in shackles. How stupid I was to think he was beautiful.

“No, you don’t want to give me trouble,” he affirms. “So we’re going to stay just like this until my eyes can recover.”

“So you can kill me?”

“If I was going to kill you,” he says, warm and tickly beneath my earlobe, “don’t you think you’d be dead?” There’s something about the way he says this that makes my belly quiver, and I can’t stop focusing on his erection. His big, strong heart beats against my back, beating my heart like we’re conjoined in some primitive way.

His breath feels soft on the side of my neck, and heaven help me, I want to feel more of him. I imagine his skin on my skin. Dimly I’m aware that my breath is changing, speeding, shallowing.

I stiffen as he presses his lips to the warm spot; it’s a kind of kiss. Or is it? And then he whispers, “Penny for your thoughts, Ms. Winslow.”

Oh God, he knows. This man who’s going to kill me, this man I’ve been breathing with, he knows.



Wow!  That is my first impression finishing Prisoner (actually is may have been a curse).  I was lucky enough to Beta read this back in September and after reading through this book (the first time) I sat on my thoughts for a few days since it was a lot to absorb and I actually went back and re-read the whole thing!  I NEVER re-read things (you guys know this ), so this tells you there is something special here.  Then I read this book a THIRD time (crazy town) after it was released to see what might have changed in the story (let's be honest I checked the acknowledgments to see if I was mentioned... not really, but that's ok) and I fell in love with these writers all over again!  

I am not sure what I was expecting when I read this book the first time but what you get, blew me away.  I was addicted instantly (even though I still think Abby's character is too young) and can't get enough of these characters, their struggle and the beauty that came from something so horribly tragic.  This is considered a dark read and has some things in it that are graphic and dark.  However, if you have read Pam Godwin, Pepper Winters or E.K Blair you will be just fine!  Annika Martin and Skye Warren are a phenomenal writing team and I was floored with how much this story moved me, made me uncomfortable, broke my heart and then made everything better.  I am not going to go over the plot of Prisoner, you need to read it unspoiled and just trust that the Authors know how to get you where you want to go.  It is an amazing ride.

I LOVED the vulnerability in Grayson.  He broke my heart.  It was a treat to read about a criminal that never stop being who he was but craved more than he though he deserved.  That fact that he doesn’t have to change who he truly is inside, was awesome.  His neediness and desperate cravings for something real and beautiful showed him as a real person, not just a criminal and really brought me to his side.   Watching his struggle with Abby... it was so well written seeing how he craved her, and tried to control his animalistic behaviors but he eventually gave in.  I loved his character.  There is a scene with Abby and Grayson that is hard to read, but the way it was written with the raw emotion and need, turned something dark into something almost beautiful.  Annika Martin and Skye Warren have a way of taking something dark and making it something so much more and it really was hard to put down, this story consumed me.  

Abby was easy to like, I just wanted her older (and in my version she is).  I liked that she was tough, she didn’t just lay back and accept what was happening to her, she fought back and she didn't just let things happen to her.  I am very glad these Authors did not make her stupid, so many “darker” captive books seem to make the young women silly or do dumb things, but Abby didn't just take her situation lying down, she was a fighter;  Abby was smart. 

The secondary characters in Prisoner were very well done.  I would love to get stories on all the milk carton boys and see them all get some light in their lives (crossing my fingers for more Grayson and Abby too).  I would completely and totally read this as a series, but if that never comes about I think Abby and Grayson’s story in Prisoner comes to a good conclusion and leaves you curious but satisfied with how it all unfolded. 

I LOVED the writing style, it was engaging and kept me turning pages well into the night and chores/errands were ignored while I was in the land of Abby and Grayson.  The words, descriptions and dialogue in this book really moved me.  The pacing was good, moving at a good pace never dragging and I liked that the main focus of the story was Grayson and Abby not everyone around them.  

I am definitely a fan and will be looking for more from Skye Warren and Annika Martin!  This was my first book by either Author and I will be adding both their back lists to my reading list.  I read dark books warily now after some have burned me with their horror and shock value but I am so glad I gave Prisoner a chance!  This story is different than you expect and they have something really special with Prisoner, I was invested, impressed and wowed with it.  Do yourself a favor and go 1-click this book!!  


Barnes & Noble:


Annika Martin

I'm a pet wrangler, bookworm, mediocre tennis player and hairstyle failure. And yes, an author, but I promise not to spam you if you friend me!

I live just a stone's throw from the Mississippi with my husband and two beloved cats in a home full of plants, sunshine, books and cookie crumbs. By day, I'm a freelancer in the business world. In addition to being smutty Annika, I write urban fantasy under the pen name Carolyn Crane.


Skye Warren

Skye Warren writes unapologetic erotica, including power play or erotic pain and sometimes dubious consent. There's struggle in the sex. There's pain in the relationships. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely romantic.



Interview Questions by Annika Martin

How did you come up with the idea for this story?
In a lot of ways, this tale began with these two characters super-vivid that Skye and I created: this hot, dangerous felon with a dark past and this buttoned-up college girl who teaches a class at the prison. 

In a lot of ways, this story felt like it wrote itself from those characters as we breathlessly batted it back and forth, imagining this prison break and the way they’d get entangled. 

What are your current projects?  
I'm working on the next book by my other pen name, Carolyn Crane. Its one of my gritty, sexy romantic suspense books. This one is about Zelda, who helps run this shadowy organization. She has to go undercover as a prostitute, taking her twin sister’s place to infiltrate a drug cartel. The hero is a very dangerous assassin. I wanted to call him Sessimo, but everybody hates that name, so I’m thinking of a different one now. 

Tell us about your first book. What would readers find different about the first one and your most recent published work? 
Omg, my first Annika Martin book, THE HOSTAGE BARGAIN (free right now!) Is very different. You wouldn’t thinks so because it’s bank robbers taking a bank teller hostage, and Prisoner is an escaped convict taking a woman by carjacking her , but they are like night and day. 

For one thing, THE HOSTAGE BARGAIN is WAY dirtier (the series is called “Taken Hostage by Kinky Bank Robbers if that gives you an idea). Basically it’s the heroine and three heroes robbing banks and having ménage sex, and it’s all kind of light and humorous in a way. Also, my heroine is super into being a hostage from the start. In PRISONER, she definitely isn’t. 

What books have influenced your life most?
Early on, Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy were really important to me. These smart, curious female characters were hugely influential. They really made things happen, especially Nancy Drew. I love the girl power aspect there. Later, before I discovered romance, I loved Somerset Maugham. He is a writer who returns again and again to the theme of the ant and the cricket (the ant works all summer and the cricket sings away, and in the end, the cricket has no food to eat) but with Maugham, the cricket wins--a lot of his books have that deep inside and I love that. More recently, I would say the ICE books of Anne Stuart really influenced my life. I feel like she broke some real boundaries with darkness. I just love that. I love her bravery. How she rides the darkness. 

Are there any new authors that have grasp your interest?
Rebecca Rogers Maher wrote this fabulous novella about two people who meet on a bridge they are going to kill themselves on. It’s just wonderful – she’s a very exciting author. I am also super loving the work of Serena Bell. She has such great characters. 

Why did you choose to write dark romance/dark NA romantic suspense stories? 
An author friend of mine commented recently that she thinks the most interesting stuff happens in the gray areas, in the dark moments, and I agree. Dark subjects and especially issues of dubious consent and serious criminal behavior are things I would kind of run up to and run back from, or just avoid in previous books, but I have been loving just writing into them, like riding a ship into the storm and seeing what happens. It’s really exhilarating, and also, partnering with Skye on it has been great. 

What is for you the perfect book hero?
I love a hero with a lot to overcome. Especially a lot of darkness. It’s so rewarding, as a reader, to see a hero go through a lot to get to a place where he is right with the heroine. I think my favorite and perfect kind of hero most of all is the hopeless and dark hero. Or the hopeless, dark and tortured hero. Yeah!! 

When you start a book, do you already have the whole story in your head or is it built progressively?
I definitely find the story as I go along. I usually think I have the whole story in my head when I start, and it comforts me to think I know where I'm going, but the place I end up is often different. I just never know what I have until I get in there.  I have had several novels where I write the first part four different ways and even with different scenes and characters until I finally have something I don’t hate.   

Will you write more about these characters? 
I hope so! Annika Martin and I conceptualized this as a series that we’re calling Criminals & Captives. It focuses on a group of men who share a dark past and work together on their criminal enterprises. There’s kind of a ‘lost boys’ feel to it. And each one will take his own captive.