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We are so happy to have you here on the Blog of Sid Love. Thank you for stopping by.

When I look at your blog I see you like to call yourself a globetrotter. Where does that love of travelling come from?

ZO: I grew up in the ex-pat community, meaning my parents were always around people from all corners of the world who’d landed in Belgium to work there. Once they moved on, we’d sometimes go visit them. This is how I traveled to Thailand and Ruanda. We also have more relatives in the US than in Europe since my great-aunt married a GI after WWII and settled in the Midwest. Any excuse to visit them was good enough!  Now I have friends from all over the world too. Australia/New Zealand is on the (long) list of places I still want to go.

You state you like your men a bit damaged yet with an inner strength and you’re always in search of their happily-ever-after, for which I am most thankful 🙂 Why do you like your men that way most I wondered?

ZO: I’m a nurse by training although I’ve been working in IT for the last ten years (still in the hospital). I guess I have a strong nurturing side! It also explains why I’ve never written a book without a hospital scene in it. So I guess I also have a slight sadistic side. Let’s say I hurt them to make it all better (did that come out right?)

DiplomacySeeing your releases, you like to write about different personalities. If I just look at your novels you have in Jack the diplomat and Lucas the liaison for the British embassy in ‘Diplomacy’. In ‘Facade’, we enter the model world and get confronted with Bad Boy Nicky and body for hire Jonas and in ‘The Hand Me Down’ we get confronted with issues like death and age as well as relationships in different levels.

Can you tell me why you love to explore such different angles to your stories all the time? Where do you get your inspiration?

ZO: Inspiration comes from just about everywhere. Diplomacy was inspired by growing up around all sorts of nationalities in a community of uprooted people who all traveled to Belgium to work. I’m pretty sure some US intelligence service has at least one file on me…

Façade was born after reading about the bad boy of fashion John Galliano, and seeing one of my favorite actors in a costume that inspired the cover of Façade!

The Hand-me-down has a longer history.  In this case the three characters intrigued me separately and I realized they’d work really well together somehow. The two older men were inspired by aging porn stars (isn’t research grand?), the younger one by an actor (who shall remain nameless) after I saw him in a movie where he played a naïve, not-too-smart character who is seduced by an older man into finding out which side his bread is buttered on. That character feeds into my nurturing side again. The book raised some controversy, because some people didn’t understand how one man could give his lover away to another, but I let my three character tell their own story and it was rather complex psychologically. I’m not sure I did it justice, but I love the story, warts and all.

Clouds and RainThen of course, we have the ‘Clouds and Rain/Wrangler’ series, where we meet the ranch men! How did you come up with the names of the ranches: The Blue River Ranch and the Blackwater Ranch?

ZO: Water or rain always plays a part in my stories and it definitely does in this series. The area the stories are set in is near a river and close to the mountains, so I came up with White River Ranch (like White Water Rafting on rugged, tumultuous rivers), but when I needed a name for Gable’s ranch I kept going back to Blackwater (dark, murky and hiding many secrets), but I didn’t like the black/white juxtaposition. Since Gable didn’t want me to chance the name of his ranch, I figured Hunter would be more easy-going and his ranch got changed to Blue River. 

I personally adore this series and I am over the moon to see a new release from it. Those men have a way of getting into your heart and I think they have so many stories to tell. In ‘Clouds and Rain’ we meet Gable and Flynn and we see them both grow into amazing men. When you wrote this first book, did you think up front that it would be turning into a series? We also get introduced with Grant in the first book in a not so positive way and we get surprised in part two with the love story of Grant and ranch owner Hunter. What made you write the second book about him and why give him his happy ending?

ZO: It was the challenge of showing that one person’s point of view can be so very different from another person’s. Gable is bound to have a hard time thinking of Grant as a good person because of the hurt Grant caused him (both physically and emotionally), but when Hunter gets to know this man a lot better than he knew him before, he sees a man with strong ties to a family that isn’t legally his, and Hunter starts to see why Grant did what he did.

Some readers still can’t see past Grant-the-baddie because they like Gable so much, but for me it really has everything to do with perception. I can see both sides of Grant. He’s certainly not perfect and made some bad choices, but on the other hand, he was between a rock and a hard place and I understand why he did what he did. I’m glad at least some of my readers agree with me!

Earth and SkyWhere in part three you go in again a different direction bringing in hothead convict Rory and partnering him up with Tim who’s the brother of the ranch foreman, Hugh, who is also a familiar character in the books. Makes me wonder which road you are going to follow in the next one! How do you come up with these characters for this series and how are you able to weave them all together in the different stories, as that is one of the things I particularly like myself, always seeing them coming back ?

ZO: The series grew very organically, actually.

Clouds and Rain was inspired by a dream I had after seeing a particularly sad looking picture of one of my favorite actors. He was wearing a hat in the picture and looked pretty much like my “Gable” on the cover of the book.

In that dream I figured out he looked so sad because he’d injured his foot and couldn’t look after his horses anymore (as far as I know, this actor doesn’t own a ranch). So I gave him a helping hand in the form of Flynn and the rest, of course, became Clouds and Rain.

When that story was finished, I realized I’d written a very one-dimensional bad guy in the form of Gable’s ex Grant and set myself the challenge to have that character redeem himself.  Could I turn a character every reader loved to hate into the main character of a romance? This story became Earth and Sky.

Earth and Sky had three secondary character that intrigued me. In that story Grant and Hunter caught two horse thieves: one was a psycho and probably beyond redemption, but his sidekick was more interesting to me. Rory seemed like the type of guy who always got into trouble and couldn’t get a break. Mix him with do-gooder Tim, wrangler at the Blue River and youngest brother of foreman Hugh and a romance was born. This became Floods and Drought.

In Floods and Drought, Rory is rescued from flood water by Deputy Sheriff Kelly Freed and taken to the hospital in his helicopter. One of the men going in search of Rory is ranch hand and former lawyer Cooper Nelson. My muse told me these two weren’t strangers and had met in a “former life” and this is how Moon and Stars came to be!

Let’s talk women for a change. You introduce us in the various wrangler stories to interesting women who are powerful in their own way like Izzie and Callie and even Lisa. Are they based on your own reality? What can you tell us about them?

ZO: In the beginning of the series Izzie is a bit of a tom boy, working the ranch with her brother and acting very much like one of the guys. It’s not said explicitly, but if you ask me one of her reasons is that it’s the only way she can get close to Hugh, who is married, albeit not very happily, to Izzie’s sister. Once Lisa and Hugh break up, she finds Hugh is actually returning her feelings and she becomes more like the daughter her mother wants her to be and becomes a wife and mother herself.

Floods and Drought (The Wranglers, #3)Calley is a complex character. The first review of Moon and Stars stated that “Calley has been treated like the victim with all the gay men rallying round the poor helpless female when in actual fact she has only ever reaped what she sowed” and sort of says it all. I think she likes all these men rallying around her to help her out and consciously or unconsciously facilitates this. She seduced Grant into an adulterous affair, Gable into donating sperm and Cooper into working for her for free. She’s also more than happy to let Cooper and Kelly take care of her paternity troubles.

That said she also has a big heart, taking on foster children next to her own and doing a few other things that become clear in the course of Moon and Stars for which I don’t want to spoil too much. 

I don’t know if these women represent women in my own life. I have a rather complex relationship with women and maybe that seeps through in both complex females and the fact I tend to kill them off. LOL!

Your new release came out on September 23rd and it’s the 4th part of the Cloud and Rain series  titled Moon and Stars. What would you like to share with us about this book?

ZO: Moon and Stars deals with two men who had a rather intense, but sadly short-lived relationship in college, and who, fifteen years later, are both very different men. That doesn’t mean the attraction isn’t still there, but it does mean a few false starts and lots of baggage to carry around. This story is a little lower on the heat scale than most of my novels, because these guys took their time ;-),but fear not!

Nearing the end I would like to throw in my shorties 🙂

Favorite food? Chicken. Could eat it every day (and I often do), especially in oriental style dishes.

Favorite color? Purple. No question.

Favorite author? Too many to mention, but since you asked: Dan Savage. I love his caustic humor and honesty. Even when his opinions aren’t the most popular ones. I reread his books regularly.

Favorite book? Almost always the last one I read. In this case that would be Aaron by JP Barnaby.

Favorite way to spend a day off? Knitting while watching some series on DVD. I know I should say “writing”, but that would be only a partial answer!

Favorite movie? Longtime Companion. See the answer to the next question to know why.

Favorite music or song? For a Friend by The Communards. I know this dates me, but I was young in the Eighties and lived through the fear of AIDS. This voices it so well.

Favorite flower? I’m not big on flowers because I’m very sensitive to intense smells and the pollen tend to make me sneeze. Also, plants don’t like me. They die on me all too easily.

Favorite clothes? Jeans and a warm sweater. I’m usually cold!

Favorite season? Autumn. I love rain and storms and I love the colors this season brings.

For the last question can I ask what is next on your list? and is there going to be a Cloud and Rain 5 and 6 and….? 🙂

ZO: I’m writing a fifth one, and this will most likely be the last. I’ll never say never, though! It’s also time to write something else, outside of this cowboy world. I just haven’t decided what yet.

Thank you so much Zahra for taking the time to do this interview . It was my great pleasure talking to you.

ZO: Thank you for the lovely, deep questions and for having me!

~ As told to Danielle

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MOON AND STARS
(Wranglers #4)

Reviewed by Danielle

Moon and StarsBLURB: A Clouds and Rain Story

After an affair with a married DA led to scandal and disbarment, Cooper Nelson left his legal career in shambles, and found solace working as a hand at the Blue River Ranch. Eight years later, during a rare visit into town, Cooper bumps into Kelly Freed, a man he left behind fifteen years earlier when he started out as an attorney. Unfortunately, Kelly is running for sheriff and his wife is terminally ill, so Kelly can’t even consider rekindling their relationship. Cooper knows from sad experience that hiding the truth leads to lives being ruined, so for his part, he refuses to be anybody’s dirty secret.

In the meantime circumstances at neighboring Blackwater Ranch have taken a desperate turn. Gable’s friend Calley has breast cancer, and when Gable and Flynn take in Calley’s kids, they need help from their friends. Cooper and Kelly’s combined talents are put to work to ensure Gable can make a bid to become the legal father of his children, and that Calley’s affairs are in order if worse comes to worst. For Cooper, staying away from Kelly was never easy, and now with a common cause, Cooper finds he can’t stop himself from seeking the man out.

REVIEW:

First let me start off with saying how overjoyed I was to see a new story in this series. I have been a big fan from the start of the first ‘Clouds and Rain’ story. Going through life together with the characters of the Blue River and Blackwater ranches has been an incredible journey.

If you haven’t read the first stories I don’t think this one will make much sense to you and are well worth the read.

While I love the weaving together of the characters of the first three stories, it could be problematic for a new reader. But I love the fact that Miss Owens just went with that concept trusting on a solid fanbase and giving them a series that involves all the characters from the first three parts and not going for a story that could be easily read as a one shot. I would like to applaud her for that!

In ‘Moon and Stars’ we find Kelly who wants to be the town sheriff and ranch hand Cooper. As you read the story, you find that these guys go back a long time. We also get introduced to Kelley’s wife, and Cooper’s friend, Nina.

On top of that, we get treated to a story within a story as we also follow Gable and Flynn (from Clouds and Rain) as they help out the mother of Gable’s children, Cally. They must find a way to adapt their lives to a new situation that is out of their control. I don’t want to go in detail too much as it is so worth reading it yourself, feeling the emotions of the story and the blurb is already pretty clear on what to expect.

That is what got to me the most with this part of the series, the many different ways of handling, managing and experiencing emotions. There is denial, struggle, open grieving, insecurity but also love, family bonding and togetherness.

Where you follow the love story of Cooper and Kelly, the main characters of this story, you feel their struggle. Their denial and insecurity, their love, grief and want. There is also the story of the side characters that pulls you in.

For me, it felt so good to get reacquainted with the familiar characters from the first three stories.

There is, of course, also the critic you can have as a new reader if I have to name something.

Reading both Kelly’s and Cooper’s backstory, you find out that they both have had to struggle in life. Kelly with his best friend and wife Nina becoming terminally ill and Cooper with having to deal with the scandal that cost him his lover and his lawcareer. Getting pushed by Nina, they cautiously take baby steps towards each other.

As a reader, you get thrown in a totally unexpected angle when you find out more about Cally’s helpers in her shop and the kids she has taken underwing, as we are introduced to Sadie, Ryan and young Noah.

I cannot wait to see more of them hopefully in the next part. The story is really well-written – it reads so easily and with all the storylines there, you never feel confused and you can easily follow it all at a nice and comfortable pace.

The one thing that baffled me a little at the end  was the treatment of Bill, Cally’s ex-husband. Yes. he was not a terrific guy and their marriage wasn’t great but where and when did he turn out to be the bad guy?  The author used him in a way to get Kelly and Cooper working together on something and the idea is there but for me, it felt a bit like ‘ok, we need a bad guy to work against’ and that in my opinion wasn’t necessary.

I hope that Miss Owens won’t wait too long with the next book in this series. There is so much more to tell and so many characters searching for a happy ending, that I  am sure she is more than capable of providing.

Summing it up, I would say I come to a good 4 star rating. A nicely written story with great characters and because of the fact that I think the author really stuck out her head to give her fans more of the life of her former characters instead of going for a more standalone story, I will add a 0.25 star to the review – in total, coming up with 4.25 as a final rating.

Danielle’s Rating:  four-stars_0 [4.25 stars!]

LINK: Dreamspinner Press

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Danielle is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: DANIELLE’S REVIEWS
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ABOUT ZAHRA OWENS

Zahra Owens LogoZAHRA OWENS is a multi-lingual globetrotter who loves big cities, but also has a weak spot for the wide-open spaces that are so rare where she lives.

She likes her men either tough on the outside but with a huge soft center, or strong, silent and damaged.  She makes it her personal goal to find them their happy-ever-after, the road there often leading via hospital beds, villas with gorgeous vistas or ranges full of horses.

Zahra is a proud member of the Rainbow Romance Writers, the Romance Writers of America, and is also a member of  RWA’s Professional Author’s Network.

If Zahra had her wish, a day would have at least 36 hours, because how else would she find the time to finish all the novels still inside her head?

Visit her web site at http://www.zahraowens.com/, and on Facebook or Twitter.

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!! GIVEAWAY !!

In addition to giving this interview, Zahra kindly offered to do a giveaway of her new book Moon and Stars. Leave a message below to tell us what you liked about the first three books and why you want to read this one? Also, include your email ID so that we can contact you directly in case you win!

Don’t forget to “FOLLOW THIS BLOG”. The widget is on the top of this page where you can either subscribe to this blog via email or if you are a wordpress user, you can “Follow” it through your READER!

Why do you need to follow? – To get instant updates on the winner announcement, or other giveaway events that are planned to be hosted on this blog or simply for the reviews and author interviews that are posted here.

If you are on Facebook, join our official Group: The Blog of Sid Love

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CONTEST WILL END ON 7th October, 2013 @ 11:59 PM Central Time!!

Comments
  1. Toni Whitmire says:

    I have never read any of her books but from the excerpts That I have read she just got a new reader. And I just love reading the excerpt bibbiesparks@yahoo.com.

  2. Penumbra says:

    I haven’t read any of Zahra’s books. Sounds like there’s a lot of drama in the story. I’d like to find out how it turns out 🙂

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

  3. DebraG says:

    Wow! me too I have read other books but not this series. Would love to join the ranks of fans.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  4. B.G. Thomas says:

    I just love Zahra’s writing It is as warm as she is. And her characters…I fall in love with them!

  5. Trix says:

    I haven’t read the series yet, but I loved Zahra’s posts on the DSP blog last week and would love to read more (already have DIPLOMACY)…

  6. H.B. says:

    I haven’t read the series yet but I’ve had an eye out for it’s completion. I have some of her other books though and what I saw from those, I’ve liked.

  7. Leni says:

    I enjoyed the stories and how the characters who didnt appeal in the 1st story redeemed themselves in the next one. I would love a chance to win this and duly noted that another book in the series is in the works. Yeah. 🙂

  8. Barbra says:

    I’ve only read the 1st book and really enjoyed it. Then due to RL, I haven’t been around much for the past 2 years or so. It’s good to know there are so many more to read. Thanks for the offer.
    aelnova@aol.com

  9. Jbst says:

    i’m new to her books so I haven’t read any of books in this series, but they do sound interesting.

  10. I haven’t read the other books in the series but they all sound like good reads. This one sounds like a deep soulful read. I’m very intrigued and would love to read it. Please count me in.

  11. Allison says:

    I’m not sure how it has happened but I have yet to read any of Ms. Owens’s books but I think I will enjoy them greatly once I fix that.

  12. Ashley E says:

    I haven’t read this series yet, but I remember when Clouds and Rain first came out being very intrigued. Somehow, I never quite got around to it though!

  13. Loren says:

    Hello, I haven’t read any of your books, but I’d like to read your series , thank you for the chance…

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