Welcome to Through Stephanie’s Eyes. Today we have a very special guest. She’s not only a fabulous author of romantic suspense, she’s one of my personal friends. Amber Lea Easton has also joined another group of friends of mine: The Four Seduced Muses. Today will be The Temptress’s very first post there so make sure you check that out as soon as you leave here. 😉
Amber’s here today to tell us a bit about her romantic suspense novel Reckless Endangerment and how she came up with characters dealing with a very real issue Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Let me turn over the reins to her so she can tell you all about it in her own words.
PTSD, Paralysis, and Human Trafficking—Creating True-to-Life Characters
War doesn’t end once a Marine sets foot back on US soil. Battle takes a toll, not only physically but mentally as well. Self-doubt affects heroes as much as anyone, only they know how to conceal it better than most. In my latest romantic suspense novel, Michael Cedars faces the concept of never walking again and questions his ability to be the man his wife married.
When writing this novel, the characters were my main priority because I knew they would drive the plot. I needed to research paralysis and partial paralysis. What kind of surgeries and physical therapy would be involved in recovery? More than that, what is the emotional toll that takes on a man who once commanded men in battle to know he may not be “whole” again?
Add other layers of his wife, Hope Shane, who’s not willing to let go of their marriage without a fight and a human trafficking story she’s chasing as an investigative reporter. Research about sex trafficking, post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical therapy served to form the characters from their mannerisms to their reactions in every scene.
There’s a saying that goes, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” That holds true for the story of Michael Cedars and Hope Shane. I felt their pain, their frustration, their fear, and their hope with every rewrite and each word. In order to create fully fleshed out characters that readers will not only cheer for, but also cry for, an author must make them flawed in a way that is believable and forgivable. Human beings aren’t perfect. Neither are heroes. Maybe that’s why heroes are held to a high standard. We know they are mere humans, but they do things for the sake of justice or love that others wouldn’t dare.
Reckless Endangerment Blurb
Sometimes heroes fall and take the ones they love down with them. Colonel Michael Cedars and reporter Hope Shane fell in love in a war zone, but then the world blew up, and splintered their lives in two.
Michael Cedars returns home from Afghanistan wounded and unsure where he fits in this ‘new normal’ of civilian life. Unsure if he’ll walk again, he questions his abilities as a man, husband, and father. Accustomed to giving orders, he’s thrown into a world where he doesn’t know the rules anymore and no one is respecting the officer in the room.
Hope isn’t one who gives up easily—not on her marriage and not on the innocent victims of a human trafficking ring she’s investigating. As the danger of her story intensifies, she struggles with her own post-traumatic stress disorder and a husband who resists her love.
Danger intensifies as Hope searches for truth and justice. Everyone she loves is at risk. Will her reckless pursuit of the human trafficking ring jeopardize their lives?
Michael knows she needs him, but doubts his ability to be the hero she still believes him to be. Is he still the man she married or has he become a liability that could get her killed?
“I’m sick of not having a say in what I do or don’t do. You can’t do this. Just because I’m trapped in this chair doesn’t mean I don’t have a say about my life and I want you out of it. Get the hell out and leave me alone. I don’t want to be married to you and, unless something’s changed in the good ol’ USA, you can’t stop me from divorcing you. Listen closely, babe. I. Don’t. Want. You.”
Rage consumed him. Rage for what could have been, what should have been, for a life lost. Rage for everyone acting like he had no rights anymore, like he couldn’t make his own decisions. He tossed the wedding ring and pictures across the room.
Looking horrified, she covered her mouth with her hands and walked to where the frames smashed against the floor. As she bent, her bag spilled, contents ranging from liquid soap to a flashlight scattered across the tile. She fell to her knees, hands shaking as she scooped up the items. Broken glass crunched beneath her. Hair shielded her face from view, but he knew she cried.
He remembered another time with her on her knees when that bag had saved his sanity. Bombs had rocked the walls. Blood had dripped into his eyes. Dizziness weakened his legs. From that bag, she’d retrieved bandages, protein bars, and bottles of water. He had thanked God for her and that oversized bag.
“I’ll make sure I call next time,” she said in rushed, quiet voice, “wouldn’t want to inconvenience you.”
“I’m sorry.” He dropped his hands to the arms of the chair and stared at her bent head. “I don’t know how to handle any of this anymore, Hope, especially you.”
She froze at his words. “Especially me, huh? I’m the one constant in your life, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Despite all the bullshit, here I am. Me, stupid me, still needing you as much today as I did a year ago.”
His chest caved in at the sight of her eyes glistening with tears. He wanted to take it back, every word.
“I don’t know how to do this, how to be married, how to be back in the States, how to be a civilian again, how not to walk,” he admitted.
“You break my heart,” she whispered.
“How could I possibly break your heart?”
“By not seeing how strong you are, how much you mean to everyone in your life, how worthy you are to be alive, how heroic you’ve been, how much I love you.”
“Maybe I need to stop trying to hold on. Maybe you’re right.” Sighing, her shoulders slumped. “We were this close,” she held her fingers an inch apart, “to having a life together when everything blew up in our faces. Literally. What else do I have to lose, right? I already lost my dignity when I begged those damn bureaucrats to let me see you in Germany. And when I say begged, I mean I begged, pleaded, bartered, whatever I could possibly say or do to get in and they told me that you,” she pointed at him, “said no, you told them I lied about being married to you. McGee backed you up. I looked like a fool and a liar.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Now you’re doing it again, denying me. You’d rather sit in this place alone than admit to the world that I’m your wife. It’s true.” She nodded, gaze gluing him in place. “I gave up my everything for you. My life. My pride. My dignity. I gave it all up for you.”
“Why?” he choked out the question. “I did everything to get you to let me go. I don’t want you to give up anything for me; can’t you see that? You were born to be in the spotlight, dodging bullets, charming your way into and out of trouble. I’m an anchor to you now; you know it but refuse to admit it. I want you to forget me. Why won’t you let me go?”
She closed her eyes, face tilted toward the ceiling. “Because maybe I went crazy over there. Maybe we weren’t this close,” again with the fingers, “to having a life together. Maybe we were already there. Maybe it wasn’t conventional, but it was real, it was us. Maybe I misunderstood sex for more. Maybe I thought that our wedding meant as much to you as it did to me. Maybe I’m the biggest fool to walk planet earth.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Nodding, she looked away and brushed the back of her hand over her eyes. “And I’m too shallow to be the person you need, right? Too superficial? I know the truth. I know that you should be capable of limited mobility, that you are not trapped in that chair, that you have sensations in your right leg and have even managed to stand for a brief period of time here and there. Didn’t you think I’d do some research on your injuries? I may have kept my distance, but I have a knack for getting people to talk to me, remember? Yes, you’re in a wheelchair, but your situation isn’t hopeless. You’re the one who gave up, but for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s not like you. You’re a goddamn colonel in the Marine Corps. You don’t surrender, so what’s going on with you?”
Her words stung. He had heard them for months now and he didn’t know the answer. He couldn’t explain anything to anyone, not even himself.
About the Author
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of both nonfiction and fiction. She spent years working in journalism and advertising with a brief detour into the financial sector. She has three published romantic suspense novels—”Kiss Me Slowly”, “Riptide”, and “Reckless Endangerment”—and a contemporary romance novella, “Anonymity.” Her memoir about surviving the suicide of loved one, “Free Fall”, published in September 2013.
Easton is also an editor and professional speaker. Links to radio interviews can be located on her website, http://amberleaeaston.com, and her videos about romance writing have been showcased internationally on the Writers and Authors television network.
Easton currently lives with her two teenagers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. She gives thanks daily for the view outside her window and healthy children. As long as she’s writing, she considers herself to be simply “a lucky lady liv’n the dream.”
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