Play the ‘What-if’ Game with @MonaKarel #romance #suspense #ptsd

Did you notice? We’re deviating from our normal posting schedule because there’s a series out there I want to put on your radar–Mona Karel’s Stormhaven novels. Instead of listening to me go on and on about them, I’m going to let Mona share. (*hands mic over to Mona with small flourish*)

We writers are frequently asked where in the world do we find those story ideas. We generally shrug as if we are as mystified as the person asking. Actually, it’s more a matter of how can we choose which story idea to develop. When someone else sees gorgeous clouds boiling up behind the trees, we see invading space ships. You don’t? Oops…I do.

So when I read in a book by one of my favorite authors about a ranch in the Southwest where the ex-soldier brother of the ranch manager would be welcome as long as he wasn’t negatively affected by his experiences “because we can’t run a halfway house for out of control men” (paraphrasing very much here) I had to ask myself “Why not?” That idea stuck in the back of my creativity until one day it glued itself onto the story of the daughter of a mercenary who meets a burned out soldier, and they end up at Stormhaven.

Stormhaven, a ranch in Northern New Mexico welcoming those battered by life, not quite ready to face the real world. A sort of stopping off place where men could take a deep breath of high country air, and busy themselves with open spaces, hard work, and pragmatic support.

Enter Devin Starke, former Special Forces, former Mercenary, a man who believes he has no soul left to save. His partner and best friend, Ty Randolph, made the grave error of marrying someone he should not have trusted. When she left she took his favorite horse along with the truck and trailer to haul him. He really wants that horse back.

It turns out the horse is with his ex-wife’s sister Sydney. Devin goes to Los Angeles to help her return the horse, and the story begins:

She knew that walk. With a slight hesitation in one leg, he prowled like a wounded predator, conditioned to succeed against the most dangerous game of all. Even limping, his reactions would be instantaneous, his balance superior. By itself, his body would be a weapon. He’d be the best man to have on your side in a battle. After the battle, he’d unwind with a drink and a woman. The drink would be strong and straight. The woman would be bosomy and not too bright. He’d very likely spend more time with the drink than the woman.

Sydney Castleton let her mind drift through bitter thoughts and buried memories as she waited for the man who proclaimed danger with every step he took toward her. He was no different from the men who’d worked with her father: soldiers of fortune, whose luck could run out at any minute.

What trouble had her sister gotten her into this time?


Devin shares his first impression of this woman he’ll be spending time with:

When he’d questioned her invitation, Sydney had looked annoyed, a flush highlighting her cheeks while she narrowed her eyes at him. Didn’t she know she was too cute to boss anyone around? A strand of hair brushed her cheek and her mouth primmed up, daring him to kiss it soft. Damn, he’d been on the ranch too long.


Yeah, Devin starts out as a condescending jerk, but he gets over that…eventually. It does take a while to overcome years of conditioning, for both of them. The ending is not precisely HEA, but definitely HFN: Happily For Now and (eventually) Forever. That would probably be HFNF, which kind of looks like a super virus.

At any rate, Devin and Sydney continue on in the next (so far) two books. A Question of Faith brings Ty Randolph, embittered by his first wife choices, in touch with Rosalind Summerton, who is as emotionally wounded as she is beautiful. Ty no longer trusts beautiful. Rosalind is also quick witted and smart mouthed. As when she explains her basic philosophy on relationships, along with a comment on his marriage:

            “You’ve never lost it all for a man?”

            “Couldn’t see the reason to lose it all for a man. Could see wanting to share your life with someone, could see building something better from combining two lives than either side of the equation. Could never see forcing the issue. If it was meant to be, then it happened.”

            “If it didn’t happen easily it wasn’t meant?”

            “Not really. If it’s worth happening it’s definitely worth working toward and putting a lot of effort into. But if two pieces of a puzzle aren’t meant to fit together getting out a hammer to force the issue isn’t the answer.”

            “What about trimming the edges so the pieces fit?”

            “Forcing the fit? Nope, could never see that eithert. Woman meets a man, he’s perfect except maybe he doesn’t go to the opera or would rather watch football than go for a walk with her. He’s not perfect, he’s not Mr. Right he’s just Mr Right Now, Mr. Almost Good Enough, Mr. I Can Fix This if I Try. If he’s the right man, he’ll want to make her happy and if going to the opera makes her happy, presto bingo, they go to the opera. Not every weekend, sometimes she goes by herself. Sometimes she watches football with him and sometimes she goes for a walk on her own. Because they are or should be two complete people who are better for being together, not two disparate beings who can’t function without being joined at the hip.”

            “So not having found this ideal male who chooses to go to the opera with you, you’ve remained single?”

            “Got it in one. Single, and not ragging on my husband or boyfriend or, heaven help me ‘life partner’ with my girl friends every time his back is turned. You were married, you must have figured out some of this on your own.”

            He released her wrist, reached for his coffee. Took a long sip while his eyes never wavered watching her. “I’m coming to think my marriage was as much a mystery to her as it was to me.”

            “Thus proving out a long held belief of mine.”

            “Which is?”

            “Readers should never marry non-readers. It’s a recipe for disaster nearly every time.”


 Ty’s former wife read books to escape from her life, or so he thought. Oh, and did I mention Rosalind is a writer. Aren’t relationships fun?

Bringing me to my next ‘what if’ which is what if Ty’s first wife Lana is not an unscrupulous bitch, she just wants the world to believe she is. What would be important enough for her to be willing to allow her character to be so maligned? And why did she steal Ty’s horse….or did she? A Question of Trust is ready for (gulp) edits, then off it goes to Black Opal Books.

Bet you want to go check them out now, uh? Yeah, I thought so.  Here, let me help you find them, all you have to do is click:


Feel free to share this lovely series far and wide! Don’t be surprised to see Mona appear in my Read-Interview-Review (RIR) series at a later date! Until then, this should tie you over until A Question of Trust hit shelves! Happy reading!

You can find Mona at her web home:

Posted in New Authors & Reads, Writing and tagged , , .


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