Disclaimer: This is an 18+ book with erotic BDSM scenes and explicit language.
Can two dark souls ever make a light?
As president of her own distribution company, Julie Dawson has all she ever wanted — money, power, and respect. But her carefully crafted façade conceals a torment of abuse and helplessness. After years remaining emotionally aloof, she is finally independent, but alone. Because she refuses to rely on anyone but herself ever again.
Evan Adams is no stranger to success, or personal demons. The horrific trauma that destroyed his twin sister, and tore his family apart, forced him to craft a new life from the ashes of the old. He’s content enough, focusing ahead and not dwelling on his murky past. But something important is missing. He knows what that thing is but refuses to acknowledge it.
When a chance encounter brings these two strong-willed but damaged people together , what seems like a long, erotic journey through hell could lead them to a match made in heaven.
A coming of age novel about trust…on the long road to love.
Giveaway information. Just leave a comment and an email address and you are entered. Good Luck!
Grand Prize: Paperwhite Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008GEKXUO/ref=fs_cl)
1st Prize: Signed set of first 6 books (Includes all books in the series *except for* Mutual Release)
2nd Prize: boxed set of first 3 Stewart Realty ebooks (Floor Time, Sweat Equity, Closing Costs)
3rd Prize: Zazzle store Stewart swag pack (including canvas tote bag, mug, t-shirt, keychain)
Monday dawned bright, clear, and cold, even for an October morning. Evan ran his usual route around the west side of his newly adopted town, relishing how strong he felt and looking forward to his workday – the one where he had a tight grip on his own destiny for a change. After a long hot shower, two huge cups of coffee, and an apple, he grabbed his presentation thumb drive and laptop and headed out.
One of the things he’d inherited from his father was a love of classic English cars. He had sold two of the three Jags, kept his favorite and bought an MG Spyder, not giving a shit at how much it cost to keep the damn thing running properly. As he sped in his sports car across Interstate 96 on his way to the far-flung Northern Detroit suburbs to sweet talk, finagle, and wow the big-time distributor, he was on top of his own personal mountain. Nothing would spoil the day. He refused to allow it.
He pulled into a visitor’s parking spot, tucked his Ray-Bans over the visor, and smoothed his hair before jumping out and striding to the glass front doors. “Dawson” was etched in the glass, nothing more or less, as if it were a boutique law firm or ad agency. Nothing out front indicated that it was one of the most successful craft beer and domestic wine distribution companies in the Midwest.
Tucking away a shiver of intimidation, he pushed the door open and saw a small shrine to Michigan craft beer. The front receiving area was full of faux six packs, cases, kegs, and displays representing every brand, including some that were nationally known. A single desk sat near another set of doors. Through its clear glass he could see a bustling group of people, men and women, all dressed in top-notch suits, getting ready to go out on their sales day. The place oozed professionalism, even a bit of snootiness that surprised him.
But he shook it off, walked up to the stunningly attractive blond woman at the front desk. She sat frowning at a large computer screen. He stood for a few seconds, thinking she would acknowledge him. Finally he had to clear his throat to make her look away from whatever had her mesmerized.
“Oh, hello. Sorry about that.” Her smile made her already gorgeous face light up and left him slightly breathless. Looking back, he figured he must have looked like a complete ass as he stood there, unable to form coherent words, his brain awash in sensations he had not allowed himself to experience in a damn long time. She arched one perfect eyebrow. He gulped, knowing he should say something.
“Uh, so, I have an appointment?” He winced at the upturning of his sentence as if he were asking her a question. Clearing his throat, he started over, pasted on his best “Evan Adams, Charmer” smile and held out a hand. “Evan Adams, owner of Big House Brewing in Ann Arbor, here to see Mr. Dawson. I’m a little early.”
She tilted her head, then shook his hand matter-of-factly. But he had to stop himself from stumbling backwards at the thoughts coiling up in his lizard brain at her touch. His mouth dried out and an odd yet familiar roaring sound fired up between his ears. She frowned. “You okay, there, Evan?” Her lips caressed his name, making him repress a shiver.
“Yeah, sorry. So, anyway, I’ll just sit… over here… until Mr. Dawson is ready. You know, since I’m, uh, early.” He winced, marveling at the depth of his dorkiness. She put her elbows on the desk, eyeing him closely. He observed that she seemed a little overdressed for a receptionist but figured this place must have a strict dress code.
“Sit here,” she said, patting the seat nearest her desk. “Keep me company for a while.”
“Um, sure,” he said, flushing red to the tips of his ears, then moving closer to her while trying to look cool, casual, not ready to jump up and escape.
She smiled. “So, tell me about your company. You know, while we wait for Mr. Dawson.”
He relaxed and launched into the tale, thankful to have a reason to talk and not sound like the world’s oldest high school geek trying to flirt with the prom queen. She asked a lot of questions, kept him talking. And after about a half hour, he was laughing with her at his tale of trying to empty a brewing vessel full of wet grains and dumping about ten pounds of the stuff all over himself.
At one point she brushed her hair back, and his breath caught in his throat at the glimpse of her long neck and the small indent between her collarbones. He had no idea what that was, that soft spot that seemed to pulse with her heartbeat. But he wanted to put his tongue there very, very badly. Allowing his eyes to flicker over her profile, the striking angles of her face, he gulped, looked away.
Getting a grip, he pulled a business card from his portfolio and handed it to her. “I’d love to talk with you more,” he said, trying to ease his voice down from its high-pitched nervous whine to a sexier, more natural tone. “But since I don’t even know your name…” He looked at the nameplate on the desk. It was blank.
She leaned back, propped her high heels on the desk in a strange move that had him instantly on edge and practically panting with horniness.
“Uh, so,” he glanced at his watch, his nerves dancing up and down his spine once more, “if you are interested, maybe we could, you know, go out. Have a beer? Keep chatting?” He closed his eyes, unable to bear his own flop sweat another minute. “Never mind.” He slumped back in his seat. Where the “Master Dom” Evan Adams had hidden he did not know, but damned if the guy was staying there and leaving this ridiculous, stuttering loser in his place.
The silence spun out about a minute longer than was truly polite. He finally looked up at her. She was staring at him over the tops of her shoes, her head tilted to the side as if wondering why the hell he was even cluttering up her space. Finally, the doors to his left opened and a tall, good-looking guy in a suit stood there, surprise clear on his face. “Julie,” he said. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Your nine o’clock appointment isn’t here yet but…”
The woman held up a hand, silencing the man but keeping her eyes pinned on Evan’s. His heart sped up and that familiar, yet nearly forgotten, roaring sound started up in his ears once more.
Julie Dawson. J. Dawson. The person he’d been communicating with through his… or her… secretary.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
He stood, furious that she’d sat there and let him babble on like a bloody idiot for nearly forty-five minutes. “Well, that was fun,” he said, staring her down, or attempting to. But his skin was both on fire and cold at once. Something about the woman made him have to hang on to his laptop case tight, just to keep from stepping close and kissing those full red lips so hard she would be his in an instant. “Or not. Thanks for your time.”
“No, no, don’t go,” she said, getting to her feet in one fluid, sexy move. She was over six feet tall in her shoes, curvy, womanly, and sending out the sort of signals he had not intercepted in a long time – too long, if the way he was overreacting was any indication. “Really, I want to know why you think my company would be in any way interested in yours.”
He processed her barb, clenched his jaw, and poured out the reasons behind why Dawson would benefit from jumping on his bandwagon now, in the early days, so they could grow the brand in a key market together. She listened, standing behind the stupid receptionist’s desk, her assistant wildly typing notes on his tablet.
Finally, she held up a hand again. “How very… creative.” She walked around to the front of the desk, giving him an eye-popping full view of her. She was like sex on two perfect female legs, the exact body type he craved – full breasts and hips, cinched in but not obnoxiously small waist, long hair, and legs that went on and on… and on. “And, um, Evan?”
He jumped back, hearing his name again.
“Yeah, my eyes are up here. But never mind. I’m used to being ogled, and by way more successful brewery owners than you.” She held his business card between thumb and forefinger, as if it were made of dog shit. “Tell you what, why don’t you let me ponder your… proposal. And assume that your eye-fucking session won’t happen again.”
She turned from him and walked away without a word. Her assistant shrugged and followed her back in, leaving Evan breathless, furious, and never more aware of his neglected libido.
I’ve been accused of putting my characters through hell to get them where they need to be. And I won’t deny it.
While I am a well-documented “pantser” when I go into a project I pretty much know what’s going to happen by the end—somehow. And it is not always an easy journey, for me as the author or my characters. Just ask anyone who has read Essence of Time (that one still stings me, and I made it happen.)
So when I started pondering the lives of Evan Adams and Julie Dawson, the protagonists of my latest novel, MUTUAL RELEASE, I wanted to show the experiences that defined them, that made them exactly what they were by the time they meet in their thirties, to have molded them in such a way to make it simultaneously a perfect match while also a nearly impossible one. Both of their stories begin in their teens.
Julie has been abused on many levels, first as a teenage girl then as a college student, as she learns about what she comes to call her “power.” By the time she emerges from the final insult to her person she is a very strong, independently minded and some would claim bitchy and stubborn woman. Not that you will blame her I don’t think. Her issues, while horrible, are overcome—by her and no one else. And I wanted to use her to show how strong female lead characters while not always “likeable” are certainly “relate-able.” You will cheer for this lady, trust me, even as you may groan at some of the ways she uses her power over men.
As for Evan, his character has many dark layers that he works through trying to find his way first a teenager in a more or less normally dysfunctional home, then coping with the addition of a family member when his mother takes on the son of a friend of hers as a ward. Damian Slate defines Evan in so many ways, even he doesn’t realize it until very late in his life—when it’s almost too late to salvage what he has with Julie.
This book has strong BDSM and Dom/sub elements but I use them to say something about the psychology of my characters, not just about their sexual preferences. I use it to display how many men (and women) revert to their very basic, possessive nature when confronted with a member of the opposite sex who compels them in ways they have never felt before. But the sum total of their experiences allows them to open up, to gain pleasure through pain, or trust through a ripping away of emotional walls. Acts that may be challenging if not impossible for people who’ve been through what these two have up until the point they finally admit their mutual need for each other.
I hope you enjoy Mutual Release. It is the 7th book of the popular Stewart Realty series but is written as a stand alone. But fair warning: you may be compelled to go read the rest of them to get all the “other stories” hinted at throughout Evan and Julie’s.
*sigh* As most people know, I don’t talk about certain characters in books unless I’m extremely passionate about them. Yes, I talk about them in the review but never do I declare “this hero is mine so back off bitches” like some people I know. Nor, have I ever said that I have a book boyfriend. I do have a book husband and if you knew one fact about me, he is in my all time favorite book. 🙂 All that said, I’m admitting that I do have a book boyfriend and he’s Evan, so back off bitches. LOL! Seriously, back off.
I admit that I felt a little pervy when I first met him as a teenager. As a teenager, he finds himself in the reality of the Dom lifestyle only to find the dark side of the lifestyle early on his life. It teaches him to learn control, how to be a better Dom and come on, he will switch when the right Domme comes along. For me, that’s definitely swoon worthy. Oh…I want to shoot Damien but as with every Liz book, he is a major point and pain in the ass for Evan. But what really sealed it for me was reading the beginnings of his friendship with Jack Gordon. Those two are some of the best friends that I have had the pleasure of getting to know. I “meet” Evan early on in the series but to read how it started was a delight. Plus, come on, we get some Jack, too.
Julie had to be one of the most tortured but strongest characters that Ms. Crowe has ever written. I cried for her early on and prayed to the Kindle Gods that she would find her HEA with Evan. It was a long road for her so to see her walls crack with Evan was inspiring to me. Yes, inspiring. Someone that had to endure an unspeakable childhood that Julie had to find happiness and true balance in her life is inspiring. Not everyone can be a hardass all the time. Its too draining and emotional crippling and Julie was an emotional wreck when she meets Evan. Her growth in the book was terrific and I tip my keyboard to Ms. Crowe. I didn’t find her bitchy at all Liz. That was just her personality and how she coped in her life. 🙂 In fact, she and I would probably be friends.
All of that said, if I had one small, tiny, whimper of a problem with the book was that I wished that instead of the chapters broken up with different chapters from the characters in the beginning, that maybe they would have been mirrored, but hey, that’s just my taste. I got so totally invested in Evan’s story and then without a breather, its Julie’s story. Julie’s story was completely emotionally draining for me and that’s why I cheered for her the most in the book. For me, Julie had the most to gain and lose in the book.
If you have never read Liz Crowe, you are truly missing out on a fantastic author that can take a character, give them some really difficult and sometimes painfully awful experiences and write them so beautifully that you will cry, laugh and again, pray to the Kindle Gods that it will work out. The journey is hard but in Ms. Crowe’s hands…its well worth it.
Oh and don’t worry that you have to read the entire series before this one…you don’t but you will when you meet Mr. Gordon. 🙂
Microbrewery owner, best-selling author, beer blogger and journalist, mom of three teenagers, and soccer fan, Liz lives in the great Midwest, in a major college town. Years of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as an ex-pat trailing spouse, plus making her way in a world of men (i.e. the beer industry), has prepped her for life as erotic romance author.
When she isn’t sweating inventory and sales figures for the brewery, she can be found writing, editing or sweating promotional efforts for her latest publications.
Her groundbreaking romance subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” has gained thousands of fans and followers who are interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”)
Her beer blog a2beerwench.com is nationally recognized for its insider yet outsider views on the craft beer industry. Her books are set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch and in high-powered real estate offices. Don’t ask her for anything “like” a Budweiser or risk painful injury.