I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A woman struggling to find her way after the end of her marriage and an FBI agent who struggles to be a single father come together to find friendship and love once more as they try to find balance in the bicoastal romance novel “Awake” by Lisa Battalia, the first book in A Midlife Romance series.
Awake begins in the shame and pain of a marital desertion. Lori is reluctant to let Brandon into her life, afraid to be hurt again. Once she opens that door wider, Lori experiences an explosive awakening. With Brandon’s help, Lori rediscovers her sexual power and, through that, confidence and hope. Yet three-thousand miles separate suburban Maryland and Seattle. Their intense but infrequent visits are disorienting, particularly as Lori feels pressured towards a more suitable post-divorce life. When Lori makes an impulsive decision to take her kids on a trip to Seattle, she sparks a chain of conflicts that might end their still-precarious romance.
This was a truly heated and engaging erotic romance novel. The author did an incredible job of capturing the passion and emotional atmosphere that brews between this new couple. The reality of life after divorce or being a single parent was explored thoroughly here and added a level of tension that spoke to the growing relationship between the protagonists.
The heart of this novel was the character relationships that this cast had with one another, as well as the detailed level of romance that the author poured into this narrative. The way each protagonist helped push the other both physically and emotionally after their various hardships were great to see come to fruition, and added a new level of depth to the more erotic moments between them. The theme explored by the author showcased how such passion and romance aren’t reserved strictly for the young but can come at any age, and life doesn’t always begin right out of high school or college, but much later in life.
Emotional, thoughtful, and heartfelt, author Lisa Battalia’s “Awake” is the perfect erotic romance novel and a great beginning entry into the Midlife Romance series. The emotional weight of that romance as the characters try to find a way of staying connected and their passionate encounters grow into something more made this a brilliant story to behold. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
Lisa Battalia is an attorney in the field of gender equity and a writer. She is the mother of two newly launched young adults; a lifelong east-coaster who recently launched her own new life on Whidbey Island, WA.
Her other novels and short stories can be found at www.lisabattalia.com.
Instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/lisabattalia/
Here is an Excerept from “Awake”
Lori woke, uncertain of the time, in exactly the same position. Brandon was curled around her from behind, still holding her tight. She listened to his steady breath and could feel it blow softly across her shoulder. Tears welled again. When had she last spent the whole night, any part of the night, tucked into someone’s arms?
Lori reluctantly extracted herself, though, because she really needed to pee. She climbed awkwardly over Brandon to get to the open side of the bed. Thankfully, a couple of candles remained lit, and she made her way through the unfamiliar room and into the hallway. She could see through to the living room dimly lit by the glow of street lights, and she noticed Brandon’s t-shirt on the floor.
She went and pulled it on. Passing over her nose, she breathed deeply to smell his smell, just like she used to do with her kids’ clothing. A stolen snuffle as she gathered up miniature shirts and jeans and sundresses, hoping in those whiffs of sweat, spilled food, and grass stains, that she might catch hold of their fleeting joys. Brandon’s scent was different, still familiar, the aroma of deep compatibility. She wondered if smell could reveal such a thing? Her nose detected a trace of Brandon’s cologne, woodsy, leathery, sensual, something almost animal- like that she remembered well. It felt intoxicating that he was so near.
On route back to the bedroom, Lori took a quick glance at her phone to make sure there were no texts from the kids.
Jeanette was inviting her to see a movie. Lori would have to make up an excuse. It was three in the morning, she noted, six in the morning east coast time. That seemed to trigger her appetite, and Lori poked through Brandon’s refrigerator. She spotted a container of Greek yogurt. After several wrong picks, she found the drawer with the silverware, leaned against the countertop, removed the cover, and, half-aware, started to eat. It seemed a sudden recognition, her bare feet starting to feel the cold of the floor, she was three thousand miles away from her kids, just slept in a man’s bed, not her husband, a strange bed, but one that felt, well, kind of like home.
Brandon appeared then as a shadow at the kitchen entrance. He turned on the light. When she flinched, he quickly adjusted the dimmer. He was as naked as in bed, yet she felt like she was seeing all of him for the first time. When they were young, Brandon was tall and very thin. Clearly, he worked out—just the right amount. Not over the top muscles like some boys gave themselves, looking awkward and bulky, arms so thick they no longer rested comfortably against their bodies.
She appraised Brandon, trying not to look obvious, the sculpted shoulders and biceps; slim and strong-muscled legs, relaxed at the moment; a well-defined stomach, no six-pack. Still, there were indents in all the right places, highlighting musculature and triangulating his sweet spot, which, with a quick peek, revealed a three-quarters-erect penis.
“What you lookin’ at?” Brandon asked, smirking.
“I’ll assume that’s a rhetorical question.”
He laughed softly, such a warm, cozy sound in the dark,
early morning. “Have you been up long?” He walked over, tipped up her face, and kissed her on the nose.
“No, just a few minutes. I was suddenly wide awake and hungry.”
“Jet lag can be tough, and we forgot to eat.” Glancing at the yogurt in her hand, he said, “you probably need something more than that.”
“I just wanted a little something. This is perfect. It’s my favorite brand.” Lori took another bite. “Want some?”
She scooped up a spoonful and fed it to him.
“You look good in my shirt, by the way, very sexy.” Brandon’s mouth was half full, so the words sounded slightly garbled and sweeter.
Lori gave a twirl to acknowledge his compliment, then made a slight curtsy, pulling out the bottom hem. With her bowed head, she could see that her legs were still shapely, bare skin extending down from where the bottom of the shirt hit high on her thighs. She was frowning, though, when she looked back up.
“Peter hated when I wore his clothes.”
“God knows. I told him I did it to look sexy. He said he
didn’t like other people touching his stuff.”
“Wow. Okay.” Brandon leaned back against the countertop
so that they were side by side. “Were you thinking about him right now? About home?”
“Actually, I was thinking about how strange it feels to be so comfortable here, with you, in your bed.”
“It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other or even talked. Our “real” lives, our grown-up lives, happened apart. I thought you’d feel like someone I don’t know.“ She glanced sideways, catching his eye. “You don’t.”
“That’s the thing about us,” Brandon said as he put an arm around her. “We knew each other before we started making up shit, before we did all the stuff that was expected of us.” He touched her cheek and turned her face back to him. “I bet I know the real Lori, the one maybe no one else sees.”
“That’s interesting,” she said, shifting from his gaze, “because I’m not sure I know who Lori is anymore.”
“You knew back then.”
“Did I?” She looked at him again fiercely. “I can’t remember it at all.”
“You were so smart, Lori. You were gonna save the world.”
“Wow. Should that make me laugh or cry?” Lori turned away. “It’s funny; I always felt most alive when you and I were fighting some cause, being big fat pains in the world’s ass. In the end, though, you scared me.”
“What? How?” He backed off the counter so he could regard her directly.
“You were uncompromising,” she said, “and restless. I was afraid where you would take me.”
Brandon gazed at her, not understanding.
“I guess I wanted my fights to be manageable, family- friendly affairs.” Lori smiled, even as she shook her head. She’d never quite put those old feelings into words before. “Instead, I’ve managed myself into, what? Boredom? Irrelevance? I don’t want to sound melodramatic. I just don’t feel like there’s much left that’s me anymore.”
“You’re an attorney. You went to one of the best law schools in the country.”
“Yeah. My point exactly. I can hardly call myself a professional these days.”
“Stop that. Education doesn’t just fade away, not unless you let it. You’re a mother too. That’s the most important job, even if our hypocritical society only pays it lip service.” Brandon lifted her chin, forced her to look at him.
“You’re right. Being a mom has been my greatest happiness,” Lori paused, “and my undoing.” She looked down again, and went back to a silent place. After a few moments, she spoke to him with puzzlement. “I still can’t believe you have a kid. You were so adamant you didn’t want that.”
“I surprised myself,” Brandon said, leaning back again against the counter. “I think the reason I said those things was because I was afraid. My parents weren’t great role models. I didn’t want to repeat their mistakes.”
“Our kids will say that about us one day; you know that, right?”
Brandon laughed. “It’s true.” He paused as if to elicit a memory. “One day, I’m sure it was more gradual than that; I only remember waking to a sudden, overwhelming need to have a child. It felt like the most important thing, more important than having a wife, though one kind of went with the other.”
“Is that why you married Jocelyn?”
“It was a big part of it. She and I were on and off again for so many years. We either had to break up for good or get married. Never the best circumstances to say, ‘I do.’ Of course, you were already taken.”
“Were you ever happy as a couple?”
Brandon gave a tired sigh. “Yeah. Maybe. Sometimes. Let’s save that conversation for daylight. Do you think you can sleep a little more?”
“I think so.”
“I’ll take you out for coffee in the morning. Have you heard we have a very intense relationship with our coffee in Seattle?”
“I’ve heard something about that.”
The brief banter made Lori feel light on her feet and sleepy. She followed him back to the bedroom. Brandon lifted the covers, climbed in after her, tucked her shoulders inside his own, her head under his chin. Lori was sure she must have tossed and turned, as she often did. Brandon was still holding her just as faithfully when they woke.
How did you do research for your book?
A: In the bedroom LOL. I wanted to write a romance where a sexual awakening was a key driver of the character’s emotional growth and newfound self-confidence. That meant writing explicit scenes. One of the most challenging aspects was imagining and writing scenes that were “real” and still sexy; and, since there were multiple scenes, that each remained fresh and exciting without resorting to the outlandish.
Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
A: In addition to my novels, I have written a handful of short stories. The inspiration is often my own life, but the stories are never about me. For example, “The Gift,” involves an adoption triad. In fact, my children are adopted; and I have a joyful and loving relationship with each of their birth mothers but the story is not mine but belongs to the characters that I have created.
There are many books out there about….What makes yours different?
A: In particular, there are a lot of romance books out there; as well as reader’s expectations for books in that genre. That doesn’t mean you can’t expand and challenge readers—particularly if that lets you invite in new audiences. Romance novels often neglect the experiences of women closer in age to 50 than 20; women who have to find the courage to start over in midlife; women who must fit love and romance into lives already filled with responsibilities that accrue from the “unseen” work women do.
In your book you state….why is that?
A: “I believe more is better when it comes to families.” I believe this statement reflects one side of a fundamental tension and question facing every family — particularly non-traditional families. If your family is built through adoption, or you are a family recovering from divorce, or thinking about blending families through re-marriage — it is complicated. You can say yes, or no, to new and expanded familial relationships. Do you play it safe; or embrace the complications: more connections, potentially more risk, but perhaps more joy.
Do you have another profession besides writing?
Yes, I am an attorney. I work with a collective of STEMM professional societies to help them address sexual harassment in the fields of science and medicine, and to make the fields more equitable and inclusive.
How long have you been writing?
A: For about fourteen years. I did not grow up thinking I would be a writer; it wasn’t really until I was a lawyer working for the US Department of Education that I started to consider writing as an avocation. I was drafting a lot of policy around Title IX, and that particular administration considered it our mission was to write policy for students and educators that was clear, and “real,” and helpful (not filled with government jargon). That got me thinking about writing well, to fit a purpose, as a satisfying puzzle and challenge. I stopped working for a time to raise my kids and I missed that challenge, so once they were both in school I picked up my pad and paper (well, turned on my computer).
Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?
A: I always find it hard to start a new project; the blank page is terrifying to me; and even though I know how much I will enjoy the writing when a project is underway; it is still hard for me to get started.
What is your next project?
A: My big brother, who was my best friend, took his own life about a year ago. I feel like my next project will somehow be related to that experience of loss and grief; the impact of suicide on a family…. For me writing is a wonderful, creative activity, but also an opportunity to figure sh** out.
What genre do you write and why?
A: I have written a “young adult” novel, The Warming Season; and A Midlife Romance falls in the romance genre. I like that a genre provides a frame or structure to work within, yet gives you plenty of room to make it your own.
What is the last great book you’ve read?
A: I am listening to Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, a book I read a long time ago and thought was one of the best books I had read; we are reading for book club so I’m getting the chance to revisit why I thought so LOL. I love to read, and have lots of favorites. I recently finished The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin and loved it. I’m looking forward to reading Lessons in Chemistry.
Are you similar to or different from your lead character?
A: Both LOL
What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?
A: I have written both novels and short stories — each is different and challenging in its own way. I love the sparse precision and conciseness required of a short story but then I look forward to the pleasures of length in a novel, to have room for history and backstory; more characters; building context and texture through details; building the arc of a story through individual scenes that feel fluid and necessary. The reward, honestly, comes from reader reviews — a reader you don’t know and might never meet — but who enjoys your story and feels it resonates.
In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?
A: Not for the faint of heart; It takes courage and resilience.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?
A: Read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic”
Which authors inspired you to write?
A: Elizabeth Strout; Elizabeth Gilbert; Ann Pachett
Do you write every day?
A: Once I’m in a project, yes. I would like to get better at writing everyday, just for fun and discipline.
In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?
A: I wonder about this — it’s hard for me to imagine writing a book on pen and paper — my handwriting is sloppy and hard to read and it gets tiring, and yet I’ve read that using a computer allows a writer to get sloppy with the writing — if something feels off, it’s easier to cut and paste than to start from scratch, which may be what is needed…..
If you’re a mom writer, how do you balance your time?
It’s not easy — you have to use the time your kids are at school; but in the end that’s not a lot of time; so you have to say no to all those volunteer requests! And not feel bad about it!
Favorite travel spot?
A: I like to travel. Period. So don’t go back to the same spot. I just took my daughter to Morocco — her birth father is Moroccan. It was so different, and eye-opening, and yet simply lovely to be traveling with my daughter.
What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?
A: After many decades living on the East Coast, and weeks after burying my brother, I drove cross-country in my Prius with my 24 year old son for company, my brother’s dog, and my cat, to start a new life in Whidbey Island, WA. When I bought the Whidbey house several years ago, I was dating a man and thought we would be starting a life together there. He is no longer in my life, but I made the move and feel grateful to have been welcomed by the Island, and proud to have built a community, friends, and — after the disruption of divorce — a place my kids call home.
If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?
A: My life, like everyone else’s, has proven enormously challenging. I struggled with years of infertility treatment; was abandoned after 20 years of marriage; shepherded one kid through addiction and treatment, another through severe dyslexia; I am still grieving my brother’s suicide. But always — doors have opened: the joy of adoption, the beauty of rebuilding a life out of the dreams I thought lost; to witness the courage in my son’s sobriety and my daughter’s resilience; recommitting to a family in need of healing. Remember to look for the openings….
What TV series are you currently binge watching?
A: Bad Sisters — love it! Dead to Me with my daughter. We love to snuggle and binge together.
What is your favorite thing to do in (current season)?
Moving from summer/fall where I love to play tennis into the short, dark days of winter where I love to sit by the fire and read.
What is something that made you laugh recently?
A: I just spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my immediate, extended family of 25, including my 2 ½ yr old niece. We have a special thing going and playing hide and seek, and making towers that fall and being the tickle monster all had me at full belly laugh!
Who was your childhood celebrity crush?
A: If I tell you, I’ll give away my age LOL