Happy Friday!! I’m so happy to have Char Chaffin with me today sharing her new release, Unsafe Haven.
Welcome, Char! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from Upstate New York, married to Don, a retired Air Force man. We met in 1974, started talking classic cars and farms on our first date, and I knew he was The One. :) We have a daughter together, Sue Ann, married to John, the Son I always knew I wanted. We have a darling granddaughter, Faith, a fifteen year-old Rat Terrier named Daisy Mae who bosses us around, and we’re living on that farm we talked about, thirty-eight years ago. We even have a couple of classic cars – a ‘64 ½ Mustang and a ’66 Shelby Cobra – nestled in the barn.
Unsafe Haven sounds like a wonderful story. Is it a single title, or part of a series?
Unsafe Haven is a single-title contemporary romance. I’ve never tried my hand at a series, though I’d like to give it a shot one of these days, if I can figure out a unique way of setting it up!
What were your inspirations for the story?
Don, Sue Ann and I lived in Alaska for sixteen years. In fact, Sue Ann and John met there and still live in Fairbanks. I knew I wanted to write an Alaska-based story. The state is just so rich in contrasts. And it makes a marvelous backdrop for a love story. I first thought about setting it in Fairbanks since I know it so well, and I certainly intend to write another book about Alaska and base it where I lived. But Unsafe Haven needed something different.
Please share your setting for Unsafe Haven. What did you like most about Alaska?
Unsafe Haven is set in Southwest Alaska, in a small, remote, predominantly Native village. This region of Alaska is very sparsely populated even by Alaskan standards! Tiny villages dot along the waterways and are scattered here and there amongst low mountain ranges and tundra-rich valleys. Most of them are only accessible by bush plane. I wanted to take advantage of the utter remoteness and difficult accessibility of the region to set the stage for my story, which has our heroine, Kendall, escaping an abusive fiancé and discovering an unexpected haven in fictional Staamat. You’d think nobody would ever find her there, right? And you’d think she’d be safe. But, here’s the thing about remote Alaska: it might be difficult to get there, but it’s equally difficult to leave. If you find yourself in danger, you can’t just jump in your car – if you even have one – and drive, or take a bus out. You have to wait for a bush plane, wait for decent weather, maybe do the “milk run,” which means you sometimes hop from village to village on your way to a larger hub such as Anchorage. But the remoteness is part of the lure and beauty of Alaska. This state, more than two and a half times the size of Texas, has less than a million residents statewide. It’s simply amazing.
When did the writing bug first bite?
Well, I always liked to write, but my writing was geared more toward lengthy, chatty letters to family and friends. Don would always read them, and one day he commented that my letters sounded like little stories. So I tried writing poetry, and for a while enjoyed composing Victorian prose. Then, Don told me my poetry read like a short story, and maybe I should try writing a book. So I started playing around and before I knew it I had written a really awful novel. I’ll never free it from that closet I locked it in, but it was a start. I’ve been writing ever since.
Who are you favorite authors, book/series?
My reading interests are varied. I grew up on horror and science fiction, and inhaled authors like Ray Bradbury, Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Rice Burroughs before I left grade school behind. I had a brief love affair with Harlequin Reader Service in my teens, found Stephen King, then Dean Koontz and read all of their fabulously creepy stories. At a local auction I bid five dollars on a box of Ian Fleming when I was twelve, and discovered James Bond. ::le sigh::
In between the horror I read Harold Robbins and other naughty authors. I’ve read everything Linda Howard ever wrote. But once I read a Nora Roberts, it was all over. She’s by far my favorite author and I’ve collected all her books. Her J.D. Robb series In Death is one I make a point to re-read at least once every two years or so. And she’s still writing them! ::happy dance:: I also adore paranormal, especially when it runs to Vamps and Weres, so I also read Jacquelyn Frank, Lara Adrian, Lora Leigh, Laura Kaye, and Kerrelyn Sparks.
What is your most favorite childhood memory?
It involves my insane older brothers. I have two of them, and they’re also big horror fans. When I was barely five, one of our local TV stations used to air “Chiller Theater” every Saturday night. Think about every “B” sci-fi and horror flick ever made, and you’ll know what CT offered. My brothers would get me out of my bed, drag me downstairs, plop a bowl of popcorn in my lap, and I’d sit between them on the sofa and watch scary movies until two in the morning. Then they’d stuff me back in bed and I’d have nightmares all night. That might have been the basis for my utter love of horror!
Do you have any hobbies or special things you like to do in your spear time?
In the summer it’s veggie gardening. I plant a large garden every year and tend it, canning and freezing veggies as they ripen. This year I’m mostly concentrating on pickles, and have already canned fifteen quarts of sweet pickle chunks. I still have tons of pickling cucumbers growing and ready to pick and can. I enjoy “pond-ing” during the summer (swimming in our spring-fed pond), and in the winter I crochet. And all year long, I read like a fiend.
Boxers, brief or commando?
Hubby Don’s a Brief Man, thankfully. I usually go Commando. ::wink::
Favorite eye color?
I don’t have a fave. Don’s eyes are sky-blue, as are granddaughter Faith’s (she’s got Grandpa’s eyes!). Sue Ann’s are deep brown, mine are hazel. I love ‘em all. The characters in my book have a wide range of eye color but usually I try to stick to realistic colors. You won’t find anyone in my stories whose blue eyes turn purple when they’re excited, or whose brown eyes fade to gray when they’re grief-stricken. :)
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard or seen?
You mean, up front and personal, or on FaceBook?? Social networks are a veritable cornucopia of strange and weird. I find myself entertained hourly. I saw a man perched on a flagpole in New York Citylast year at RWA National. It kind of looked as if the flagpole was a really long extension of his sphincter, if you know what I mean. Man, that had to hurt. Other than that, I see people do strange things every day. It’s cheap entertainment, right?
For Kendall Martin, a small, remote village in Southwest Alaskaseems like a good place to start over. On the run from an abusive relationship, she leaves everything familiar behind and begins a new life as owner of a small souvenir and sportsman trading post in picturesque Staamat.
Denn Nulo knows everyone in town: he’s the Chief of Police in Staamat. He’s lived there all his life, except for his college years, spent inAnchorage. Originally planning on practicing criminal law and living in Anchorage permanently, Denn is forced to change his plans when he receives word that his widowed mother has passed away, leaving his young sister, Luna, alone. Denn comes back to Staamat to care for Luna.
When Kendall meets Denn, she begins to believe there are truly good men in the world. Denn is everything she wants: strong, loving, dedicated to family, protective. . .and patient. There is instant attraction between them, but Kendallis leery of men, and Denn craves a serious relationship that includes marriage and children. Their courtship is a conflicting mix of hesitancy and passion, with Luna, desperately needing a mother figure in her life, cheering them on.
As Kendall learns how to trust again and her romance with Denn grows more intense, a local woman who’s had her eye on Denn for years releases a torrent of damaging jealousy. . .and the nightmare from Kendall’s past discovers where she’s hidden herself.
Replete from an excellent dinner, Kendall sat on the sofa next to Denn and enjoyed the pop and hiss of banked embers in the fireplace. Since early summer evenings inAlaskacould be nippy, he’d set kindling and a single log, enough to take the chill off. A reddish glow illuminated the room and one lamp in the corner had been left on. She spotted some streaks on the low coffee table in front of the sofa. Denn must have swiped it with a dust cloth, perhaps minutes before she arrived. She found the gesture reassuring and sweet.
In the kitchen, Luna sang off-tune as she finished washing the dishes. Never had one teenage girl whined and complained so much about kitchen clean-up, but Kendall had a feeling Luna did it for her amusement. A few times Kendall caught a mischievous wink amongst all the frowns and protests Luna aimed at Denn.
Kendall leaned her head against the sofa cushion and didn’t question why she felt at ease in this house. Each sidelong glance at Denn caused her pulse to spike and his nearness alone should have alarmed her, but she’d worked hard these past few weeks to get over the knee-jerk reaction. She still had nerves, but now they were more of the anticipatory kind.
“Warm enough?” He spoke in her ear. As she’d sat dithering, he’d moved a lot closer, and now pressed against her all along one side. Wherever he touched, tingles grew.
She managed a weak nod in his direction. “The fire’s nice. I’m glad you thought of it.”
“I didn’t. Think of it, that is. Luna told me this morning romance and fires go hand in hand. I’m hoping she meant a fireplace and not your friendly neighborhood pyromaniac.” He nuzzled her ear and her tingles formed goosebumps.
“Romance?” She gulped.
Just then the house phone shrilled, making her jump and emit a faint giggle at how easily he could rattle her.
Luna yelled, “I’ll get it!”
Denn resumed nuzzling Kendall’s ear. His fingers trailed up and down her arm, the callused tips stimulating nerve endings she’d forgotten she had. She swallowed, hard.
Luna rushed in and thrust the phone at Denn. “It’s Jo. Tessie’s visiting and they want me over for game night. Can I go, please?”
He took the phone and brought it to his ear. “You’re a crazed woman, Purna. What, you don’t have enough insanity in your house already, you have to toss my simpleton sister in with the pack?” He dodged Luna’s fist and smirked at her outraged face.
He listened for a few seconds, chuffed out a laugh and gave Luna the narrowed stare of parenthood, which made Kendall want to giggle aloud. How many times had her own parents worn such a mock-forbidding expression, just to tease? Her heart clutched in bittersweet memory.
“Okay, here’s the deal.” Denn pulled the phone from his ear and turned to Luna. “You take your meds and your kit with you. You test at nine. Not nine-ten, not nine-thirty. You leave Jo’s cookie jar alone and Frank brings you home at eleven. Don’t go crazy with the dance game. I don’t want you ralphing your dinner all over Jo’s carpet.”
“I won’t puke. Jeez, it was only once, and I’d been playing Twister, not dancing.”
“Well, let’s not take any chances, okay? Now, leave my presence, Minion.” He waved her off, his nose in the air like royalty. With a shout of glee, Luna ran from the room. Denn spoke briefly with Jo and then laid the phone on a nearby end table.
“How often does she get sick from activity right after a meal?”Kendallasked.
“Not so much anymore, probably because she now uses her head once in a while instead of stuffing herself with everything in sight.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Sometimes her insulin upsets her stomach. Jo’s very careful with Luna, so I never have to worry when she’s over there. Plus, her friend Tessie is two years older and one of the most sensible teenagers I’ve ever seen. Luna worships Tessie, so she’ll be all right. I just get a kick out of riding her ass.”
“Yes, I noticed. You’re a rotten guy.”
“Don’t I know it.” He threw Kendalla snide smile.
Ten minutes later, Luna was on her way. Frank Purna had picked her up and would also bring her home. Kendall enjoyed meeting Jo’s soft-spoken husband, who had a sweet smile and a calm, placid manner. She stood in the open doorway with Denn and waved Luna off. Only after Denn closed the door, did she realize how homey and domestic her actions had been. Almost as if I live here, too.
Denn pulled her back into the living room, and at first she held onto her calm easily enough. He resettled her on the sofa, but this time, his arm encircled her shoulders. An occasional crackle from the embers in the fireplace interrupted the silence in the room. He stared into the low flames as if mesmerized. The nerves she’d conquered earlier in the evening came back to niggle at her, but not anything she couldn’t handle. Kendall made herself relax against him even as the more practical side of her brain warned her to enjoy this closeness with a lot of caution.
She knew he had questions, and she’d learned enough about him to understand his need for answers. A good cop wanted all the pieces of a puzzle, and Denn was a good cop. She didn’t blame him. But she wasn’t ready, either.
As if he read her mind and sensed her insecurities, he turned to face her and gripped her shoulders lightly. His lips formed a smile but his eyes held the kind of intensity that caused her to flush all over. Strong fingers stroked her skin, left bare by the sleeveless blouse she wore. Warm breath preceded the kiss he placed at one corner of her mouth. Reassured by his gentle advance, she raised a hand to cup his cheek. He leaned in to catch her lips in a kiss as soft as a breeze. No pressure, no demand. Just a persuasion she couldn’t resist.
So she didn’t.
The give and take of his mouth charmed her even as it seduced. She’d never been kissed with such generosity and yet swept into something promising to upend her world and leave her teetering. All this from a simple press of mouth on mouth. Then he parted her lips with one smooth movement of his, and the kiss became something else. Something wild.
Heat, sudden and shocking, when his tongue slid alongside hers. Need, new and unfamiliar, as she met his demand with a moan forming in her throat. Desire took over and left her weak. She curled her arms around his neck, wove her fingers into his hair and held on tightly. He shuddered, and his hands brought her closer, until their bodies clung. The rapid beat of his heart should have scared her, but it only served to reassure. This passionate man was also caring, giving. He wouldn’t hurt her.
Long seconds later he released her with a lingering nibble to her bottom lip. His amber eyes glowed when she stared into them. He brushed a curl from her cheek and his fingers held a tremor.
“Is this okay?” His low voice beguiled her, velvet over gravel.
“I—” She paused, blinked hard to keep him in focus, and strove to bring her emotions under control. “I’m not sure.” She took an uneven breath. “It’s been a long time.”
“Since you’ve been kissed? Let someone get close to you? Let someone care about you?” His index finger traced her cheek, ran along the curl of her ear.
She offered a hesitant nod. “All of the above.”
“Want to tell me why?”
The question caught her by surprise even though she’d been expecting it. Kendall chewed her bottom lip, unsure of how much she should reveal.
Finally she met his eyes with as much calm as she could muster. “I want to tell you. It’s hard to talk about. When I talk about it, I relive it.” She couldn’t repress the shiver which rushed through her. He had to have felt it under his hands, against his palms, still clasping her arms.
He rubbed them gently. “Hello, goosebumps. I know you’re not cold, so I’d say you need to get this out of your system and share it with someone who’s a good listener. Who can help.” He smiled crookedly. “Me.”
“I don’t know—”
“Tell you what. You don’t have to look at me at all. It’ll be easier.” He arranged her until she sat cuddled against him, an easy spooning that didn’t threaten her nerves. He tucked her head under his chin and whispered, “Close your eyes, and tell me. It’s safe, here. You know it is.”
Safe . . . She could trust him, which felt the nicest of all.
Kendall relaxed fully in his embrace, placed a hand over his arm as it tightened reassuringly around her waist. Her voice held a low rasp. “I was engaged, before I came to Alaska. When I lived in Oregon. I broke it off and moved across the state to get away from him.” She faltered, coughed, hesitated, then plowed ahead. “I spent a lot of money on a new identity. When I found out my hiding place was in danger of discovery, I moved here. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat, even if what I did proved to be illegal.”
Her hand clenched into a fist and her voice shook anew. “I’d do it all again.”
Char Chaffin started reading romance, science fiction and horror at a very young age. Her love of books is directly responsible for her overflowing bookcases, and the bounty stored on her Kindle threatens to eclipse her entire paper collection. Char currently writes mainstream and contemporary romance filled with family, rich characters and engaging plots. For her, it all comes back to the love.
Char began her writing odyssey as a poet, crafting Victorian-style poetry, then went on to writing short stories. She found her niche when she began writing longer and longer short stories, until she wrote her first novel. It might never see the light of day, but writing it taught her a lot. Over the years she worked a variety of jobs, from farm hand to costume designer to fiscal accountant, before deciding a writing career was her true focus.
In addition to writing, Char is also an editor for Soul Mate Publishing.
A native New Yorker, Char lives Upstate on a sixty-acre farm with husband Don, rat terrier Daisy Mae and two barn cats who constantly slack off on the job of keeping the barn free of varmints. The Chaffin extended family is scattered all over theUnited StatesandAlaska.
When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard or burying her nose in books and Kindle, she tends a huge vegetable garden and helps Don maintain their farm.