Posts Tagged ‘Author Tour’

IMG_5734I’d like to welcome author Toni Andrews to A Working Title. She has been kind enough to make a stop here on her blog tour. Please watch as Toni Andrews talks about her newest book, Cry Mercy. You can find a review of Cry Mercy below this post.

You may also visit Toni at her website, or follow her on Twitter @toniandrews


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cry-mercy-coverCry Mercy by Toni Andrews
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Mira (June 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0778326489

In the newest addition to the Mercy Hollings series, Toni Andrews goes all out. Mercy and her strange power or curse, called the press, are unceremoniously thrust into a world of gang violence and dangerous players, thanks to Tino, Mercy’s Chicano friend and a full time gang boss. Tino is determined to break himself and his little brother out of the gang peacefully, but outside and inside forces have other ideas. When Tino asks for Mercy’s help, Mercy is bound by friendship and past history to aid in his plan.

Soon, things go horribly awry, and Mercy must make one of the most dangerous choices she’s ever been faced with. On top of Tino’s problems, Mercy is also dealing with the discovery that her adoptive parents may not have had a choice when they abandoned her at eleven years old. She also hopes that they might hold the key to her biological parents and perhaps the first step on the path to the true nature of herself. Maybe the answer to that terrifying question: Is she even human?

According to Andrews, this story is misclassified in romance, and I couldn’t agree more. There are no love scenes or heated moments, and the serious turns these books have begun to take reach far beyond the realm of simple paranormal romance. These are thrillers, with Cry Mercy the most thrilling of all to date. A fast paced book, Andrews still manages to imbue the pages with the rhythms of the barrio and the flavor of Chicano people, and the gangs that are all too common in those ethnic ghettos.

Tino is a complex and charming character, a product of machismo but also striving to be more than his roots, trying to make a better life for himself and his family. The pressures he faced as a boy to join a gang, and the bonds he feels as a man and the leader of the gang, are harshly true to life and an fascinating window into that dark world. I liked Tino a lot, for his sometimes amoral attitude and for the devotion he shows to his brother and mother. Andrews has managed to portray a Chicano character worthy of both respect and fear, love and amusement.

The women represented are smart, strong, and beautiful. Mercy is full of surprises in this book. She continues to struggle with her emotions and their relation to the press, and the search for her birth parents becomes ever more urgent as she comes to believe they are the only ones who can help her control this strange power. The mistakes she makes with her power become more frightening and more serious as the story goes on, until the final climax and a shocking twist.

The simultaneous development of Sukey’s abilities is a stark contrast. Where Mercy is bleak and brooding, Sukey revels in her abilities and truly enjoys learning to master them. The friendship between the two women becomes even more important as the story goes on, and I truly loved Sukey’s enthusiasm and her desire to become a P.I.

Mercy’s conflict with Sam Falls is still ongoing. I do feel that Sam was shortchanged in this book, although I really did enjoy the more action filled parts as a replacement. I’m interested to see the development of their relationship or lack thereof in the next book.

This is a great read, heart-stopping, laugh out loud, and even cry a little. Andrews continually improves, and although I think she still has some trouble carrying multiple plot lines, these rougher edges and seams are being smoothed out rapidly. I’m excited to see where Mercy and her friends go next, to hear the truth about her parents and herself, and hopefully hook up with a certain sexy sailor. I highly recommend this series. Up next: An interview with Toni Andrews.

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Angel of Mercy by Toni AndrewsANGEL-OF-MERCY
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Mira (May 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0778325474

In this second installment of the Mercy Hollings series, the subject matter starts becoming very serious. Mercy dealt with drugs and drug dealers in her first adventure, but not the real the people affected by the dealers, more directly with the bad guys themselves. In Angel of Mercy, she learns by accident that one of her hypnotherapy clients is being abused, and this leads our heroine to Rosalee Jackson, the director for a battered women’s shelter. Rose eventually asks Mercy to volunteer free therapy sessions at the shelter, and Mercy first sees this as a great opportunity to help people.

Things begin to get out of hand, though, when Mercy starts dabbling with a very damaged mother and daughter. The daughter’s terrible secret leads Mercy down a road she might be better off staying away from, and the consequences of Mercy’s use of her mysterious psychic power, the press, are life changing. While dealing with all her emotions about the women she meets at the shelter, Mercy must also deal with her friend’s investigation into Mercy’s biological origins, and her deteriorating relationship with Sam Falls.

The subject material that Andrews chooses to write about is an area that most paranormal romance writers would never dare venture, but Andrews manages it with style and tact. The idea of someone using her superpowers to help battered and abused women and children is unique and interesting, as well as captivating. Mercy comes from the foster care system herself, and can relate to some of the feelings and doubts these women have. Again, the romantic relationship is not the focus of the book. Rather, the personal relationships of all the characters are looked at and discussed, and friendships are just as, if not more important than Mercy’s main squeeze.

Another point in her favor is the absolute fallibility of her characters. They make mistakes, sometimes big ones, just like normal people. But they also continue to learn from them. Mercy has been denying, hiding, or randomly using her strange mind control talent her whole life, and even though it sounds like a great ability, it is rarely the perfect solution to all her problems. The choices she makes regarding “the press” aren’t always the best ones, and I liked that the other characters, especially Rose, don’t give her a pass just because she’s “special” or the main character. Rose genuinely becomes angry with Mercy, and it takes work and time to earn her forgiveness, something Mercy acknowledges and is contrite about.

The focus of this book leaned more towards female relationships and building the confidence of Mercy’s friends and herself, something I feel is very worthwhile and not often seen in romance. They’re learning self-worth through their own abilities and strengths, rather than being paired up with a romantic partner who supposedly saves and/or completes them. Those who do end up in relationships do so with open eyes and a clear head, and they talk about the up and down sides of their relationships or past experiences in a candid and believable manner. My favorite addition to this book is definitely Rose Jackson, though.

Rosalee is a strong black woman in charge of her own life, as well as committed to helping those in tough situations or those trying to break cycles of abuse and violence. She’s smart and stands up for herself, and she’s not afraid to tell Mercy or anyone else when they’re wrong. She can do forgiveness, too, something that comes into play quite a few times during the story. Rose also has a chance to let down her hair a little and be found attractive, but it’s done in a way that is respectful and amusing, rather than objectifying. The gentleman that finds interest in her likes her as much, or more, for her mind than her looks. They also don’t immediately fall in love, a device I’ve seen all too often in romance of any kind. I love the inclusion of a black woman in the story, and I truly hope we see more of Rose.

The other characters didn’t get as much face time this book, which I found a little disappointing. I hope as Andrews continues to write about Mercy, she gets the pages she needs to develop her stories more. An additional hundred pages or so wouldn’t have felt too long with this book. I can definitely see the improvement from Beg for Mercy, and I can’t wait to read Cry for Mercy, Toni Andrew’s newest release in the series. Stay tuned for that review tomorrow, and an interview with the author herself.

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beg_for_mercyBeg for Mercy by Toni Andrews
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Mira (September 1, 2007)
ISBN-10: 077832365X

Mercy Hollings is a woman with a curse. She has the ability to force others to do anything she tells them to with only the power of her mind. She calls it “the press” and it’s been her bane since she was a child. A foster kid, she was constantly moved from home to home, her curse often causing her problems and unintentional accidents. As a consequence, Mercy has become a loner, a woman afraid to make friends, afraid to take chances on people, afraid she’ll hurt someone or herself with a careless comment.

When her only friend, Sukey, gets in trouble with the wrong kind of guy, Mercy breaks her own rules and presses him to leave town post haste. But what she couldn’t have known was that his drug dealer, a man named Dominic, would come looking for the shipment that disappeared along with him. Dominic isn’t just a drug dealer, though, he may hold the secrets to Mercy’s origins, and perhaps even who her real parents are. As Mercy tries to balance the press with her new forming friendships, her new love, and the machinations of Dominic, she’ll find whole new depths to herself and her powers.

This is a paranormal romance, but the great thing about it is the focus on the characters, not just the couple. It’s a little rough, but not at all bad for a first book, and Toni Andrew’s potential shines through brightly. Mercy is a smart and conflicted character. Her relationship problems are real and understandable, and her learning experiences actually lead to personal growth and good character development. Too often, writers become stuck on a character’s fatal flaw, relying on it over and over again until it becomes a cliché plot device instead of an interesting premise. Andrews doesn’t make this mistake.

Her characters consistently change and develop throughout the book, and Mercy acknowledges her own mistakes and vows to change them, instead of merely going full speed ahead and never looking back. The powers mentioned in the book are interesting without being over the top, and the characters struggle with their ethics just as a real person would. I also like the fact that the sex scenes were kept to a minimum, but used where applicable. They were tastefully placed without detracting from the story, making them a fun read rather than something to slog through. The writing was a little rough, some descriptions and terms seemed jarring rather than titillating, but it wasn’t a total scene killer. I imagine she’ll get better with more writing practice.

The female characters in the book were well done, and as the story progressed you learned more about them, making them deeper and more interesting. I would have liked to see a few more women for Mercy to befriend, most of the characters she encounters are men and I hope this doesn’t hold true for the rest of the series. The one main character of color seems slightly stereotypical, but Latino characters are so rarely included in paranormal romance or speculative fiction in general that it’s still a positive sign, and it’s a character that I think we’ll continue to see. Andrews is deft at growing her characters, so I’m hoping this one sees some changes, too. There is also a gay couple as part of Mercy’s crew of new friends which I hope to hear more about in future books, as there just wasn’t time to learn much about them in the first round.

Over all, this is a good start to what looks to be an interesting series. I like Mercy and I like her friends, and I’m rooting for her and Sam all the way. I can’t wait to learn more about her past and where she may have come from, and I’m interested to see how Andrews develops as a writer.

I’m looking forward to diving into Angel of Mercy next. Look for that review tomorrow. Cry for Mercy will be reviewed Tuesday, along with a featured interview with Toni Andrews herself. Please check back.

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