River's Recruit by Charlotte Abel - Review & Author Guest Post

TITLE: River's Recruit
AUTHOR: Charlotte Abel
RATING: 4 Stars
PAGES: eBook
PUBLISHER: Independent
SERIES: Sanctuary #1
SOURCE: Author

Jonathan McKnight lost everything in Afghanistan. His left hand, his identical twin, his self-respect and his naive belief that good always triumphs over evil. Burdened by grief and guilt, he searches for redemption on a solo backpacking trip into the remote Sawatch Mountains of Colorado and discovers a secret tribe of shifters.

River, the beautiful young shifter that rescues Jonathan has been promised to a man she despises. A man that does not desire her and only wants to use her to achieve his own political goals. Jonathan is more than a romantic rival. He’s a threat to those goals.

The only way to save Jonathan’s life is for River to take him as her recruit.  

As Jonathan learns more about the horrors of River’s cult-like society, he becomes even more determined to escape it, until he learns that River is responsible for everything he does and will be executed if he succeeds.

Escape is not an option—unless Jonathan can persuade River to leave with him. And if she refuses? Well, then, he’ll just have to kidnap her.

(synopsis taken from Goodreads)

River's Recruit (The Sanctuary Series)

I’ve only ever read a few shifter novels, and hardly anything to do with war, let alone anything to do with Afghanistan. I’ll be honest and say I tend to shy away from those things considering I’ve read too many horrible shifter novels, but Charlotte Abel shocked me! I loved the “world” that River’s Recruit is set in, loved the fact that it wasn’t overly gushy (because I’ll be honest, too much gooshy-ness tends to make me skim read at points) which was nice!

I went into this book open minded, and received a copy to review honestly. I’ll have to agree with most readers who’ve read this book. I adored River’s spunk. Any heroine or strong female lead with a feisty side who doesn’t wimp out totally impresses me. And the fact that I never once felt the need to shake River was a total plus!

Jonathan is an amazing character. He’s different, in a good way. He lost his twin, his left hand, and has what I’d deem a broken soul at the beginning. It’s so easy to just love him, to feel the need to draw him to you and comfort him. I think it’s incredible the changes we are witness to in his character specifically as Charlotte highlights his life for us.

The best part of the book was that it was written in a fresh way, it wasn’t filled with various paranormal beings and all. Charlotte presents us with a book that is easy to fall in love with, characters who pull at you, beg you to pay attention. I did see issues with the timing though, but, the overall experience I had while reading it was good! As a plus side, the way she presented the shifters and their dealings and ways, was far more believable and reliable than other titles (as many of us know, this is no easy task explaining the unknown!). I highly recommend reading River’s Recruit and I myself will certainly be looking forward to the titles to come in the series!

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After reading a certain young adult paranormal romance series -- and throwing the final book against the wall in frustration -- I started imagining how I might have finished the series if I’d written it. That’s when I serendipitously discovered fan fiction.

My intention was to write a twenty-thousand word novella to find some closure with this series, but I ended up writing a 200,000 word saga. After it won a couple of awards, including “best original plot” and received over 2,000 reviews, I decided to get serious about writing my own original fiction. I studied every “how to write” book I could get my hands on, bought a laptop and converted the guest room into an office.

I started Shattered (now titled River’s Recruit) with nothing but a title and two characters, identical twins, Jonathan and Franklin McKnight. I didn’t have an outline much less a plot. All I had was these two teenage boys that were physically identical but complete opposites in every other way.

The story was originally Franklin’s, but as a protagonist, he was a little too goody-goody for me. After a couple of chapters, I found I didn’t like him very much…so I killed him.

I know, pretty harsh, but he serves the story much better dead than he ever did alive.  Jonathan was much more interesting, but he needed a love interest. I liked the name “River” so I created a character to go with the name.  Once I did that, the story really took off. River and Jonathan had entire conversations inside my head. I “saw” different action scenes unfolding like movies. I dreamed about this story and its characters. Soon, Eli, Gabrielle, Paul, Shula and Reuben joined the cast.

I’d written over 150,000 words, with no ending in sight, when I got accepted into a juried workshop with Orson Scott Card.  I hoped the workshop would help me figure out a satisfying ending. It didn’t.

I learned more about storytelling in that single week than I did studying on my own for two years.  Scott gave us twenty-four hours to write a short story. We had to start fresh and couldn’t use anything from any of our pre-workshop projects.  Not even the characters. It was grueling and nerve-wracking, especially when he had us critique each other’s pieces. He finished each round of critiques with his own brutally honest, but very helpful suggestions. I was sweating bullets by the time my turn rolled around. The story I wrote, “Name Games,” was about a young mage named Enchantment from the Ozark Mountains that falls in love with a super-sweet, non-magical boy, Josh…sound familiar?

“Name Games” was very well received by the other writers in the workshop, but I still cringed when my idol, Orson Scott Card, held up his copy of heavily red-inked pages, looked right at me, and said, “This needs to be expanded into a YA novel. Teenage girls are going to love this. They’ll even make their boyfriends read it.”

Needless to say, I put Shattered on hold to write Enchantment, promising River and Jonathan I’d continue their story when I finished. But when Enchantment became a Kindle bestseller, I decided to write its sequel, Taken, while the series was hot.

I had a few chapters of Finding Valor, the third and final book of The Channie Series, written when Jonathan and River started complaining. Loudly.

They assured me that I’d be able to whip out the first “Shattered” book in a few weeks since the entire series was already ninety percent done. Yeah, right. Never take a fictional character’s advice.

Shattered was not nearly as well written as I’d remembered. My writing had vastly improved after the workshop as well as during the course of writing Enchantment and Taken.  

I ended up changing everything, including the plot and title. Jonathan and River matured while I was working on the other series. Jonathan even joined the army. I wrote an extensive outline (including the ending) and started over. It’s a much better story now, but it knocked my production schedule into next year. Only time will tell if putting Finding Valor on hold for six months to write River’s Recruit was the right choice. I think it was.

Channie and Josh vehemently disagree but they forgave me as soon as I started working on Finding Valor again. Of course, Jonathan and River aren’t very happy with me for putting their story on hold…again. Which only goes to prove: You can’t please everyone.

Author Bio:
Charlotte Abel was born and raised in Oklahoma where she met her soulmate, Pete. She chased him to Boulder, Colorado and finally convinced him they were meant to be together forever. They've raised three kids, two ferrets, three dogs and countless hamsters -- and are still happily married.
She's in love with "real" life and paranormal romance. When she's not reading or writing, Charlotte enjoys hiking, bicycling and primitive archery (although she's never shot at anything other than a target!)
The final book of The Channie Series, "Finding Valor," should be available by Christmas.

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