Welcome to Christian Book Review Blog, Miranda! Thank you for being here! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A – Thank you for the warm welcome! So glad to be here! Apart from being a writer, I’m a blogger, a judge for the INSPY Book Awards, a book/entertainment reviewer of Christian works, a professional blurb constructor, and an assistant lecturer at a college.
When did you first discover that you loved writing?
A – When I was thirteen, after I read a book by Norma Jean Lutz.
Why do you write the type of books that you do?
A – Well, for one, the genre Christian Romance is my favorite! I want to write books that will connect people with God and His truth.
What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?
A – Being as I live outside of the United States but my team resides there, setting up a payment option that was comfortable for all of us proved to be a hassle. But eventually, we decided on google wallet, which is quite easy and comfortable to use.
Has writing changed your life in any way?
A – Absolutely! God has used the works of authors like Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, MaryLu Tyndall, and Julie Lessman to comfort, encourage, uplift, and clear some of my confusion as I grew in faith. I certainly hope to write books that do the same for others. I wrote all about the blessings of fiction in a post I titled Why I Believe In Christian Fiction.
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A – 2 Peter 1:3-11. It made me understand that there’s no good thing God wants to withhold from His children. We just have to be willing to walk with Him.
Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?
A – Oh, yes! Books, in fact—Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall, A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman, and more recently, Love’s Promises by Sandra Leesmith.
What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?
A – Honestly, I can’t remember!
Please tell us about the featured book.
A – To Die Once is book #1 of four books in the Child of Grace Series. As the name of the series suggests, the theme of the book is grace, told through the stories of characters that made mistakes/wrong decisions, and were dealing with the consequences. In the end, they all come face to face with God’s healing power of love, grace, and redemption.
Can you please give us the first page?
A – Absolutely! Or how about I give you the first chapter instead? Sound better? Here it goes!
JENNIFER TINGHIR hated her work at the cashier unit of the bank. She liked her real job better at the Marketing Department. In two hours, she had attended to over fifty impatient customers, and the pressure of the work started to kick in and take its toll on her. Thankfully, she had one more customer to deal with before her break. God knew her aching fingers needed to rest from all that tapping on the computer keyboard, and her stiff back needed to lean on something cozy after sitting up for so long, before she returned to the paperwork that awaited her on her desk in her office.
Before midday, the bank was already crowded. More people trooped in like it was Black Friday at a shopping mall. It was the second quarter of the year, a time when business corporations in Nigeria repositioned their agendas to fit the profit margin, and individuals planned their budgets to maximize the best yields. Lagos City was no different. In the marketing department, she and her colleagues had to lend help to the customer care and cashier units because of the unusual influx of customers.
“Thank you for coming, sir.” She said to her second-to-last customer, then cleared the information sheet from the computer screen as she waited for the last man in line to approach.
She raised her hand to soothe the kink at the nape of her neck and within seconds started to feel the release as her stiffened muscles relaxed under the massage. What wouldn’t she give to dig out her tired feet from her stilettos, relax her back against a cozy chair and prop her legs up on her desk behind the closed door of her office? She bit back a groan and maintained her composure.
When she finally looked up, her breath caught at the sight of the man standing before her. Her pulse raced as he studied her. She had never seen him before. He had to be a new customer in the bank.
Jennifer swallowed. “Good morn—uhm, sorry. It’s afternoon—good afternoon. Sir.” She was aware she was babbling. How could she not? Before her stood the most attractive man she had ever seen in her life. She was sure that if he leaned over the counter enough, his towering height would loom over her. His dark hair sat in waves that flowed to the back of his head but didn’t extend beyond his nape. His dark eyes were penetrating. His Roman nose wasn’t too pronounced so it fit perfectly on his face. His jaw exuded a smoothness and toughness all at the same time. And his lips—oh, Lord, those lips—she stopped herself. What is wrong with me? She had just spent the last few seconds ogling a customer. But her mind stubbornly continued—pondering his lips that were satisfactorily thin and puckered enough to attract any sane female. His stare was full of such interest that she visibly shuddered, even more so when his eyes strayed and stopped on her … lips?
She shook her head to clear it of any nonsense and forced her mind to concentrate on the man for who he was to her—a customer. Tearing her glance away from him, she attempted to gather her composure. Her heartbeat still thrummed, but when she finally turned his way again, she hoped her look spoke “professional.”
He smiled in a soft, cocky way that tingled her senses. She didn’t like that, she decided.
“Good morning,” he said.
Italian, she noticed. “How may I help you?”
He took his time in answering, as though teasing her. “Well, I’m new in town—here to do business—so I would like to open an account.”
He had to know she didn’t need the first half of the information he had just offered in order to open an account for him. She turned to the computer screen and cleared the fresh page she’d opened before turning back to him. “I’m sorry, sir. That’s not for this department.” She nodded towards the right direction. “The Customer Care Service handles all openings of new accounts. This is the cashier counter. Here, you’re either withdrawing or depositing cash.”
“I see.” He looked over at the Customer Care section and studied the area with one sweep of a glance before turning back to her. “That is an awful big crowd over there. You think you could help me out? It wouldn’t be fair to have me go back and stand in line again after I’ve done so here.” He put on a charming smile that could dismantle any sort of defense any woman would wrap around her senses. It allured her so much that she was sure if she were on her feet, she would have swayed.
Jennifer’s heart pounded at the flirtatious look in his eyes. It was a wonder no one could hear the noise it made in her chest. She shivered at the intensity of his eyes—so confident—and wondered if it scared her more than it excited her. No man should be this attractive. It’s simply not fair.
She blinked and offered a thin smile. “I would love to help, but I’m tied up here, as you can see.”
“I’m sure you could take a few minutes to help out. After all,”—he looked past her to the colleague waiting to relieve her—“You’re about to go on your break.”
Drat. He caught her. Of course, it wasn’t that she really didn’t have the time, but a foreboding feeling told her she shouldn’t be anywhere near this man, lest he take over her head and senses. And she was the type of girl who liked to keep her head and remain in control of her senses.
Jennifer stepped out of the cubicle. “Yes, it is my break. All the more reason why I can’t help you. I’m sorry, but you will have to wait in line with the other customers.” She hoped her poker face was convincing enough to tell him that she wasn’t interested. Something in her sensed he was dangerous to her in some way. It would be wise to keep him at a safe distance, whoever he was.
“You’re not turning me down, are you? You wouldn’t be so unfriendly to a prospective customer?” His request sounded sincere enough, but with an edge of humor.
Jennifer bit her lip. An attractive man who knew how to be persuasive with words—definitely dangerous. As a staff of the bank obligated to follow policy to be respectful of a customer’s requests, she felt cornered. Jennifer let out a sigh of resignation. Well, the sooner she got rid of him, the easier it would be for her to breathe again.
She turned to him. “Of course not.”
Jennifer rounded the counter, and he met her halfway. He stopped too close for comfort, obviously intruding into her personal space so that they were just inches apart, her eyes level with his … broad chest. Oh, Lord. She couldn’t breathe. She swallowed, and her throat clogged. When she finally sucked in some breath, his cologne wafted into her nostrils and teased her senses so much that she could taste the flavor on her tongue.
Jennifer struggled to take her eyes off his body, slowly letting them journey all the way up to his face. A stare lingered at his lips before her eyes moved up to gaze into his, praying he didn’t notice her reaction to him. His knowing, lopsided smile told her otherwise. Her body warmed from her ears down to her toes. “Right this way,” she managed to spill out of a tight throat, turning on her heels like a prey trying to escape her predator.
Jennifer led him to the Care Service desk, each step a nervous one as she felt his eyes bore into her, like he was deciphering her body. He stopped a short distance away as she went past the long queue of customers and stepped behind the desk of the officer. She leaned to whisper in his ear and was handed an application form. After a grateful smile and a “thank you,” she reluctantly headed back to the man that waited for her.
Jennifer stopped a comfortable distance away from him and stretched out her hand to hand him the form. That didn’t stop him from crossing the short distance and standing before her as close as he had the first time. She bit back the snarky remark that threatened to escape her lips. With a silent huff, she squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.
Their fingers brushed as he collected the paper. Jennifer felt the tingling sensation first at the tip of her fingers, before it coursed through her body, causing her to flinch. His brief chuckle embarrassed her. She pretended she didn’t hear it. No. She just chose to ignore it out of politeness to a prospective customer.
After a quick scan of the form, he gave her his attention again, and this time she met his stare with a strong one of her own.
He searched deep into her eyes and held her gaze. For some reason, Jennifer let herself stay that way, the connection jolting her insides and turning them to mush. Finally, he offered a half-smile that broke their stare. “Thank you,” he said, in a husky voice.
Jennifer nodded, unable to utter a word. She crossed her arms tightly over her chest.
An awkward moment of silence passed, and then he broke it with a question. “May I know your name?”
Jennifer hesitated. Seeing as she had no choice if she didn’t want to appear rude, she answered. “Jennifer.”
His lopsided smile returned. “Jenny.”
It sounded like he was tasting it on his lips. His boldness at shortening her name after such a short acquaintance annoyed, frightened, and stirred her insides all at the same time. God, who is this man?
“It was nice to meet you, Jenny.”
Jennifer nodded and offered a brief smile unblinking. “You, too, sir.”
“Rodrigo. My name is Rodrigo Montello.” The words flowed out of his mouth like bubbling water in a stream.
“Mr. Montello, it was nice to meet you,” she gritted past her teeth. She didn’t want to fraternize.
Rodrigo offered a nod, then turned and walked away without looking back.
As she watched him leave, she prayed she never had to encounter him again. Thank goodness she was in the marketing department.
I hope this excerpt piques your interest!
Where can readers learn more information about you?
A – Glad you asked! You can find me on my blog, facebook, twitter, pinterest, google+, Goodreads, Shelfari, and Scripity! Also, you can follow the twitter hash tag #ToDieOnce to join the fun conversation between bloggers. Everyone’s invited! There’s also a pinterest board where the book comes to life with pictures! Of course it will make better sense if you’ve read the book, but it’s no reason not to stop by and take a look! Feel free to contact me anytime through anyone of these mediums. Would love to hear from you!a Rafflecopter giveaway