Happy Release Day to Melanie Hansen
We are thrilled to welcome Melanie Hansen to Sinfully on the release day of her latest novel Unquiet. She’s chatting about the Grand Canyon and how it contects to a scene in Unquiet and we also have an exclusive excerpt and a fabulous giveaway. Go check it out!
A Word from Melanie
Growing up as a military brat, and now a Navy spouse, I’ve moved around a lot in my lifetime. My husband and I have been together for 17 years, and we’ve moved eight times! Even so, Arizona has always been what I consider my home, and that’s why I chose to set Unquiet there. One of my favorite scenes in the book takes place at the Grand Canyon.
Back in my younger and more athletic days, I actually backpacked the Grand Canyon three times! I’m talking 50-pound backpacks, freeze-dried food, sleeping on the ground. The first two trips I made was the 28-mile trek from the North Rim to the South Rim. Here’s a picture…the jagged-looking gash down the middle is what we hiked, from that opposite rim to the rim I’m taking the photo from.
The third trip was from the North Rim out through the West Rim, a distance of more like 35 miles. It took us four days, I believe, and it was four days of hell. I had blisters so big that when they popped, my sock was soaked with pus. Toenails turned black and fell off. About two days in, I sprained my ankle so badly that the only way I could hobble along was by popping Tylenol with codeine. No choice but to soldier on carrying my heavy backpack; no one was going to do it for me. In some places there were sheer thousand-foot drops off one side of the trail, and some of the others in my group watched closely to make sure I stayed safe, as drugged up as I was.
This is a picture of the rugged terrain.
At one point we ran low on water, so my boyfriend at the time and another guy tried to use a filtration kit to filter us all some drinking and cooking water. The water looked so gross, but we did it and nobody got sick. It worked!
Despite all the hardship, there was so much incredible beauty around us. With no light pollution in the night sky, the stars were a breathtaking blanket above us. If you watched closely enough, you could actually see the satellites orbiting the earth, like I have Loren describe in Unquiet. There was so much peace, and solitude.
All three of my trips are experiences I will never forget, and they all forced me to rely in different ways on every last ounce of physical and mental strength I possessed. I had to do it; nobody could do it for me.
I share all of this only to introduce this scene with Loren and Eliot, my favorite scene in the book. To me, it encapsulates everything that Loren and Eliot are. Loren is patient, loving yet worried about Eliot’s fragility. Eliot is indeed fragile, with so many obstacles to overcome, yet he has a core of determination and resilience that Loren can’t help but cherish him for. Setting this scene at the Grand Canyon, after my own experiences there, seemed only fitting.
“So much for it being just a big ditch in the ground, huh?” Eliot’s voice was dry, teasing, and Loren made an effort to snap his mouth shut as he took in the sheer vastness and indescribable beauty of the Grand Canyon.
It was truly awe-inspiring, a kaleidoscope of colors and layers stretching as far as the eye could see. Far below them the Colorado River winked in the sunlight, and the wind that swept up from the depths was crisp and bracing, some of the freshest air Loren had ever smelled. It was cold out, and a light covering of snow on the ground crunched under their feet. As he gazed out over the Canyon, Loren felt so small, so insignificant next to it all, but he knew he’d never forget his first sight of this most wonderful of the Seven Wonders.
“I—I stand corrected,” Loren replied. “Wow. Just wow.”
Because of the cold and snow there weren’t a lot of people around, and as they walked up to the edge of the lookout, Loren watched Eliot closely, fiercely glad for the protective guardrail that ringed them.
They didn’t know if it was the altitude affecting how he metabolized his meds or what, but earlier, after Eliot’s morning dose, he found that he was shakier than usual, actually walking into the walls of their hotel room a couple of times because of severe double vision.
Loren didn’t want to hover or show pity, but seeing Eliot pale and sweaty with nausea, unable to walk straight, his hands trembling like he had palsy, broke his heart. Eliot tried his best to reassure him, saying, “This is nothing worse than anything else I’ve experienced over the years. It’s ugly, but it’ll pass, honey. I’ll be fine, I promise.”
They took breakfast in their suite rather than try and face a public restaurant with Eliot in this condition. When room service arrived, Loren’s first thought was to take Eliot’s plate and cut his omelet into small bites to make it easier for him to manage, but he forced himself to step away and let Eliot deal with it. Donovan had cautioned him against infantilizing Eliot, warning Loren that doing so would make Eliot begin to resent him.
“Don’t take his dignity away, Loren,” Donovan had said. “It’s horrifying to see the one you love struggle like that, but that’s a reality of life with these types of meds. Reward him for putting himself through it by letting him keep his pride.”
Loren held Donovan’s warning in mind as he watched Eliot struggle through his breakfast. He kept the conversation light, patiently waiting for Eliot’s responses, not looking away from him, yet not acknowledging he’d noticed Eliot spilling every third bite into his lap. Once, when he reached for his glass of orange juice and knocked it over, Loren just grabbed some extra napkins and sopped up the mess, refilling Eliot’s glass without a word.
At last the symptoms settled down as Eliot said they would, and they’d ventured out to do some sightseeing. Eliot’s hands only held a faint tremor now as he rested them on the guardrail and looked down at the ribbon of river thousands of feet below them.
“It’s so beautiful, so seductive,” he said in awe. “I feel like I could jump off the edge and fly to the other side like an eagle.”
Loren resisted the urge to reprimand him for that sort of talk, knowing Eliot wasn’t expressing a suicidal ideation, but a fantasy, a feeling of wanting to soar above the vastness. Still, Loren stepped up behind him and wrapped his arms around Eliot’s waist, resting his chin on his shoulder. “I’m cold, warm me up,” he whispered, and Eliot leaned back against him, a reassuring, solid weight in Loren’s arms.
Eventually the cold wind drove them from the lookout, and Loren found a trail that wound along the edge of the rim, shielded from the wind by the tall trees. They wandered down it a little ways, hands entwined, exclaiming over the beauty of each new vantage point they came across. The rest of the day passed in the same vein as they explored, finally heading back to the visitor’s center to take in some of the nature talks from the Park Service rangers and then spending a pleasant few hours in the various gift shops looking for the perfect souvenir.
Loren loved Eliot’s quiet enjoyment of everything they saw and did, and after a lovely intimate dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, they sat out on their balcony and looked up into a night sky so clear, so vast, that Loren could see satellites passing overhead.
“I’ve never seen the stars look like that,” Eliot exclaimed. “So many of them, like a blanket of stars covering us. Imagine being pioneers and stumbling across all this.”
“I would have shit myself, coming through the trees only to see that epic ditch at my feet,” Loren teased, warmed by Eliot’s snort of laughter.
Eliot finished his hot tea and set his mug down on the small table next to where he was curled up in a chair.
“No matter what happens, I’ll never forget this weekend, Loren,” he whispered. “I’ve never felt so—so normal. So accepted for who I am. Thank you.”
Loren stood and pulled Eliot to his feet and into his arms, cupping his cheek and stroking his thumb over Eliot’s bottom lip. “And I want to spend the rest of my life making you feel that way, baby,” he said in a gentle voice. “That’s the best compliment I’ve ever had.”
He lifted Eliot’s chin and kissed him, then took his hand and led him inside their suite.
“I’ve always wanted to make love in front of a fire,” Loren whispered, resting his hands on Eliot’s hips. Eliot held Loren’s eyes as he slowly undressed himself, then Loren. They sank to their knees on the soft rug, kissing, roaming hands everywhere.
Loren would never forget the sight of Eliot on top of him, his flawless pale skin glowing in the firelight. He took Loren deep inside, his hands braced on Loren’s chest as he moved, his head thrown back, his mouth slack with pleasure. His dick was only half-hard, but that didn’t matter anymore, and all Loren saw was Eliot’s incredible strength and bravery, his beauty and grace. Loren felt choked with emotion, like he couldn’t breathe.
He jackknifed up into a sitting position, wrapping Eliot up in his arms as he gasped into his ear, “I love you, Eliot Devlin. I love you so fucking much.”
Afterward, Loren lay awake in the king-sized feather bed, Eliot snuggled against his shoulder as he slept a deep and peaceful sleep. Dying firelight danced along the walls and snow drifted outside their hotel room window. It was cozy and warm, and Loren couldn’t ever remember feeling so relaxed and content, like he was exactly where he belonged.
It was a feeling he’d cling to desperately in the coming months, and if he’d only known, he might have stayed awake all night to enjoy it instead of drifting off into dreamless slumber.
Unquiet (Resilient Love)
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 22nd January 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Loren Smith has been in love with Eliot Devlin almost his entire life. During their turbulent childhood and teen years, Loren didn’t always understand Eliot, and sometimes he could be a challenge, but Eliot was the only one to ever truly ease Loren’s deep loneliness and accept him. When Eliot’s increasingly erratic and self-destructive behavior culminates in a suicide attempt at seventeen, Loren is devastated.
Upon meeting again by chance nine years later, Loren is enjoying a successful career as a police officer while Eliot’s life has been a constant struggle for stability. In and out of mental hospitals, with a rap sheet a mile long, he continues to be buffeted by the twin storms of mania and depression. Loren’s love and protectiveness for Eliot are deeply ingrained in him, however, and their feelings for each other are quickly rekindled.
Loren has issues of his own he’s dealing with, and trying to understand and cope with Eliot’s bipolar disorder isn’t easy. They believe they’re meant to be, and Eliot brings a fulfillment to Loren’s life that no one else will ever match. But as they both come to realize, love by itself can’t cure all.
Meet Melanie Hansen
Melanie Hansen has spent time in Texas and Florida prisons…for work. She’s been in a room with a 17-year-old mass murderer who was also one of the most soft-spoken and polite teenagers she’s ever met. After a 13-year career as a court reporter, she can tell many stories both hilarious and heartbreaking.
She grew up with an Air Force dad, and ended up marrying a Navy man. After living and working all over the country, she hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.
Melanie left the stressful world of the courtroom behind and now enjoys a rewarding career transcribing for a deaf student. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons. email -firstname.lastname@example.org
Melanie is gifting to one lucky reader a $20 Amazon Gift card. All you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.