CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET: Book Review, Giveaway + Interview with Author Natalie Money

Many might envy Alixandra Quinn. She rubs shoulders with the rich and famous at glitzy society balls and fund-raisers as a photographer for a popular magazine. But, do the envious notice Ali always goes home alone? She has cut herself off from personal relationships and emotional entanglements. It’s a strategy to cope with her past, and for ten years, her strategy has worked.

That is, until she meets Bryce Steede, a young and bold Silicon Valley entrepreneur. When Ali becomes the center of his attention, suddenly her world gets turned upside-down. She may have convinced herself that life is fine the way it is, but he is determined to break down her carefully constructed walls, free her mind and body, and show her pleasures that she couldn't have imagined.

As Ali navigates through this uncharted journey of self-discovery, she must find the balance between her head and her heart. Is Bryce just another heartache waiting to happen? Will a secret from her past come back to haunt her? Or will Ali make peace with her past and find true happiness . . .

I haven’t heard from Bryce since late Sunday evening, and that was only a text saying he landed. I know he’s a busy man and didn’t get where he is today by keeping everyone up to date on his schedule. He’s seeped into my mind and consumed my thoughts. I find it hard to concentrate on work. On breathing. On . . . being.
“I was just thinking about you,” I say as I answer on the first ring. It’s good to hear his voice.
“I bet not as much as I’ve thought about you,” he answers back.
“Am I on speaker phone?” I can tell because it sounds different.
“Yes, it’s easier this way. You know, to talk. Where are you?”
“Still in bed. I have a few minutes before I have to get up.”
“What a coincidence. I’m in bed, too. Alone.” He sounds frustrated. “I woke up thinking about you.”
I smile at the thought. “You’re on my mind, too. How’s your trip?”
“It’s going well. I was hoping to come back tomorrow, but one of the meetings has been pushed back, so I don’t think that’s possible.” I hear the disappointment in his voice.
“Friday will be here before you know it.” I pretend to be upbeat but I’m as disappointed as he sounds.
“What are your plans for today?” he asks.
“Oh, you know, the typical photo shoot. But this time our subject is cooperative. Those are the ones I like doing best.”
In the sexiest voice I’ve ever heard, he says, “I can be very cooperative. I’ll show you when I get back.”
“Now that should be something to experience.” I know where this conversation is going, and once again, his charisma draws me in. He’s not the only one who’s frustrated.
“I miss you, Ali.”
“I miss you too, Bryce.” I miss him more than I thought I would.
“You do?” he asks, sounding as though he needs reassurance from me.
“Yes. I can’t stop thinking about you. I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else.”
“You’re on my mind from the minute I wake up until the minute I go to sleep. I need you, Ali.” His unfamiliar words startle me.
“You need me?”
“Yes, I do. I want you to be the first thing I see in the mornings.”
“Oh, so that’s all you ‘need’ me for. Of course.” I fail miserably trying to sound upset.
“I thought it was you who only wanted me for my body. I guess we’re at a draw?” he jokes. “No, that’s not all I need or want you for. Would I like us to take it to the next level? Yes, but only when you’re ready. It’s only a small part of the reason I need you. Well, not small.” I know exactly what he’s talking about.
I hear him panting and I’m sure he’s touching himself. I don’t know why, but the thought of him jerking off, while talking to me, turns me on and I feel empowered. I don’t know if it should, but fuck it – I’m not a complete prude. Since I have no frame of reference and it’s my first time doing this, I’ll ‘wing it.’
In a quiet, hushed whisper I reply, “Bryce, I want you.”
“Oooh . . .” he moans out this breathless message.
Electrical shivers run up and down my spine. A pulsing sensation ignites my desire increasing the throb of passion coursing through me, and within an instant, I’m wet. Of it’s own free will, my hand glides beneath my boy shorts, my fingers drawing circles around my clit. A soft moan escapes me, releasing an exaggerated groan from Bryce.
“Imagine my mouth exploring every inch of your body. Feel my warm breath against your skin. I’m brushing my lips down your neck to your chest. With my hand wrapped around your hard cock, I’m stroking you up and down,” I say in a seductive tone.
“Ali,” he breathes my name, barely audible. I would give anything to be with him right now.
In a low husky voice I continue, “Slowly, my mouth glides down your cock, its tip touching the back of my throat. I’m lightly squeezing your balls. Is this what you want? Tell me.”
“Yes, oh god . . . faster. Squeeze my balls,” he groans out.
In a tender but commanding tone, I tell him, “Pinch my nipples, Bryce. Do as I say. Now.” My words push him over the edge.
“Ali . . .” My name is followed by a long, drawn out muffled cry. Hearing him call my name as he comes, is too fucking sexy.
It’s quiet. Did we lose connection? Did he hang up? “Bryce?”
“I’m here.” He’s trying to get his heavy breathing under control.
“I’ve never been awakened like that before,” I say, smiling like a fool.
“You didn’t mind?” His words are clipped but he sounds more like himself.
“Mind? No, I didn’t mind. It’s the first time I’ve had phone sex. I feel like I need a cigarette.” The boisterous laughter from him is contagious and I join in.
“For a first timer, you did an excellent job.” His change in attitude is abrupt. “Friday can’t get here soon enough. I’m serious when I say I need you. I crave you, Ali.”
Swoon. Thud. Yes, that’s my libido jumping from my body ready to catch the next flight to L.A.
That was by far the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. “I can’t wait to see you either.” My body and mind are finally on the same page and we’re ready. We’ve only had a few dates, but those few times, much to my surprise, have fueled my determination to be with him. I would gladly lie down and offer myself as a sacrifice if it meant his mouth would devour every inch of me. He’s turned my world around 180 degrees. I can give him what he wants, what he needs, what he’s never had. Me.

Natalie Money is a former corporate travel agent, a wife, and a cat wrangler. As far back as she can recall, she has always loved to people watch and make up stories about their lives. After many years of creating and getting to know the characters and their stories in her mind, she has finally decided to bring them to life on paper in her first novel, Closely Guarded Secret.

With her husbands job, they're known to relocate often, so when people ask where she lives, she describes herself as a World Citizen.


This book had its ups and downs, but mostly left me pretty confused. 

The main character, Alixandra Quinn, is a local photographer working for a small magazine. She moved from Seattle to San Fransisco to live out her career as a photographer, living with her gay best friend Stephen Hart. She has a deep, dark past and is trying her best to keep it out of the forfront of her mind. 

It all works out okay, until Mr. BigShot himself, the one and only Bryce Steede, literally sets his eyes on her and makes it his mission to make her his. He's hot, sexy, illustrious, powerful, a CEO millionaire, all the women want him, and all the men want to be him. Even his crazy ex-girlfriend Mara, who will find every opportunity to find him, even though he clearly doesn't want him. But he only has eyes for Ali, which is sweet. Ali knows she's attracted to him, and wants him too, but her insecurities and messed up past won't let her enjoy what's right in front of her. It's been 10 years since she's been in an intimate relationship with a man, and she's holding back a lot. She also has scars across her abdomen to prove it. She has recurring dreams of a man named Thomas Bane hurting her, but she doesn't divulge into that until the very end of the book, which to me is very frustrating. She talks to Stephen, his boyfriend Sampson, her mother, even her therapist Dr. Hunter about her issues, but it got to the point where I just wanted her to make up her own mind for herself, instead of letting everyone elses' opinions control her life. 

They spent so much time going back and forth with each other, I didn't even realize I was about 70% done with the book. It took them so long to finally have sex, and then Bryce sees the nasty scars on Ali's body from her past. But thankfuly, he doesn't freak out or anything, only wants to comfort her and tell her he's not going anywhere. But even then, she lied about where they came from, saying they were from an "accident". How can you start a realtionship based on lies and half-truths? 

And that's not even the worst part! She goes to the doctor's office and she'd diagnosed with Asherman's Syndrome (scaring of the uterus) and she has to have surgery. Ali tells her mom on the phone, Stephen, but she can't tell the guy she's slept with twice and is falling for?! How is Bryce going to feel if she dies or something bad happens during surgery and she has no one to fall back on? How does Ali think he's going to react when he finds out that her ex who just escaped from parole is now looking for her? Martial arts and 4th degree black belts are great; hell, that's fantastic. Go ahead and defend yourself. But if she knows she's falling hard for Bryce, and he deeply cares for her in return, there's no way he's going to walk out when her criminal ex is looking for her, to do God-knows-what.... 

Ali needs to stop being so damned scared and just BE!! It's obvious Bryce loves her, but if she doesn't start talking and explaining, she's going to lose him faster than he got her.

And why did Natalie Money leave this book on a 'cliffhanger' with no indication of a sequel or anything? 

This book could have been really good, but I just wanted to grab Ali and say WHAT ARE YOU SO SCARED OF!!!!!!!!!!????????!!!!!!!!!!!

Hopefully, there will be answers in book 2.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 
[The 1/2 is for making me cry in the end, and the HOT sex lol.]

Interview with Natalie Money

First off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm a world traveler, and basically have been since birth, being the child of a military father. I'm originally from Southern California, though I've spent the majority of my life in Texas. With my husband's career, we sometimes have to relocate, which includes living abroad. We lived in Montreal, Quebec, for 3 years, and are now in Singapore!

Can you tell us something that not a lot of people know about you?

As a child, after watching Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Sound of Music, I went through a phase of speaking with a British accent. It drove my parents crazy! Occasionally, I still do it:)
I've also always been obsessed with ancient Egypt.

How is Bryce Steede similar and/or different compared to other heroes in romance books?

He similar, because his past drives him to succeed. He's strong willed, determined and focused. He's compassionate, and modest to a fault. He wants to help others, to give back. Not out of obligation, but need. His humility keeps him grounded.

I think Bryce is different because he doesn't rush things with Ali. He doesn't want to dominate her, but rather show her that not all touch has to hurt. He believes if he pushes her to open up to him too soon, she'll walk away. That's not a chance he's willing to take.

Tell us a little about your writing process. Any pre-writing rituals or routines?

My pre-writing process consists of making coffee, then play with the cat for a bit; heating up the cold coffee that I forgot about, because I was playing with the cat. I put on music, and begin writing. I change to classical music after typing the lyrics to songs several times in my book.

When you create your characters do you ever put bits of either your personality or bits of personalities from people close to you?

I try not to put any part of my personality in there, but occasionally, something slips through. I'll read it aloud, and say "No, Ali wouldn't do/say that. I would, but she wouldn't," so I take it out. I think it's hard not to insert some parts of yourself into your characters. You're with them day in, day out. You have to find the balance between letting them take over, and when to reel them in. There were many times I wanted to shake sense into Ali, but I had to throw my hands up in surrender, step back and let it play out.

Inspiration comes from everywhere, but mainly my imagination. I'm a people
watcher. And I listen. Not the creepy, stalker, mimic your walk, talk and clothing styles for me to get close to you type people watcher. I'm an observer of all things. Your body language. Do you lean in when taking with someone? Do you touch the person you're taking to? Perhaps rub their arm? Rest your hand close to theirs, that not even a whisper of wind could be felt between them? Eyes; are they hooded, or bright and attentive? These are some of the observations I incorporate into my writing.

What are some good books you've read lately?

With my recent cross continental move, and getting my own book out lately, I've managed to read a few books.

Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, on recommendation from a screenwriter friend of
mine, to study how he  painted scenery with words. I also read Falling for Freedom, by Eryn Laplant, my friend and fellow author. Romeo Dallaire's, Shake Hands with the Devil.

If you could collaborate with another author in writing a book, who would it be?

Oh wow, there are so many greats authors to chose from. I have a deep admiration for Anne Rice, and her talent to tell a story where you feel every word.

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Thanks for reading! :) ♥