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Release day: Sorcery and Sandstorms

22 June 2020

Today is the official release of Sorcery and Sandstorms by Samantha Marshall (ebook and print, self-published). Here’s the blurb:

A slave. A fire sorcerer. A grumpy cyborg.

When an otherwise perfectly good night for drowning his sorrows is ruined by the fiery destruction of his living room, Flare Veritax is forced to accept not only sobriety, but the spine chilling realisation that his sister Arcana is in mortal danger. Desperate and a little singed, Flare bargains his way aboard Galactic Station as Sorcen’s representative to the mighty Galactic Alliance, the last true bastion of safety in the war against the warg. While he has no interest in politics itself, the Alliance has both information and influence which, if Flare can access it, may be the key to locating his sister.

After surrendering his freedom to save the lives of his loved ones, Fenris languishes in chains on the primitive desert world of Hiraptha. All the while, Arcana’s spirit floats in the custody of the Weaver, her continued survival dependant entirely on the other female’s ability to keep her hidden from the ever-seeking Taelon.

Before Flare can harness the strength of the Alliance, he must prove Sorcen’s loyalty by locating a fleet of missing starships. Thrown into partnership with a mysterious rogue and dogged by a murderous spy, he’ll need every ounce of wit and magic he possesses if he’s to successfully navigate the murky waters of intergalactic politics.

Waking to the gut-wrenching news that Fenris is a slave, Arcana vows to do everything within her power to set him free. With her magic no more than a whisper in her veins and Caelum her only ally, locating the Guardian who holds her heart could prove more dangerous than it first appears – particularly when the Empress of Hiraptha wants Fenris for herself.

Samantha dropped by today to tell us a little about this book:

This story picks up where Sorcery and Stardust left off, and was an absolute delight to write. When I first started this series I had a concept and a couple of characters in mind and as I went along, breathing life into their worlds, they breathed life into mine, too. So it was that Flare, Arcana’s older brother and the cheekiest fire sorcerer I’ve ever known, took on a life of his own. I adored him throughout book one and when I started writing book two, he made it very clear to me that he had a bigger part to play—and so he does. Writing Flare has made me laugh and cry in a way I never expected, and he provides a wonderful counterpoint to the steadier voices of his sister, her space deer, and our favourite Guardian, who of course are never far from my thoughts. (Team Fenris, that’s me!) I sincerely hope that everyone who reads this adores it as much as I do.

You can find out more about this book, including buy links, at Samantha’s website.

Guest blogger: Sandy Barker

21 June 2020

Writing setting

As a travel romance author, setting is critical to my stories and I have had some wonderful feedback from readers around the world about how well I evoke setting―both from people who have been to those locations and those who long to go.

So, what is my ‘secret sauce’ for writing setting?

First, I only write about places I have been to―many of which I have lived in or visited for extended stays or many times. This means I can draw on my own experiences of those locations to recreate them for my readers. When I am about to write a particular place, I go back to my photo catalogue, social media posts, blog posts (I have blogged about travel for 12 years), and travel journals. I also do extensive online searches―mostly of images―to mentally immerse myself in the location. I will do this as I write too, to ensure I continue to create true sense of place.

Second, I delve into all the senses. Sight is the most obvious way to describe setting, and it is a great starting point. I focus on shapes (organic shapes or sharp angles, or something in between?), textures, colours (differentiate between different shades), spacing (is the place crowded or deserted?), architectural styles, and even the number and types of people my character sees in the setting, because how those people engage with their environment also evokes setting.

I also write the smells and scents of a location, as our memory, smell, and emotions are intricately linked and this can be a great ‘shorthand’ for readers. For example, the smell of frangipanis is a powerful reminder of summer, or a holiday somewhere in the tropics.

The other senses―touch, hearing and taste―are also a fantastic way to round out a setting for the reader. Is the sand on the beach powdery or course? Is the sun warm on the skin, or the wind chilling? What can the characters hear―the sound of traffic, or a light breeze rustling the palm trees above, a waterfall, or children playing? Taste is a little trickier, but I do write characters who love to eat, so their meals become part of their overall experience of each location.

By combining all the senses, setting almost becomes another character in my books. This allows my readers to travel vicariously―to really feel like they are travelling alongside the characters. So, next time you feel like you’re really there as you read, consider how the author has employed the senses to conjure the setting.

You can find Sandy here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

A Sunset in Sydney

How far would you go in the name of love?

Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.

Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox James plans to wine and dine her in London.

It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!

Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third book in The Holiday Romance trilogy.

A Sunset in Sydney is due out 3 July.

Release day: Don’t Let Me Forget

18 June 2020

Today is the official release of Don’t Let Me Forget by Belinda Williams (ebook, Escape Publishing). Here’s the blurb:

Would you remember the face of a killer?

After divorcing the heir to a media fortune, Juliet Temple chose to keep her high-profile surname to grow her elite event planning business. But when a young woman is found dead and Juliet is drugged at her latest celebrity party, not even the Temple name can protect her. Unable to remember what happened that night, Juliet finds herself in serious danger.

Juliet retreats to the Hunter Valley, where she becomes Jet Appleton, Rhodes Family Estate’s wedding organiser. Martin Rhodes, winemaker and former detective, is tasked with watching over her, but his son, Dan, knows nothing of Jet’s true identity–which is a problem because he’s the sort of man who deserves her honesty.

As the dark ties holding her to Sydney close in, Jet begins to see her old life–including her controlling ex-husband–in a whole new light. Jet’s longing to return to Sydney is proving to be a dangerous desire, and so are her growing feelings for Dan. But not as dangerous as the killer, who is still watching her every move . . .

Belinda dropped by today to tell us a little about this book:

Don’t Let Me Forget is a standalone romantic suspense set between Sydney and the picturesque Hunter Valley. With a killer on the loose, my heroine Juliet must pretend to be someone else to stay safe. The only problem is she’s developing feelings for Dan, a winemaker, who knows nothing of Juliet’s former life. The story combines a sweet romance with darker suspense elements, including an obsessive ex-husband. I can also promise some surprising twists, and I hope you enjoy it!

You can find out more about this book, including buy links, at Belinda’s website.

Feature book: Second Chance with the Single Dad

17 June 2020

Second Chance with the Single Dad by Kandy Shepherd

Subgenre: Contemporary romance
Release date: 1 Feb 2019
Publisher: Mills & Boon Forever Romance
Format: ebook
Length: 164 pages
RRP: $5.99 (ebook)

For starters, this cover is simply gorgeous. I always seem to melt when I see a handsome hero holding a sweet little baby, and this one—oh, my. The way he’s cuddling her in so close, and the hint of a smile on his face … awww!

Once I stopped crushing on the cover and started reading, the book is simply gorgeous too. I inhaled it in one glorious read, then sort of sat around and sighed for a while, so happy. I love that reading romance can give you all the feels.

Georgia Lang is such a wonderful heroine. She’s a schoolteacher on holidays for the summer, with lots of potential nephew and niece minding she could do, because she’s that sort of caring family person. But this time she’s sweetly called Time Out for herself. She has a fabulous book contract for a children’s book she’s also illustrating and needs the time to finish.

Without warning, her old university friend Wil Hudson, ‘a handsome, handsome man’ (this is from the first line, and yes, it’s true), turns up at her front door. This is a bit of a tricky meet. Wil and Georgia were best pals at uni; she was his ‘girl next door pal, his buddy, his good mate’. They’d remained friends as his girlfriends came and went, and her boyfriends came and went. Yes, they could have possibly been more than friends, but they chose to deliberately remain friends. It worked for them both, and they never jeopardized their relationship by becoming more; it was too precious to lose.

Then, suddenly, Wil got married and promptly dropped her out of his life. Was she hurt? Absolutely. Did she miss him? Absolutely. Was there any explanation for this sudden severing of their friendship? Not from her side of things.

To say she’s taken aback when Wil unexpectedly knocks on her front door two years later is the understatement of the year. The shocks keep coming. Wil has a daughter he didn’t know he had, Nina, and he asks for Georgia’s help.

All this happens in the first few pages of the first chapter! What a ripper of an opening. I was all agog. How on earth is Wil going to explain himself? And why would Georgia even care, having had him do the friend dump two years ago?

Ah, but I hadn’t counted on how fabulously nice and fair these two people are, how much they still genuinely care for each other, and how honest they could be while they worked through that awkward first confrontation. It’s not histrionics and tears and ugly drama; there are deep feelings between them and they both try hard to resurrect their friendship.

Of course, there are reasons why Wil dropped out of Georgia’s life, and I don’t want to blurt it all out here. The slow reveal, especially about his disturbingly dark childhood, will wring your heart and make you love him more.

I just loved reading Georgia and Wil’s story. They are truly beautiful people inside and out, despite the horrors of Wil’s past and the troubles from their temporary friend fall-out. As they fall in love with little Nina, they try desperately not to fall in love with each other. But you and I both know, in the hands of the lovely Kandy Shepherd, this is always going to happen.

Kandy, thank you for a truly swoon-worthy, smooshily romantic romance. It was bliss to read, and I will treasure it always.

Reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

ARRA members who leave a comment on the blog by 1 July 2020 will go into the draw to win a copy of this book.

ARRA newsletter #131

15 June 2020

Purple news

The June issue of the ARRA newsletter is out today. Members should have received the download code via email.

Here’s a quick run down on what you can find in the newsletter this month:

  • an update on progress for A Romantic Rendezvous (Locked Down)
  • a wrap-up from SMP’s recent Once Upon a Happily Ever After event
  • Charlotte’s Web Watch column looks at how Romancelandia is responding to #BLM
  • a new Diverse Reads column that highlights romances featuring diverse characters and relationships. What stories would you recommend to other members?
  • win a $10 gift card if you can Find the Heart!

Plus our regular columns—romance roundup, publisher news, self-publishing highlights, reviews, freebies and upcoming releases.

If anyone has any publishing news or deals to report, please send information through. And we are always looking for authors to do a Q&A for the newsletter. If you haven’t done one yet, please contact us at arra.editor@gmail.com.

Happy reading everyone!

Guest blogger: Kat Martin

14 June 2020

Creating a page turner

‘I couldn’t put it down!’ Those words are some of the most satisfying comments an author can receive. Nothing pleases me more than a note from someone grumbling about staying up late to finish one of my books.

It’s music to my ears.

There are lots of ways to earn those precious words. Writing a fast-paced novel is one of them. It is certainly my goal every time I start a new book.

My latest, The Deception, was no different. I knew I would be writing Hawk Maddox’s story. Hawk had been on my mind since he first appeared in a previous novel, Beyond Danger. I knew what he was like—strong, determined, tough as boot leather, and at six-foot-four, two-hundred-twenty pounds, a total beefcake hunk.

He was also a bounty hunter, which made him an interesting character with an interesting job. I always try to find the hero’s perfect match and Kate Gallagher was just right for Hawk. Tall, blonde, and curvy, she loved country music and drinking tequila at the Sagebrush Saloon.

But that was her secret side. She also owned her own business consulting firm so she was smart and hard-working.

I like to read books that draw me in and won’t let go, books I can’t wait to pick up again to find out what’s going to happen next.

There are lots of ways to do it. Paring down description makes the story move faster—or as Elmore Leonard once said, ‘I try to leave out the parts people skip.’

A Hollywood movie trick is to jump right into the scene. Leave out the, ‘Hello, how are you?’ ‘I’m fine, how are you?’ and just start talking.

I try to use hooks at the beginning and end of chapters, though some authors end a chapter in the middle of the action to keep you turning the pages.

I’ve found I do a lot of characterisation by showing how the hero, heroine, and sub characters react in a situation, rather than telling about their past. For instance, I don’t mention what the heroine did in high school unless it’s important to how she’ll solve the problem she’s facing.

These are a few of my techniques, though every author has his own style and there is nothing wrong with any of them as long as they work.

In The Deception, Kate Gallagher is devastated when she learns her sister has been murdered. Determined to find Chrissy’s killer, Kate hires lethal bounty hunter, Hawk Maddox. Working together, they follow a trail of clues that lead them deep into the city’s underbelly. Though Hawk warns Kate of the danger, nothing he says can convince Kate to walk away.

I hope you’ll watch for The Deception and that you find it a fast-paced, high-action page-turner. Until next time, all best wishes and happy reading, Kat

Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, LJ Martin. More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times bestseller list, and her novel Beyond Reason was recently optioned for a feature film. Kat’s next hardcover, The Ultimate Betrayal, a romantic thriller, will be released on 28 July.

You can find Kat here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

The Deception

When missing turns to murdered, one woman’s search for answers will take her to a place she never wanted to go…

After searching for her runaway sister for two long years, Kate Gallagher is devastated when she’s called to the morgue to identify Chrissy’s body, clearly the victim of a brutal attack. Guilt and grief send Kate into a tailspin. She failed Chrissy once…she won’t do it again. Even if finding her sister’s killer means following a lethal bounty hunter into the heart of darkness, placing both their lives in danger.

Working at Maximum Security has taken Jason Maddox down some dangerous paths, but never for a client he’s so drawn to, or for a case so monstrous. As clues lead them deeper into the city’s underbelly, connections to human trafficking draw them closer and closer to peril, but even Jase’s warnings can’t convince Kate to walk away. As the deadly operation puts a target on their backs, they’ll have to decide what matters most: the truth…or their lives.

You can buy The Deception here: Amazon | Kobo | B&N | iTunes | Indiebound

 

Feature book: The Last Real Cowboy

10 June 2020

The Last Real Cowboy by Caitlin Crews

Subgenre: contemporary western
Release date: 28 Jan 2020
Publisher: St Martin’s Paperbacks
Format: ebook and print
Length: 382 pages
RRP: $8.88 (ebook); $14.99 (print)

Reluctance is his strongest emotion at being with his brothers, and with her.

Brady Everett is on the family property somewhat reluctantly, as part of a condition of his father’s will. He had made another life for himself in the big city after he went to college, to find something more for himself than ranch life. In the nine months he has been with his brothers, he finds that he continually butts heads with his older brother in particular, as his brother continually puts down his ideas to better develop the property. Brady seems to be at a loose end and wants to go back to his old life. Then Brady is asked to look out for best friend’s young sister. The girl for whom he used to change her diapers when she was a baby.

Amanda Kittredge is somewhat despondent. No one believes that she needs space to breathe. To be herself. Space from her very overprotective brothers. The same brothers who turn up to Coyote, the down and dirty bar, where she has a new job. Oh, and she now lives above the bar. She tells them to get out of her space, but they ask Brady to look out for their sister. But Amanda wants Brady.

As Brady and Amanda have more interaction when he turns up at the bar, Brady starts to fight his attraction to Amanda. Amanda has been in love with Brady since she was a young girl. She doesn’t know how to progress her love but wants to be loved like other women in the town have love.

Brady wants a fling with Amanda, but he doesn’t want anyone to know, particularly his best friend. Amanda is not very happy when Brady wants a silent fling and for it not to be open. When the pair’s relationship is discovered, Brady cops much of the criticism for the relationship, him being much older than Amanda.

How Brady deals with the fallout speaks well of his character. He does beat himself over what he believes he has done but he makes a considered effort to change people’s opinion of him and to be the best person he can be for Amanda. His actions are very sweet and endearing. It is the actions that speak louder than words.

I have liked this series of the three men who have been impacted by their wildly erratic father. The men are actually able to discuss their feelings and issues with their father. Brady had always felt that he suffered the most, so he made the decision to go to college and make something of himself.

Reviewed by Heather

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Publisher pitch: Pride Publishing, Jun 2020

8 June 2020

Hello June! We could use a Time Lord and, luckily, His Perfect Companion gives us a big dose of the Doctor as well as an exciting new love. We also revisit our old friends at The Speakeasy and in Cedarwood, and there’s a brand-new suspense series to sink your teeth into in Jagged Shores. Check out all our new releases and find your next book boyfriend! Don’t forget, plenty of our favourite series are now available in box sets—with a new one released each week! Find them here.

You can find more of our titles at www.pride-publishing.com. Take a peek at our upcoming releases on the Coming Soon page and sign up to our newsletter—we’d love to see you there!

Here’s what we have releasing over the next few weeks:

9 June

Straight Up by K Evan Coles and Brigham Vaughn (The Speakeasy 4). The latest in the riveting Speakeasy series sees two men struggling with their secrets. Stuart is hiding his kink, and Malcom cannot tell those he’s closest to that he identifies as gray ace. Will their secrets hold them back, or can they overcome them together?

16 June

Fearing the Dream by Ann Marie James (Everyone’s Mechanic #2). Sergei just can’t say no when people come to him with a problem, and it’s starting to be too much. Stuart has been kicked out of his home and is working multiple jobs. Can Sergei give Stuart the family he’s missing, and will Stuart help Sergei set the boundaries he needs to survive?

23 June

His Perfect Companion by Alexa Milne. Mick and Ceri are polar opposites—one a loner, mourning the death of his lover three years previously, the other a rainbow-haired whirlwind. When they discover they share a love of Doctor Who, they might just find their perfect companion in each other.

30 June

Finding Forever in Cedarwood by Megan Slayer (Cedarwood Pride #9). The latest in the much-loved Cedarwood Pride series sees celebrity Liam heading to Cedarwood—he needs small-town experience, and fast. He doesn’t count on falling in love—especially when he hasn’t even come out yet! Animal-rescuer Stone might be the one thing Liam hasn’t expected.

7 July

North Point by Thom Collins (Jagged Shores #1). A delicious British thriller set on the Northumberland coast. Arnie grew up in a small fishing village, and takes his son back home for the holidays, but their carefree summer is cut short when they witness an attempted murder. Lifeboat helmsman Dominic proves further distraction.

The Eye of Evil by Pelaam (The Devil’s in the Details #3). A wickedly entertaining instalment in this paranormal thriller series. Paranormal detective Garen, along with his husband, is investigating petrification, but this is only the start of the battle. Fortune tellers, familiars, demons and more—this is a wild ride.

Guest blogger: Jennifer Kloester

7 June 2020

There’s something about romance

Who doesn’t love a romance? And now, more than ever, as the world struggles through these challenging times and so many of us are spending lots more time at home, we need the comfort of good books and great stories. I love stories that have a romance in them—either as the main focus of the novel, or as a delicious side dish to be savoured along the way. Romance fiction, crime fiction, mystery stories, science fiction, historical fiction, general fiction, literary novels—I’ll read them all so long as there is a satisfying romance somewhere between the covers. There is hope in a love story, as well as struggle, and usually laughter. There is the promise of happy days spent together getting to know that certain someone who might just be your soulmate.

My first romance was A Girl of the Limberlost, a book I still love to read and, while I adore LM Montgomery’s Anne books, my all-time favourite of her novels is The Blue Castle, which has a super-satisfying romance in it. Some of my favourite romances are set in the English Regency and include books by Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Anne Gracie and Eloisa James. There’s something so beguiling about the Regency setting. Maybe it’s the men and the way they dressed. I mean, is there anything more romantic than a devilishly handsome man in hessian boots, pantaloons, a tight-fitting coat and a snowy cravat? Unless of course it’s a man in top-boots, breeches, a well-cut coat and a carelessly knotted cravat! And then there are the women—those strong-minded, feisty individuals who hold out for love and yet are frequently surprised by the man who sweeps them off their feet and turns out not to be the hard-hearted rake or the world-weary cynic the world has thought them, but a man of passion and heart and honour.

While history may tell a different story, I love to escape into the fictional Regency world of carriages and fashion, ballrooms, Almacks, horse riding in Hyde Park, etiquette and elegant courtships. I adore the sexual tension of the era, when the touch of a man’s hand or a single kiss could signify so much. My love of Regency romances is what led me to write my first novel for adults, Jane Austen’s Ghost. Though it’s a modern story, with its own romance, it has a surprising Regency twist. Writing Jane’s story and bringing her into the modern world was definitely an act of wish-fulfilment. Though Jane Austen herself never married, there were several handsome men in her life and more than one suggestion of a love affair. I had great fun weaving those small facts into my story and having Jane remark on her experiences. Jane Austen was such an astute observer of human nature and she has plenty to say about love and relationships in Jane Austen’s Ghost. It’s a romp of a book, with a mystery and a quest, but it’s also a love story. Because, as the songwriter said, what the world needs now is love, sweet love, and where better to find it than in the pages of a romance?

You can find Jennifer here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Jane Austen’s Ghost

With her life a mess, Cassandra Austin seeks refuge in Winchester with her eccentric great-aunt – but Aunty B has problems of her own. Ghost problems.

Cassie doesn’t believe in ghosts but she’ll do anything to help the only person who’s ever loved her. Besides, a simple spell in the cathedral crypt couldn’t do any harm, could it? Well, except for the two-hundred-year-old curse on Jane Austen, that is.

Overnight, life is suddenly a whole lot weirder and it’s up to Cassie to save the day with the help of a dour Bishop, two literary geniuses, a couple of wise-cracking geriatrics and the mysterious Oliver Carling.

Magic and adventure abound in this genre-bending contemporary-historical paranormal romance with a Regency twist.

Favourite reads: May 2020

5 June 2020

Books_purpleWelcome to our favourite reads for May. Each month some of ARRA’s members will tell you a little bit about one of the books they’ve recently read and loved.

These are not full reviews of the books, just honest opinions on why they enjoyed the book so much. Hopefully one of these will strike a chord with you.

So, we asked our members to tell us about some of their favourite reads for May …

The Professor’s Green Card Marriage by Heidi Cullinan (contemporary m/m romance)

This is a marriage-of-convenience story with complex layers. Valentyn’s seeking a US green card and is terrified to return to a country that does not accept gay men. Peter works in a cafe and has been attracted to the Ukranian professor since he first saw him. He also struggles with selective mutism. Both characters pulled me right into their respective stories. It was fascinating to see how Ms Cullinan gave Peter a ‘voice’ and to watch their heart-tugging relationship unfold and develop—the ride was not easy. I’m glad I took a chance on this new-to-me-author. [Kylie, NSW]

Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie (Marriage of Convenience #4) (historical romance)

What a story, what a finish to a series! Oh, I loved this one so much—Anne Gracie is a must-read author for me and she has never disappointed me. I have been looking forward to George’s story since this series started and it was worth the wait. I hope you pick this one up and see a strong heroine tame her arrogant hero. This book, and the series, is a must read—beautifully written with witty banter and a sensual romance. It is fun, moving and filled with joy, smiles and sighs. [Helen, NSW]

A Dog and a Diamond by Rachael Johns (The McKinnels of Jewell Rock #1) (contemporary romance)

I enjoyed this Harlequin Special Edition, which I picked up at ARR2020. It’s the first shorter book by her I’ve read, and it was a charmer! The couple meet when Chelsea—who is a professional breakup expert—breaks the bad news to Callum his relationship with another woman is over. Sounds mad—and gosh, who would do that for a living?—but Rachael makes it work really well. There is lots of whiskey in this story, which instantly makes it even more interesting. Rachael also tackles the sensitive issue of alcoholism with grace and intelligence. Off to find another McKinnel! [Malvina, NSW]

Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen (Brooklyn Bruisers #7) (contemporary romance)

This story features Bess Berringer (sports agent) and Mark ‘Tank’ Tankiewicz (hocky player), with appearances from others in the series. Bess has good reasons for not wanting to get involved with Tank (again; they had a short affair when she was 21), but they can’t help themselves. I loved the vulnerability in Tank because of the issue that broke up his marriage, and I loved that Bess went out of her way to reassure him, once she knew of the issue, and also came up with the perfect solution for them. SCAL is always a good theme for me and I loved this story so much! [Debbie, ACT]

Alien Creep by Calista Skye (Alien Abductors #1) (sci-fi romance)

This was my first read by this author and it didn’t disappoint. The heroine and her sister are part of a resistance movement on Earth, trying to free humans from the control of their alien oppressors. When Mila is sold at auction as punishment, she’s rescued by Xan’tor, a humanoid alien shifter. Even in space, Mila is determined to help her sister and continue protecting Earth. She just has to convince her six-foot-something hero to help. [Charlotte, ACT]