Friday, February 7, 2014

Author Spotlight, Review, & Giveaway - The Muse Unlocked by Chris Kuhn


All women want to feel desired and see themselves through someone else's eyes as desirable. Cate knew this better than most and had spent her life honing her craft to tell stories that reminded every woman of any age, any size or temperament that she deserved to feel this way. To others, 38-year-old screenwriter and author Cate Mullen appears the consummate professional and at the top of her game. But a sharp, biting wit and tough, confident persona mask something else. Each night, when she returns home, the frequent storyteller of passion and romance is reminded that, while the house is occupied by another – a husband of 12 years – she is in fact living alone. As Cate confronts feelings of rejection and inadequacy that plague her self-esteem and threaten to block her creativity, she begins production on her latest scripted film. There she meets 28-year-old, promising actor, Oliver Sand. As one relationship ends, a new intimacy begins that offers hope of crushing past fears and insecurities though it brings its own set of unique challenges. Would getting involved with a cast member jeopardize Cate’s career or be used against her? Could they be using each other or was true love really possible, as the writer had always touted but never quite believed? A mixture of quick wit, sexy banter and slow-churning romance, The Muse Unlocked is a tale of one woman’s journey to release herself from the constraints of her past and open her heart to the future.


by Chris Kuhn
Many of my readers have found a new kind of romantic “book boyfriend” in Oliver Sand. Though Cate is the heart of the book and definitely who most of my female readers feel most connected to or can relate to, it is the allure of Oliver that often yields the most feedback. His origin is amusing. The book exists because of Oliver. I happened to be flipping through some entertainment web pages and I stumbled upon an actor I’d never seen before nor heard of. And I was immediately captivated. Who was this guy? I started seeking movies that he appeared in, watching him in action. And it was like I knew immediately: I wanted to write about this man. Never before in my entire life had I experienced such an odd creative epiphany of sorts.
I have not nor will I share the name of my “muse” for Oliver Sand, but I can tell you that it was that vision that led me to write my first scene. In doing so, Cate was born as his counterpart, and like so many things, the further I explored and wove a story, the more I realized Cate was the main thread of it but Oliver was technically the catalyst that got the whole creative process flowing. To this day, whenever I stumble over the actor appearing on a TV show or in a movie, I get a little warm, fuzzy feeling for him because he is my Oliver Sand. And I’ve chosen to keep his identity hidden because I want every person reading this book to see their Oliver, whomever they would like to imagine in that romantic role – Cate, too, for that matter. That’s actually why I went the direction I did with the cover. I didn’t want to plant images of the two leads in my readers’ heads. As I was writing the book, I stared at photos of the two actors, my original Oliver inspiration and an actress who I came to know and think of as my Cate. It helped me tremendously as I wrote about them, but I will not reveal their names because I think the most valuable joy in reading is the freedom of using our own imagination, and I wouldn’t want to rob a reader of that joy.
In creating the character of Oliver Sand, I certainly wanted to build a man who felt and looked contemporary, but it also was more important to introduce a romantic hero that maybe readers hadn’t met before in today’s romance novels. He is not the bad boy or the rocker or the misunderstood, intense millionaire executive. Yes, he is a knockout, his good looks and charm are indisputable, and the boy does like his motorcycle and showcases proudly a bit of ink. But that’s where the similarities stop. Oliver is a poet. He may be an actor by trade, but he has the heart and soul of a romantic, and I deliberately wanted to infuse in him almost an old-fashioned quality that you might expect in a classic 30s or 40s Hollywood romantic comedy. I have been thrilled to hear readers are captivated by that unexpected retro feel he exudes through his language, his gestures and his words of love. For some, he might not be outrageous or scandalous enough, but I truly believe that at the heart of most women, we really want a caring, tender and thoughtful lover who also has the ability to make us drip in anticipation each time he peels away his clothes or ours and goes out of his way to find new ways to reach our heart and stimulate us emotionally as well as physically. That’s what I’ve tried to create with Oliver Sand, and based on reader feedback so far, he seems to have his own legion of admirers, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Bonus Scene

For those who have read THE MUSE UNLOCKED, this is a scene that does not appear in the book but would have taken place just after Chapter 13 and before Chapter 14. It follows a dinner party that Cate and Oliver attend at Jaime and Kristen’s house. Now readers will get an opportunity to see what happened immediately following that evening and how it may have influenced the couple’s first road trip adventure. I hope you enjoy it!
And for those who have not yet read the book, not to worry. There is nothing here that will spoil a later introduction to the book for you but you’ll get a chance to meet screenwriter/author Cate Mullen and film and TV actor Oliver Sand in this slice-of-life scene so I do hope that you enjoy it, as well.
~ Chris Kuhn, author of THE MUSE UNLOCKED
Oliver pushed open the door and led Cate by the hand into the all-night diner. She looked around skeptically at what she would have likely considered a dump if she were driving by and would have never considered stopping in, but she could tell by his enthusiasm, that this was a place Oliver knew quite well.
“Hi there, handsome!”
Cate heard what sounded like an older woman’s voice. She detected an accent but wasn’t sure until she stepped in to see that the server calling to them from behind the counter was most likely in her 50’s and of Hispanic heritage
“This place has the best chicken and waffles anywhere in the Los Angeles area, and believe me. I’ve searched everywhere trying to find some place that makes it like back home,” he looked back and smiled at Cate.
“Chicken and whaa?” She eyed him with amusement.
The actor laughed and rolled his eyes. “Chicken and waffles! Aren’t you from the south? From Florida? How can you not know about the plate of heaven that is chicken and waffles?”
Cate just shrugged and smiled back.
Oliver made eye contact with the server and pointed to a booth for her approval. The server nodded and blew him an air-kiss, which Oliver responded to with one of his dazzling heartthrob smiles. Well, what do you know? Yet another woman on the planet who finds my date irresistible. What a shock. Cate laughed to herself at the observation that most women and some men frequently took it upon themselves to flirt with the handsome actor, and not that she could blame them, but it did frequently cause her to question why he chose to spend his time with her and not one of the many admirers they seemed to cross paths with on a daily basis.
Oliver pulled Cate toward the table. On the way there, he grabbed a menu with his other hand and laid it before his date as the couple sat down. “I haven’t been here in a while,” he looked around with a gleam in his eye that Cate noticed as she peered over the menu at him. “I love this place.”
“What’s not to love,” Cate said with a chuckle. The barb was out before she could reel it back. “I’m sorry. I’m just teasing.”
Oliver sat across from the writer, studying her, his hands folded on top of the table. “Thank you again for letting me drive your car here from Jaime’s. That’s quite a set of wheels you’ve got. Why do you have such a fast car anyway? You don’t strike me as a dragster.” He grinned and cocked his head to the side.
Cate let her eyes take in this beautiful actor before her and thought she felt a little drool gathering at the corner of her mouth and quickly wiped it to be safe. She felt his eyes lock with hers. “You’d be surprised about me when it comes to a lot of things. Some days, I just like to go out on the open road, put my foot to the floor and let my mind wander.”
She noticed him catch his breath a little though his gaze didn’t waver, and a sexy smirk overtook his lips. He leaned in and lowered his voice. “I’d really love to see how fast you can go, Cate.”
She blinked a few times and caught herself swallowing hard as the server arrived at the table to greet them. Oliver jumped out of his seat to embrace the server who wore a nametag etched with “Essie.” He planted a gentle kiss on her cheek before returning to his seat and pointing to his date. “Essie, I want you to meet a good friend of mine. This is Sara. And Sara, Essie is one of the sweetest, most beautiful ladies you’re going to meet here in Los Angeles and she was one of the first people who made me feel at home when I stopped in just after I moved here.” He looked up at the server and beamed.
Essie caressed his cheek motherly. “Oh, honey. How could anyone not be sweet to you, ah?” She turned to Cate and touched her arm gently. “Is he not the most handsome boy you’ve ever seen? And sweeeeeet.” She held out the syllable on that last word just long enough to prompt a giggle from Cate who nodded and smiled at the woman. Essie turned to Oliver. “So what are we having this morning?”
“That’s right, it is morning already, isn’t it?” Oliver looked at Cate with surprise in his eyes.
“It sure is.” Cate continued to look down at the menu but smiled at his sudden realization that the two were sitting down to a meal at2 a.m. after going to Jaime and Kristin’s for dinner earlier that evening.
Essie squeezed his arm and giggled, the way all women seemed to do around this endearing man who sat before Cate, a man that she was starting to fall for more and more every day. Her concentration on the smoothness of his skin along his neck was broken by another tug on the arm --- this time, hers.
“Oliver only brings good people here, so I know you must be good people,” Essie radiated joy, and Cate quickly realized why Oliver would be so attracted to her positive energy and the hospitality of what would otherwise be described as a hole in a wall but clearly to Oliver had become like home. Cate did find another thought enter her brain uninvited – I wonder who Oliver’s brought here before – but she quickly pushed it aside. She blushed at the server’s kind sentiment and spoke quietly. “I do the best I can.”
Oliver jumped into the conversation. “Sara is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know, Essie. So yes, she’s good people. Very good.”
Cate felt her insides tumble a little at his emphasis of the final two words and grinned. She looked up at Essie and began to place her order. Oliver jumped in before she could say a word.
“We’ll have the chicken and waffles, Essie, and… coffee?” he turned to Cate for her input on that part of the order. She chuckled and nodded. Clearly, he is intent on me trying this dish, so I’ll leave my better judgment aside and pick up antacids on the trip home, she thought to herself.
The server took the menu with another sweet smile for them both, then left their table to place the order. Oliver held out his hands on the table straight in front of them and Cate gave in, laying her fingers inside his grasp.
“So what were you and Jaime talking about when Kristen sent me to tell you that coffee and dessert were ready?” he looked at Cate with a new seriousness. “It looked pretty intense in there.”
Cate laughed off the inquiry and shifted the subject. “Oh, it was nothing. Just talk about script changes. So why was it so important for us to come all of this way from home for a meal in a greasy spoon?”
“You always tell me that you never got a chance to explore Los Angeles when you moved here, so I thought I’d show you another place you haven’t been.”
“Yeah, but we could have gone another day and come in the daytime, not so late at night,” Cate offered.
“But there’s nothing like chicken and waffles in the early, early morning. Mmm mmm,” he closed his eyes and moaned a little, and the sexiness of even the slightest moan coming from that handsome man left her quivering yet again.
“I know. You really want me to try this combination, but it’s just so late and we’ve got to be on the set tomorrow so early, that I just thought---“
Oliver cut her off. “I didn’t want the night to end, okay?”
His admission caught Cate off guard. She felt her mouth drop open in response and quickly shut it to form a shy smile with her lips. “I don’t want this evening to end either.”
She watched the normally boisterous actor become quieter and hang his head a little, a smile spreading across his face. “So Cate, what do you do for fun around here? You know, when you have free time?”
Cate placed her elbows on the table and propped her head with her clutched fists resting under her chin. “Wow, that’s a really good question. I’ve never thought about it because I don’t usually have any free time. At least, I haven’t in a while. Not when my dad was sick and I was flying back and forth to Florida. I guess if I had more time off I would probably go to museums and art galleries. It was one of the things I was most excited about when I moved out here. Being in a big city with so much art and theater was new to me. I wasn’t used to that back home. We have some nice museums, but I usually had to travel to see them.”
Oliver nodded and twisted a few napkins pulled from the dispenser into various shapes and sizes. “There is definitely a lot to do out here. I wasn’t used to it either. My town didn’t have a lot of that, art galleries or theaters, so the only time I had a chance to see a show or go to an art exhibit was when our class would take a field trip to Oklahoma City.”
Cate looked over at the server who smiled at her from behind the counter, clearly keeping an eye on the couple. Cate smiled back politely and her eyes connected with Oliver who held a longing in them and seemed to glide across her face and entire upper body. She felt a blush come over her as Essie returned to bring coffee cups and a coffeepot, then promptly returned to the counter. Cate eyed Oliver as he began pouring cups for both of them. “Why did you tell Essie that my name was Sara?”
He set down the coffeepot and pulled the sugars and bowl of creamers closer to them. “Essie’s great. She wouldn’t say anything, but you never know who might be around in here. Who I’m dating seems to be of real interest to some people and you definitely don’t need people poking their nose in your business right now, so I didn’t think you’d mind,” he looked over and shot a grin as he stirred his coffee. She felt a glow upon her face, so impressed at his discretion and thoughtfulness to look out for her as much as himself.He’s Lancelot. She smiled to herself.
Essie arrived with their dishes in hand. “Careful. These are hot.” She laid the still steaming plates before each of them. “Enjoy.”
Cate blew through her golden blonde bangs. “Oh my, that’s a lot of sodium.” She chuckled aloud as Oliver tore into his dish like he had not eaten in days. “I see you’re up for the challenge of this mountain of food before you.”
Oliver covered his mouth, but she caught the dimples etched in his face in response to her observation. When he’d finally finished that first bite, he held his hand out to touch Cate’s. “Sorry. I haven’t been here in a while, but trust me, Cate,” he leaned in closer to her and let his fingers glide up and down her hand. Then spoke in a low, sexy voice. “You’ve never tasted anything like this in your life.”
The sultriness in that innocent remark caught Cate off guard, and the woman of many words found herself speechless. He pulled his hand away and shot her another one of his dazzling smiles just as Cate picked up her fork to begin diving into the meal. She dropped the fork suddenly which only made those dimples deepen and the two giggled as they got lost in chicken, waffles and a heavy side of innuendo that showed no signs of running out anytime soon.


All a woman wants from a man is to feel love, cherished, and desired.  Cate Mullen is not different.  Cate writes novels that remind women that they should always feel desired and be desired by men, unfortunately the same cannot be said about her own personal life.  To everyone around her, she seems to be on top of the world.  A great career, a great home, and a husband who adores her.  But what most people don't see is that Cate hasn't felt desired for a long time, that her husband Carl has checked out of their marriage and will do almost anything to remind Cate that she choose her career over him.  Gone is the doting husband who will do anything to support the woman he loves, in it's place is a man who is bitter and tries to break Cate down any way that he can.

The story starts when Cate goes to her high school reunion and almost hooks up with a man that in high school she desired.  Key word?  Almost.  The man reminds her of why she feels less than adequate and undesired when he is unable to perform and leaves Cate reminded of part of the reason why her marriage has turned non existent.  Cate's personal life is falling apart around her.  Her father just died, she lives across the house in another room away from her husband, and for a long time, a part of Cate's past won't let her feel desired and at every turn she's reminded as to why men no longer feel desire toward her, not to mention Carl now wants a divorce.  Her only comfort is knowing that when she returns one of her novels is about to start filming and she'll get to see the film making process once more as her words become larger than life.

Issue is on the way home she discovers that much to her dismay, an actor she never imagined for the part has been cast, an Oliver Sand.  Cate is not happy with the casting decision, but decides she has no choice but to accept their choice for now since BT has decided Oliver will play the part.  What she doesn't expect to find when she gets to the set is that the 28 year old actor is not only attractive like she knew he would be, but is a huge fan of her work.  While Cate continues to be unhappy with the casting choice, Oliver over time will prove to Cate not only that he's perfect for the part, but that he might just be what she needs in her life to discover that she really is a desired woman and that he can make her feel that way.

So while filming Cate will discover that her attraction toward Oliver seems to be reciprocated through him, but she must learn to keep her growing desire for Oliver from not only to cast and crew of the film secret, but also from her soon to be ex-husband, Carl.  While Carl seemed to have checked out of the marriage long ago, he all of a sudden is bent on making her life a living nightmare and determined to prove that Cate has been unfaithful in their marriage.  Carl wants to make sure that Cate is left unhappy and alone, while exposing the secrets of those most important to her.  Question is, is Oliver hiding something in the past that could destroy him and the relationship he shares with Cate?  Can Cate discover that she truly is desired or is it too late for her to find love after her failed marriage?

I loved the story of Cate and Oliver.  Cate wants so much to be desired and loved in life.  While she appears to have the perfect like and a very successful career, her love life died long ago.  It was amazing to watch this woman he should be broke down and unhappy continue to move through life with a positive outlook on things and through writing express what she wanted most out of a man and a partner in life.  Oliver was great as well.  He many have been so much younger than Cate, but he will prove to her that not only is he the perfect man for the part, but he's just as great off screen as he is on screen.  At the beginning of the book, I couldn't figure out why Cate's life was the way it was.  At first she appeared to be a wife who got bored with her husband that didn't listen to her or accept her career and just decided to close herself off and move to another part of the house.  That is, until a portion of her past is revealed and it made me realize why Cate is the way she is, and it made me sad for her because for so long those moments in her past have defined her life now.

Join Cate as she discovers that life is not over after her marriage is over and that perhaps the man that's right for her isn't how she always envisioned he would be.  Oliver is such a complex character with so many things that have happened to him in the past, but like Cate he didn't give up and went on to have a successful career in Hollywood.  I loved their story, and cannot wait to see where their story goes from here.  Well written, deep, and full of emotion, The Muse Unlocked is a great book for women who want so many of the same things that Cate wants.  I give it 5 stars and look forward to the next book in this series.

***ARC provided by author in exchange for a honest review***

About the Author

Building a professional writing career in the marketing and media worlds didn't always allow Chris time to explore her own creative pursuits. When she went to work for herself as a freelance writer and editor, she began to look at words differently, and old dreams sparked again. Since she could remember, Chris wanted to write books but never felt a pull in any specific genre. In summer 2012, all of that changed. She discovered contemporary romance and new adult fiction, swooning over the work of such authors as Sylvain Reynard and Colleen Hoover. Inspired and determined to add a new voice to the mix, she took the leap and began telling what she hoped would be a different kind of love story. She has since openly admitted to having dreams about her characters, something she considers the mark of a bonafide author (and quite possibly, of clinical schizophrenia).
Chris is married and lives in the suburbs of Tampa Bay, Fla. When she is not writing or drooling over book boyfriends, she loves listening to music, going to movies, discovering new Thai restaurants and golfing (badly). If she could write her next book from a golf course while indulging in a Kevin Spacey marathon over tofu panang curry, she would.



Two signed copies of The Muse Unlocked.  Can be either print or e-book formats for Kindle or iPad/tablet (winner’s preference).  If e-book forward is selected, Chris can provide a personalized “signing” electronically.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

No comments:

Post a Comment