Today we have Cynthia Justlin with us for All Things Romantic Suspense. Welcome, Cynthia. Glad you could stop by to talk with me. So, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

 Cynthia: I’ve always enjoyed writing. And when I was in junior high, I had an English teacher who was more interested in creative writing than mechanics, so she used to give us colored paper and let us sit and write during class. She’d come by and initial our pages to make sure we were doing something. I loved it. I think I was in the minority, though, since I remember the boys behind me writing down Def Leppard lyrics instead of stories, and my teacher was definitely out of the popular music loop because she honestly believed they were writing great poetry. LOL.

 It wasn’t until my sons were born, though, that I started giving serious thought to publishing.

Jerri: I have had the privilege to read Cynthia writing, and I think she’s amazing.  So, how long does it take you to write a book?

Cynthia: I’d love to say I’m fast and furious, but I’m more like the turtle—slow and steady wins the race. It’s taken me anywhere from six months to a year to write a book, but I’m currently trying to train myself to write faster.
 Jerri: I’ve actually slowed down the last couple of years myself. How did you come up with the title?

 Cynthia: Her Own Best Enemy is actually a play on the Richard Marx album “My Own Best Enemy”. I stumbled upon it one day while writing the book, and all the songs just clicked for my characters and their conflicts. The album was constantly on repeat while writing, so I adopted the title for the book.

Jerri: Is there a messages in your novel/s that you want readers to grasp?

Cynthia: At its core, Her Own Best Enemy is a story about forgiveness. Not only about forgiving others, but about forgiving yourself. It’s also about learning that everyone makes bad decisions in their life at one time or another, but that doesn’t mean they’re unredeemable. People can change.

Jerri: What does your family think of your writing?
Cynthia: My family is very supportive. My husband has been my #1 cheerleader and a great brainstorming partner. I love the fact that I can go to him and say, “My heroine just found out her ex-husband has been leading a dual life and has a secret office. What should I do now?” And he’ll talk it out with me until we come up with the perfect solution. He knows guns, cars, and lots of cool useful facts, so I love picking his brain.

 Jerri: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

 Cynthia: I’ve written a couple contemporary romances (that will probably never see the light of day) and three romantic suspense books. Her Own Best Enemy was actually my first foray into romantic suspense, and as soon as I started it, I knew that romantic suspense was what I was meant to write.

 I don’t think I can pick a favorite. I love all of them for different reasons. Each one has left me with a greater appreciation for who I am, so, like my children, they’re all equally important to me.

 Jerri: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

Cynthia: I admit that I DO read reviews. With a gut-clenching sense of dread. But I can’t seem to stop myself. I want to know, and if the reviewer hated it, well, at least I can walk away, give myself a good cry, and then suck it up and get back to writing. LOL. I think it’s important to pay attention to reviews if a reviewer is taking the time to point out relevant, constructive criticism. I want honest feedback because how else will I know where I need to improve.

Jerri: Can you give us a look at what you are working on now?

Cynthia: I am currently working on a novella that I hope to release in June. It centers around Rebecca Cooper, the agoraphobic sister of the heroine from Her Own Best Enemy, and Jack, the boy who’d once been her best friend. Jack is now a hostage negotiator, burying his pain of a mission-gone-bad with a desk job that doesn’t require him to engage. But when Rebecca is taken hostage in her own home, Jack must risk it all to take down the madman and convince Rebecca to let go of her fears and embrace life.


Desperate to track down her ex-husband who disappeared along with their son, Grace Stevens delves into his past and uncovers evidence of a shocking dual life. The man she thought was an ordinary computer consultant is in fact a former high-ranking Special Forces officer with unique skills in military intelligence. With nowhere to turn she is forced to plead for help from Keith King, the one man she hoped to never see again. Against her better judgment she’ll have to put her child’s fate into his hands.

Keith has officially hit rock bottom. Framed for the theft of deadly missile components, the cynical Special Forces officer is in danger of losing the only thing he can count on: his career. His one shot at clearing his name lies in locating Grace’s ex, who was working with Keith on a secret mission to take down a cutthroat military traitor. But to team up with Grace he’ll need to spend 24/7 with a woman who has every reason to hate him. Out to use each other for their own agenda, desperate mother and disillusioned soldier find they must work together to stay alive, and in the process discover that sometimes even the best of enemies fall in love.

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 It was empty.

 Keith clenched his fist around the key he’d gotten off the owner and surveyed the barren cabin with growing irritation.

 They’d hiked away most of the day. And the damn room was empty.

 Grace turned circles in the middle of the room, pressing a fist to her mouth.

 “We must have the wrong room.” Desperation clogged her voice. Her eyes widened, fear and hope mingling in their cloudy green depths. “The owner said cabin three, right?” she asked. “This—this must not be the right cabin.”

 She rushed past him.

 “No, Grace.” He turned to grab her arm but she shook him off and ran onto the tiny porch.

 She traced the number beside the door.

 “Room three.” She blinked. “Room three.” Her face crumbled, tears spiking her bottom lashes. “But the owner said…”

 He fisted his hands at his side, itching to…do something. Smash the flimsy knotty pine wall. Shout in frustration. Comfort her.

 No way, not comfort her. What did he know about comfort?

 He took a quick inventory of the room’s offerings. A pair of bunk beds along one wall with a small dresser and what looked like a closet on opposite ends, a miniature kitchenette behind him, and a door off to his far right that had to lead to a bathroom.

 “He said Mark had paid for the week. Not that they were still here.” 

 “No.” She straightened, her eyes lit with desperate fire. “He has to be here.”

 She dashed to the bathroom where she flung open the flimsy door. Her jaw worked and she shook her head until her eyes homed in on the bunk. She ran to it and tore off the ugly mustard blanket covering the bottom bed. Next, the crisp white sheets hit the floor. She gripped the mattress and flipped it, revealing the springs underneath.

 She cried out and raced to the dresser where she yanked on the doors and sent them crashing to the scarred wooden floor, one by one.

 His heart twisted. What was she doing to herself? She knew Ryker couldn’t be in the there. Damn it, the woman was going to have a breakdown if she didn’t—


 Her head jerked toward him at the sound of his rough command. She swiped at the tears on her cheeks. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

 “Grace…” He held out his hands in a foolish, woefully inept attempt to console her. How could he do so effectively when he’d never been the recipient of such an act?

 She spun away from him and stumbled to the closet. Her fingers curled around the handle, she froze and drew a shuddering breath.

 Oh, hell, she wasn’t just looking for her son. She was looking for his body.

 “Grace, let me—”

 She shook her head and before he could reach her, yanked the door open. A cry strangled past her lips.

 He leapt the remaining distance and pushed her aside. Not the kid. God, not the kid.

 He dragged his gaze to the bottom of the closet.

 On the floor sat a bright red backpack, a whale key fob threaded through the zipper. Grace reached for it, her movements mechanical and stiff. She crushed the pack to her chest, her fingers digging into the coarse canvas. “Ryker’s.”

 He looked away, unable to bear the sheer heartbreak on her face. He’d told her not to get her hopes up. Told her despite the odds, they may not find Ryker today.

 But she’d been so certain, so damned determined. They’d wasted the day, coming up tired and empty-handed. Back at square one.

 And Grace…

 His eyes drifted to her, his stomach clenched, unwanted protectiveness welling inside him. He tried to force the tightness aside, but it grew and grew, forming a lump in his throat.

 She buried her face in the front of the backpack, sobs wracking her body.

 He touched her arm, running his thumb along it in an effort to soothe her shaking. “I’m sorry, Grace.”

 “I was so sure…” She lifted her head, green eyes drenched with bewilderment locking on him. “Where could he be?”

 Her knees buckled. He caught her around the shoulders and cushioned her drop to the floor.

 His chin brushed the top of her head. “We’ll find him.”

 The fervency in his voice surprised him. Even more so, the conviction that sprung in his heart.

 “We’ll get him back.” He gathered her in his arms. “Safe and sound.”

 She clutched the front of his shirt, burying her face at his shoulder. Hot tears leaked through the fabric. He stroked her back, feeling the bulk of the backpack crushed between them shift with his movements.

 He rocked her side to side, remembering as a kid the way he’d once seen his neighbors locked in such an embrace after a devastating loss. Soothing. Consoling.

 And yet, so foreign. Awkward.  

 She looked up into his face, her eyes a mask of confusion and need. He needed too. Needed to touch her.

His fingers skimmed her jaw, brushing away the wetness he found there. He traced her cheekbones, her smooth skin gliding beneath the roughness of his own.


 She’d never once complained. Not about the heat. Not about the steep trail. She’d even put up with his deliberate silent treatment. Never giving up, never losing faith, she was infuriating and tough. He respected that. Admired her determination and desired…



 His head snapped back. Damn.

 The thought dislodged from his brain and he couldn’t get rid of it. Blood roared through his veins. He wanted to taste her.

 Her lips parted, her cheeks flushed. “I don’t think…” Her voice wavered to a stop.

 He couldn’t kiss her. It was wrong. Inappropriate.

 But he needed to do it.

 He cupped her chin, tilting her face. “Don’t wimp out on me now.”

 He slid his hand across her jaw to cradle the back of her head and crushed his lips to hers. She tasted of sadness and salty tears, two things that pricked his conscience, but her soft, warm lips pushed him over the edge and made him forget all about his rigid principles. He deepened the kiss. With a flick of his tongue he coaxed her lips to part.

 She should stop him. Slap him. Do something to stop this madness. He’d do it himself…in a moment.

 Her tongue touched his, lighting a fire deep inside him. He pushed his hands through her hair, the silky strands sifting through his fingers as he angled her head back, devouring her mouth, exploring it with his tongue.

What the hell was he doing?

 The thought ripped through him, his sense of right and wrong beating him over the head. He’d crossed the line. Comfort was one thing. Taking advantage of her distress an entirely different—and loathsome—matter. He nipped her bottom lip, allowing himself one last taste before pushing her away.   

Their ragged breaths mingled in the silence.

 She bent her head, hiding an intriguing glimpse of desire mixed with guilt and heartsickness. “Don’t do that again.”

 Her ragged voice was tempered with a confusing mix of steel, but it didn’t keep him from wanting to kiss her again…and again and again.