I’m pleased to welcome debut author Julie K. Cohen to my blog. Her Sci-Fi Romance/Fantasy THE TRAITOR’S TOUCH, Mindwipe Book 1 was released on June 12, by Soul Mate Publishing.
Kira’s people blackmailed her into spying on enemy Commander Tal Kaegen—the one man who can prevent interplanetary war. As she falls for Tal, assassinations and a mole threaten his Command. She’s the only one he trusts… The only way to save him is to betray him.
AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON
In this post, Julie was great enough to give an interview. I read THE TRAITOR’S TOUCH and it was riveting. My review is included, as well as where to buy and how to reach and follow Julie.
THE TRAITOR’S TOUCH #1 of the Mindwipe Series. Where did you get your inspiration for this series? How will the books by tied together?
I grew up watching all the sci-fi television shows: Star Trek, Battle Star Galactica, Logan’s Run, Bionic Man, Bionic Woman, etc. My love of Star Trek is what attracted me to reading. I read all the Star Trek novels that were out at the time, which led to my reading other books. I always sought books with emotional connections between the characters. It never occurred to me to read romance, not until much later in life. I still focused on the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre and came across authors such as Doris Egan, Barbara Hambly, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (The Liaden Universe). McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series remains perhaps my favorite series and the inspiration for The Traitor’s Touch. All of my favorite books have a romance subplot but also include great world-building, action, and intriguing plots.
The next book in the Mindwiped series, The Traitor’s Truth, will feature Tal and Kira who are caught up in a plot that endangers the planet and their future as a couple. They will have to rediscover one another and fall in love all over again if they and their world are to survive. As for book three… I have a great concept brewing in my head and hope to create the time to write it in between all my other writing projects.
This Sci-Fi Romance/Fantasy takes place on the planet Serriss, but Kira, the heroine is a pilot from Derid. What year does the story take place and where are the planets located with respect to our known galaxy?
While there is no year specified, the story takes place in the future. People are still people, using and misusing technology, fighting over territory, and suffering from greed, miscommunication and all the faults that plague humanity. The characters are human with all the same fears, hopes, dreams and flaws that we experience. While they travel between planets, that doesn’t mean all planets in the story are advanced, either technologically speaking or from a cultural/human rights perspective. Therein is where much of the conflict arises between our hero and heroine, from the differences between their planets and cultures.
THE TRAITOR’S TOUCH is such a clever title. How did you come up with it?
Kira, the heroine, is branded a traitor for circumstances beyond her control. Her status as a traitor is a key part of the plot. As for “touch,” the word has multiple meanings in the book. This is a romance and I like characters who can be intimate with a simple touch, which of course can (and does) lead to steamier intimacy. But the main meaning behind “touch” is how the heroine affects the hero, how she “touches his heart and his life” in a way that leaves him forever changed. Of course, this goes both ways.
Tell us about the heroine Pilot Kira Jensen. What kind of person is she? How different is she from other women on Derid and Serriss, as far as what the hero, Tal saw in her?
She’s a fighter, but not a kick-ass woman who strives to best every man or adversary simply to prove she’s ‘better’ than they are. She’s trying to navigate life and the inane policies of her world. Kira will do whatever it takes to survive. It’s her determination to fight for herself and never leave her fate in the hands of another that sets her apart from the women of her word, Derid. As for Tal’s world, Serriss is a restrictive society for women, which makes acclimating there a challenge for Kira on several levels. There’s only so much she’ll put up with from a cultural standpoint. While Kira isn’t quite ready for the challenges of Serriss, Serriss is certainly not prepared for Kira’s fierce nature and refusal to be anyone other than who she is. Tal is in a unique position. While raised very traditionally on Serriss, he’s been exposed to other worlds and cultures through his time as an operative. He’s more open-minded and tolerant of different customs than his contemporaries.
What about Commander Tal Kaegen? What makes him such a swoon-worthy hero?
While he’s well-built (Of course he is, right? This is Romance!), he’s a decisive man who knows a good thing when he sees it… in this case, Kira. Tal makes no excuses for who he is or what he does. He can be quite arrogant, but he’ll do anything—anything—to protect those he loves. There’s an honor, and endless determination to save his people and his family, that shows in everything he does, good or bad, and that is what makes him so appealing.
Here’s a recent 5-star review on BookBub:
“Loved it! Who doesn’t want to read a good romp through space that includes super-secret codes, a mystery mole, a rescue of the love of the hero’s life, a traitor to a planet, a heroine REALLY good with knives, a bad guy who is nasty as hell, and a hero who is arrogant yet amazingly romantic at the same time? Oh, I forgot about the political intrigue and Councilmember whack-a-mole, puppets and puppet masters, stinky flowers to honor the dead, and siblings who get along like, well, siblings. And a psychedelic bracelet. All of this is as specific and general as I can make it without spoilers. You want explanations? You’ll have to read the book. Yes, there are declarations of love, explosions, intrigue, mystery, espionage, betrayal, and romance. But anyone can write those tropes. It’s the moments in between and the special details that make The Traitor’s Touch stand out as a great read.”
What is Tal and Kira’s first meeting like?
Their first meeting was in the middle of a kill or be killed situation, with Kira and Tal on opposing sides. Needless to say, neither was focused on much beyond survival.
Here’s a short excerpt from THE TRAITOR’S TOUCH:
Tal raised a brow at her daring, though he wished for her sake she would remain silent, or better yet, divulge the beacon’s location. She didn’t know how dangerous it was to aggravate Leukker like that, especially with his knife threatening the back of her knee. Leukker slammed the blunt end of the knife down on the back of her knee instead.
Tal winced, which was an oddity in itself. He’d seen Leukker do much worse and had never been this affected. Tal inched close enough to hear her short, rapid breaths. No, this was not how a woman, this woman, should be short of breath, from pain and fear. He envisioned her below him, her beautiful lips curving into a smile and her hazel eyes shining as he slid into her warmth. Together, they’d find a rhythm that will bring them pleasure, perhaps even an intimacy that his parents had shared, rare as that was. Whether or not he would ever have her in his bed was moot, but he knew one thing. He couldn’t let her sacrifice herself without trying to save her.
“You can end this,” Tal said to her, again reminding himself that he should not be interfering, that his sergeant was doing his duty. Even now, Leukker was shooting him a look, one that said he found the interruption unsettling. Her facial expression had already given her away. She knew exactly where the beacon was. The problem was she wouldn’t give up the location, even to save herself.
Another muffled cry tore from her lips, and Tal’s fists clenched. “Leukker.”
Leukker glanced up, his knife just a hair’s width above the back of her knee. “Sir?”
The blood running down her leg was containable, if Leukker stopped soon. She was shaking, from fear or pain, both most likely. Maybe that last cut had done the trick and she’d divulge the beacon’s location before more damage was required. Tal squatted beside her. A clump of mud-encased hair fell to the side, revealing one deliciously curved jaw and a graceful, delicate neck. The urge to let one fingertip glide along her rich skin rose within him. It hadn’t been long since a woman had entertained him, but that had been nothing more than a release. This woman, she would be worth knowing, he was sure of that now. If nothing else, to understand the allure she held.
She rolled onto her side to face him, drawing a sharp breath as the wires dug deeper into her wrists. “Nasty shoulder wound you have there,” she said, the corners of her mouth hitching upward. “I bet it hurts.”
The anger returned. Not because she bit out words intending to incite, but because she felt the need to go on the offense, trussed-up as she was. It was her only recourse, short of offering them something they needed. What they needed was the location of the beacon, and that was the one thing she wouldn’t give them, not willingly.
And still, he had no idea what to do about her. She should be with her family, not here, living minute-to-minute at his mercy. Her blood had already been spilled because of him. If she didn’t cooperate, there would be more.
Another excerpt, an intimate moment:
She closed her eyes. All she could see were the mindwipe needles that would soon pierce his skull. “You should have left me there to die.”
He sailed forward and entwined his fingers in her hair, working their way along her jaw and down to her neck. A lover’s touch, memorizing every detail. Intoxicating . . . the feel of his fingers dancing over her skin was utterly intoxicating. The feel of his hand, the promise it held, would help her through the long days and lonely nights ahead, but it wouldn’t be enough.
How could she have lived her life without ever knowing a touch could speak louder than words? She did not deserve his touch . . . or him. She had come here on orders, to betray him. “The risk . . .”
“Was necessary,” he said a second before a soft, delicious kiss landed behind her ear. She pressed her palms to his chest, intending to push him away. Then another kiss, more delicate than the last, caressed her cheek. Mindwipe, she reminded herself. If she failed, they’d mindwipe him. “A soldier must also have the mettle to let another die,” she whispered in his ear. “I meant nothing to you, you should have . . .”
Anger, pure and swift, swept over him as if she had dealt him an unforgivable blow. The soldier had re-emerged for a split second, long enough to tell her that he still saw her as a Deridian, his enemy. He turned his back to her. She should not be here, she realized. Whatever this was between them wasn’t real. It couldn’t be.
“I was not prepared to discuss us,” he said.
Us? Kira sank to the cot. The scratchy cotton against her palms reminded her of just who and where she was. “There is no ‘us’, Commander,” she said, staring down at the floor.
Legs appeared before her, but she couldn’t look up at him. What if she saw that grin that made her heart speed up? What if he wore his stoic face, the one that said nothing could hurt him, even though deep down she knew that wasn’t true.
Warm fingers touched her chin and guided her head up. “Then why are you here?” he asked.
I don’t know.
“Why are you here?” he insisted, his voice gaining in intensity as he knelt before her.
He trusted her. She could feel it in her soul. He had no reason to trust her, of all people, yet he did. If he knew her past, he wouldn’t trust her, he’d turn away like all the others. Yet her past was not the issue here. She couldn’t let Kaegen be punished for her wrongs. For him to trust her as he did, it was an honor, one she could not ignore, even if it was sorely misplaced. Her father would have liked him, this man of unerring faith and loyalty. No, she could not let them mindwipe him. He needed to return home. One way or another, she’d find a way to get him there, away from her people who would mindwipe him without a second thought.
What makes Tal and Kira perfect for each other?
Kira doesn’t allow Tal’s arrogance or often overbearing manner intimidate her in the least. Her courage and her ability to push forward no matter the circumstance makes her a perfect match for Tal, who has all but given up on life. Tal’s sense of purpose is tied entirely to the well-being of his people and planet, until he falls for Kira. Her undeniable spirit has renewed his zest for life. As for Kira, she sees the man beneath the cold exterior, the man who’s afraid of letting his people and her down—the man whose unerring loyalty to her may finally allow her to find a peace and happiness she thought she’d never have.
What for you is the most romantic moment between them?
Enjoy another intimate excerpt:
Tal placed his hand on her back. The tenderness in that touch quenched her soul. She wanted more of it, more of him, but she had less than twenty minutes to get him off of Derid.
Kira kept moving, ignoring Tal behind her, as much as she could. He’d moved up so close, she could feel his breath on her neck. More than once, she had to resist the urge to lean back against him and simply breathe him in. He was leaving, returning to his home, his life. Just like she’d return to hers. She’d be alone, except for Danny, but that was no longer enough.
Tal, the enemy commander she barely knew but nonetheless trusted, the Serrissian who challenged her in ways she’d never expected, the man who warmed her soul despite his cool façade, would probably never think about her after today. She’d have to do the same.
A few more turns and they found the hangar. Kira removed the screws to the grate and dropped down to the cargo bay floor. Tal followed, slipping behind a stack of pallets with exceptional stealth for a man of his height. Except for a handful of maintenance crew servicing a fighter aft, the bay was empty. Tal followed her, his steps as silent as when she had met him. As soon as she found the courier ship, she slid into the pilot’s seat. Pre-flight systems check proceeded smoothly. Tal strapped into the co-pilot’s chair, familiarizing himself with the ship’s systems. Within a few minutes, Kira locked in her pilot’s code and rose.
His arm reached across, blocking her exit. “Come with me.” His voice was heavy with need.
She squashed the cry that threatened to burst from her lips. Danny would be expecting her to call soon, knowing her latest rotation was ending. She couldn’t leave her brother, not like this.
“There’s something between us,” Tal continued, green eyes sure and unyielding.
“We don’t know anything about one another.” Her words sounded as empty as they felt.
“We know enough. What we don’t know, we’ll have fun learning.” He flashed that charming grin of his.
She had to clamp her hand over her mouth to keep from laughing. She marveled at how this one Serrissian could make her laugh when her darkest fears and memories threatened to overwhelm her. Kira reached up and traced his scar with one finger. “We’re enemies, Commander. We should part as friends and—”
His mouth enveloped hers. Soft, tender, and very sure, his tongue prodded at her lips, demanding entrance. It was so easy, natural, opening to him as if he was the piece of her soul she’d been missing her entire life. There was promise and hope in that kiss, which was more than she could give in return. Why must he tempt her so? She was already finding it hard leaving the ship instead of strapping herself in and flying off with him. Kira let his tongue glide over hers one last time before pulling away and slamming her hand against the palm lock. The door swished open and she stepped out.
Which character in the series was the hardest to write? Why?
Tal. He tends to lock away his emotions, and yet he’s a very passionate person when it comes to defending those he loves. Striking the balance between his reserved and his open sides was perhaps the hardest to do. That led to what Kira considers the ‘two sides of Tal’. His military side and the gentler side—the one he shows only to her.
What kind of research did you have to do to write this book? Please share an interesting fact or unique behind the scenes experience.
I’ve never thrown knives, though I want to learn how to. I’ve read about the various techniques, attempting to understand the physicals involved (physics was definitely not my favorite course in school) as well as what goes into training. In my mind, I saw a correlation between my daughter’s training in karate and the training Kira needed to master knife throwing. Both required years of hard work, dedication, and determination. As it turns out, my daughter just passed her black belt test two months before The Traitor’s Touch was released!
Please give us a sneak peek at book 2 in the series.
The Traitor’s Truth
(Mindwiped, book 2)
Tal: “You’re my wife.” Kira: “Prove it.”
Stranded on an enemy planet with no memory of her past, Kira’s confronted by the powerful Commander Tal Kaegen who claims she’s his wife. She has her knives and her wits . . . just what she needs to escape Kaegen and his world. If only her body didn’t crave his touch . . . Commander Tal Kaegen may well be the key to her past—and the instrument of her destruction.
The Traitor’s Truth
(Mindwiped, book 2)
A living nightmare, his worst in years. He had found her at last, entwined in another man’s grasp. Her eyes widened the moment he entered the cabin. Fear. Fear of him, her husband. The one who had tied the kenut on her wrist only six months ago.
Thought held no part in what he did next. Pummeling the man with the flat end of his gun had been instinct, nothing more. Kira’s screams pulled at Tal in a way that only deepened the wound in his soul. Beautiful hazel eyes clamped shut as she wrapped her arms about the fezak and used her body to shield him against Tal’s fists. She left him no choice but to stop. He would not risk injuring her, though she had dealt him a blow he knew would never heal.
His men moved in, separating Kira from the man, roughly pulling her hands behind her as if she were the enemy. Reason began to pierce the fog of his rage. Whatever had happened here, she was still his wife.
“Release her,” Tal said, unable to stop the growl that accompanied his words.
“Ayella, protect me,” the fezak said as Tal’s men dragged him out of the small farmhouse. The fezak sounded like he was ordering a slave to do his bidding.
Tal could almost see the mental shift in Kira the moment the fezak spoke. The fear in her face washed away. In fact, all emotion drained from her. Never had he seen her appear so blank.
“Leave my husband alone,” she said to the soldiers.
Her husband? Tal’s head snapped up at that. Could Driss and everyone he knew have been right? That she had not been kidnapped but instead had run off? Tal swallowed hard as he surveyed the cabin, with its one bed. Had she forsaken her marriage with him and married this fezak?
Bile rose in his throat. He was going to be sick. It was too much to take. For months, he had searched for her, putting everything he had at risk. He had nearly lost his seat on Council, was barely on speaking terms with his brother, once again, and scarcely maintained his hold on the Intelligence sector. They had all called him a fool for pursuing her. The note, they kept reminding him, had said everything. She could no longer deceive herself into thinking she belonged with him after what he had let happen to her brother. She knew the people around her all wanted her gone.
They were right about her, in part. She was an outsider and would always be one here on his world because they wouldn’t accept her. They all theorized that she had left, of her own will, to find some peace and happiness off of Serriss.
They were wrong.
Tal knew firsthand that notes weren’t to be trusted. More importantly, he knew Kira, unlike no other. He knew her soul. She would not have left him because others disapproved of her or their marriage. He had vowed his life to her when he laid the ancient threads of the kenut on her wrist. And he had vowed that he would not quit until he found her. And now he had, here with another man.
Tal peered into her beautiful eyes. Angry, frightened eyes. Full of hatred . . . for him. “Shaiya?” His name for her sailed from his mouth without thought.
She took two large strides forward and slapped him. There was a fire in her still, but not for him. “How dare you! I am not your shaiya.” Her gaze fell to him, the fezak kneeling in the dirt, with his hands bound behind his back.
“Get him out of here,” Tal ordered.
Two of his men clamped their hands around the fezak and dragged him toward one of the flitters.
Her eyes followed. “My husband,” she said, her voice barely a squeak.
“He’s not your husband!”
Delicate brows lifted, and she tilted her head, like a confused child. That gave Tal pause, especially when he heard her sigh of relief as the fezak disappeared into the flitter.
What had the fezak done to her?
With two fingers against her cheek, Tal turned her to face at him. “That man stole what is mine, Kira. And you are mine.” He pushed her sleeve up to reveal the kenut she wore on her wrist, to prove his claim to her.
He nearly winced at the condition of the kenut. Dark. Blacker than night. The ancient ceremonial threads should be dancing wildly, weaving colorful new patterns even as she stood there, seething at him. Except for two lone red threads that moved about, sluggish and lost, the kenut was lifeless.
The bond between Kira and him, nearly gone. It couldn’t be! He looked to her, for an explanation, but she yanked her arm free.
“Don’t touch me! I don’t know who you are or why you’re here, but you will not touch me.”
Too many emotions surged through him. Fear, hatred, hurt. Fear again. “You don’t know me?” Confusion added to an already dangerous mix of emotions.
She rubbed where he had held her arm so tightly. “I’ve never seen you before.”
“You have to remember me. Concentrate, please, Kira.”
“Ayella,” she corrected him, her voice pitched with newfound strength. “My name is Ayella.” She nodded her head slightly, a welcome one gives a stranger.
Something was definitely off about her, more than her failure to recognize him.
Kira pulled her shoulders back into a less threatening stance. “Does this mean that you have come here by mistake?”
When he said nothing, she continued, forging forward, showing the same strength of will and courage he had fallen in love with all those months ago. Then that blank look came over her again as her eyes searched among the soldiers outside. “My husband doesn’t want you here,” she said, her voice a pale copy of what it was moments ago.
A whistle from outside cut through the pain that had started anew. His men were scurrying into a defensive position. “It’s not safe here, Commander,” said one of his men as he poked his head in.
“Secure her,” Tal ordered. He didn’t miss the shock on Kira’s face as one of his men pushed her out toward a flitter. “And keep them apart!”
Tal briefly glanced inside the cabin one last time. The place was nothing more than a hovel, with a kitchen, a few chairs by the fireplace and one bed. Their bed . . . the one they shared. Tal stormed out and his lieutenant immediately fell in step beside him.
“Burn it. Burn it to the ground.”
My Review of THE TRAITOR’S TOUCH:
A fantastic debut. The Traitor’s Touch drew me in from page one and held me until the whirlwind ending. If you enjoy creative world-building, romance, suspense, juicy subplots and steamy love scenes, this is the book for you. Can’t wait for Book 2.
Julie K. Cohen has always ‘played’ with stories and plots in her head, but never conceived of putting pen to paper until her high school years. While building a career and family over the years always held the highest priority, Julie never gave up writing. Through the years, family, husband, and friends encouraged her to keep writing. Without their love and support, and the additional support of the writing community, she wouldn’t be where she is today, sitting in front of her computer, creating new characters, plots, and romances for her readers to enjoy.
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Goodreads: Julie K Cohen