The best books that capture the dark and stormy side of the human spirit

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an award-winning, national best-selling author who loves reading as much as I love writing. Combine that with a good, smooth bourbon and it’s a win-win. Like my literary journey, my love for bourbon has been filled with surprises and challenges. Romance writing found me. I didn’t go looking for it. The journey introduced me to great writers and amazing stories and taught me to write better. Distilleries could extol the health benefits of bourbon, but I discovered it can be subtle, soul-searing, and pairs beautifully with a good meal and an even better book. Like my writing, bourbon leaves you feeling like you’ve had a great meal and threw in dessert!


I wrote...

Playing with Danger

By Deborah Fletcher Mello,

Book cover of Playing with Danger

What is my book about?

Murder on the Bayou forces rivals to unite. When a young woman is found dead in a Louisiana swamp, police detective King Randolph finds his investigation hindered by private investigator Lenore Martin. He’s loath to share this murder investigation with such a problematic person. But despite mutual distrust, they forge a combative alliance. Soon, as more bodies drop, heat rises between the partners. And grave danger threatens from every corner of New Orleans.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Standing at the Scratch Line

Deborah Fletcher Mello Why did I love this book?

This book is the embodiment of great storytelling. Guy Johnson takes us on a journey that is profound and addicting.

The characters are beautifully constructed against a backdrop of historical fiction, adventure, and romance. They are flawed, and you find yourself rooting for them at every turn. This is the first book I read that taught me how to better push the constraints of my own writing and to simply write what might feel personal but is also necessary.

Johnson was also the first author I ever reached out to, to say how much the book meant to me and he responded with the most engaging words of encouragement and advice for my own stories.

I’d highly recommend this book for anyone looking to escape in the pages of an epic tale that reads as if it is on the big screen. It’s masterfully written and makes for a soul-searing read.

By Guy Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Standing at the Scratch Line as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Raised in the steamy bayous of New Orleans in the early 1900s, LeRoi "King" Tremain, caught up in his family's ongoing feud with the rival DuMont family, learns to fight. But when the teenage King mistakenly kills two white deputies during a botched raid on the DuMonts, the Tremains' fear of reprisal forces King to flee Louisiana.

King thus embarks on an adventure that first takes him to France, where he fights in World War I as a member of the segregated 369th Battalion—in the bigoted army he finds himself locked in combat with American soldiers as well as with…


Book cover of Night Song

Deborah Fletcher Mello Why did I love this book?

Before being published I was very much a romance snob. I was a bookshelf elitist who thought that good literature did not include romance.

When my first book was labeled a romance novel, romance fans quickly let me know that what I’d written wasn’t true romance, but they loved the book. So, I had to learn how to write romance and what better way than to read it.

Night Song was my first foray into historical romance with characters who looked like me. It was life changing and one of the most beautiful tales I had ever read. Lesson learned! The romance genre includes incredible stories, superb writing, and bourbon-sipping storylines and I had been missing out.

By Beverly Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night Song as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Traitorous Heart . . .

Cara Lee Henson knows no soldier can be trusted to stay in one place—and that includes handsome Sergeant Chase Jefferson of the Tenth Cavalry. Dallying with the dashing man in blue could cost the pretty, independent Kansas schoolteacher her job and her reputation. So Cara is determined to repel Chase’s advances—even though her aloof facade barely masks her smoldering desire.

A Blazing Passion . . .

Never before has Chase longed for a woman the way he ached for lovely Cara Lee. The strong-willed ebony beauty, however, will not surrender easily. But with tender…


Book cover of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

Deborah Fletcher Mello Why did I love this book?

I love Walter Moseley and have read everything he’s written.

I discovered his books when former President Bill Clinton mentioned him during a State of the Union address and curiosity took me down to my local library to see what all the fuss was about. It was love at first line with his book Devil in a Red Dress.

Those that followed were equally impressive but there was something about The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey that took the storytelling to a whole other level. Part drama, part science fiction, it was a mesmerizing tale and again, showed the importance of storytelling that pulls a reader in and refuses to let them go.

I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for great writing, an air of mystery, and dynamic drama. It has that and so much more!

By Walter Mosley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be an Apple Plus series starring Samuel L. Jackson, a masterful, moving novel about age, memory, and family from one of the true literary icons of our time.

Marooned in an apartment that overflows with mementos from the past, 91-year-old Ptolemy Grey is all but forgotten by his family and the world. But when an unexpected opportunity arrives, everything changes for Ptolemy in ways as shocking and unanticipated as they are poignant and profound.


Book cover of Island Queen

Deborah Fletcher Mello Why did I love this book?

Discovering my affinity for Historical Fiction, and then discovering the writings of Vanessa Riley was a dream come true.

Island Queen hit all the right buttons for my writing spirit. It was lyrical, poetic, engaging, and one of the most beautifully written books in my personal library. It was storytelling at its very best and I’d recommend this book for that reason alone. But it also has great personal significance for me.

My 85-year-old mother who only learned to read late in life was an avid reader. These past few years her reading has slowed, the process becoming difficult for her to do. I recommended audiobooks for her, and Island Queen was her first. Watching her become completely lost in the story, tears sometimes streaming down her face, or the lilt of a giggle rolling off her lips was everything.

This is a story that tugs at your heartstrings and pulls every ounce of emotion from you. It sometimes requires a two-finger pour to celebrate just how good it is!

By Vanessa Riley,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Island Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"Riveting and transformative, evocative and immersive...by turns vibrant and bold and wise, discovering Dorothy's story is a singular pleasure."--The New York Times

A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free Black woman who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies.

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom-and that of her sister and her mother-from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and…


Book cover of Minion

Deborah Fletcher Mello Why did I love this book?

Don’t tell, but I have a thing for the supernatural. I love a good vampire, zombie, demon tale. Those are the stories I go to when I’m writing, and on deadline, and I still want to read. Reading Minion was how I discovered I loved a great supernatural tale and Banks can tell a story that rivals the best of them. 

I’d recommend this book for anyone wanting good writing that delves into a world you neither expect nor know you needed. It’s a stiff drink, a warm blanket, and a nightlight in the corner kind of read that does not disappoint. Once you’re finished, you can’t wait to get your hands on the rest of the series to see what comes next. That’s great storytelling!

By L. A. Banks,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Minion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There is one woman who is all that stands between us and the eternal night.
Here is an account of her legend....

All Damali Richards ever wanted to do was create music and bring it to the people. Now she is a Spoken Word artist and the top act for Warriors of Light Records. But come nightfall, she hunts vampires and demons—predators that people tend to dismiss as myth or fantasy. But Damali and her Guardian team cannot afford such delusions, especially now, when a group of rogue vampires have been killing the artists of Warriors of Light and their…


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The Others

By Evette Davis,

Book cover of The Others

Evette Davis Author Of Woman King

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve worked in journalism, politics, and public policy for 30-plus years and watched as the extreme voices gained the most traction on either side of a debate. On social media, these minority views often dominate the discussion. 48 States is a stand-alone novel highlighting the problems of extremist viewpoints in a civil society. I also have another book series that features a political consultant who discovers she's a witch and joins a secret society that uses magic to manipulate elections to protect humanity. Bottom line: if I can’t fix political discourse for a living, I can write science fiction novels that contemplate how to do it.

Evette's book list on dystopian stories for the bada** feminist in us all

What is my book about?

True Blood meets Supernatural in the kickoff of this urban paranormal fantasy series from an acclaimed author. Readers enter a dystopian San Francisco filled with empaths and vampires embroiled in political unrest—and Book 1 is just the beginning.

Much as she wishes otherwise, superstar political consultant Olivia Shepherd was born a powerful empath. It’s a legacy she walked away from long ago—but when she wakes up one morning to find Elsa, a tenacious time-walker, standing in her kitchen, she realizes she can no longer ignore her gifts. She is quickly plunged into the hidden world of powerful “Others” and drafted…

The Others

By Evette Davis,

What is this book about?

True Blood meets Supernatural in the kickoff of this urban paranormal fantasy series from an acclaimed author. Readers enter a dystopian San Francisco filled with empaths and vampires embroiled in political unrest—and Book 1 is just the beginning.

Much as she wishes otherwise, superstar political consultant Olivia Shepherd was born a powerful empath. It’s a legacy she walked away from long ago—but when she wakes up one morning to find Elsa, a tenacious time-walker, standing in her kitchen, she realizes she can no longer ignore her gifts. She is quickly plunged into the hidden world of powerful “Others” and drafted…


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