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Interview with C. Travis Rice on Sapphire Spring + Excerpt

Interview with C. Travis Rice on Sapphire Spring + Excerpt

Recently I had the honor to chat with bestselling author, C. Travis Rice, whose second book in his romance series Sapphire Cove, is out this week! We talked about this latest—Sapphire Spring—and more about this new sweeping and sexy series. And if you read on below, you can also read an exclusive sneak peek!

About Sapphire Spring

Under his pen name, C. Travis Rice, New York Times bestselling author Christopher Rice offers tales of passion, intrigue, and steamy romance between men. The second novel, SAPPHIRE SPRING, once again transports you to a beautiful luxury resort on the sparkling Southern California coast where strong-willed heroes release the shame that blocks their heart’s desires.

Naser Kazemi has never met a problem a good spending plan couldn’t fix. But working as the chief accountant for his best friend’s resort isn’t turning out to be the dream job he’d hoped for. It doesn’t help that his fashion designer sister is planning an event that just might bring Sapphire Cove crashing down all around them. When the wild party unexpectedly reunites him with Mason Worther, the gorgeous former jock who made his high school experience a living hell, things go from bad to seductive.

  • Interview with C. Travis Rice

    Hi C. Travis, I’m so thrilled to talk to you on the blog—it’s been forever since I’ve seen you in real life 🙂 Congratulations on your upcoming book—the second book in the romance series, Sapphire Cove. What can you share about Sapphire Spring?

    Thank you, Vilma. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen you, but I’m hoping we can rectify that soon. In keeping with romance tradition, Sapphire Spring is a standalone love story even though it’s the second in a series. Readers of the first book, Sapphire Sunset, will remember Naser Kazemi as Connor Harcourt’s best friend, and they might also remember that he alluded to having endured a difficult high school experience as a young gay man. I wanted to come up with a love story for Naser that was about healing that painful past. But I knew that tackling the enemies-to-lovers/reformed bully tropes in one book and with an HEA at the end was going to take the story to some very emotional and dramatic places.

     

    This series takes place in a beautiful resort in Southern California and I know you have some favorite towns and hidden gems you love to visit along the coastline. What made you decide to set beachy California as the backdrop to your series?

    California is in my blood. Even though many people associate me with New Orleans because of my famous last name, I was born in Northern California and we lived in the Bay Area until I was ten years old. I’ve now lived in Los Angeles for twenty years. In short, I’ve lived in this state more than I have any other. My big inspiration for the Sapphire Cove series was the Holding The Dream trilogy by Nora Roberts, which is set in Big Sur. But when it came to time to imagine my own massive beachfront resort, Orange County seemed to have some of the best models for a place like Sapphire Cove. The irony is that I wrote the first book during early lockdowns and so I couldn’t visit Orange County for research purposes even though I live about an hour’s drive away. As soon as the world opened up again, I headed south for a visit and met with several of the staff at the Montage in Laguna Beach, whose insights into the hotel business contributed wonderfully to the world of this series. San Diego County is another beloved locale of mine and we spend a lot of time there in the third book in the series, Sapphire Storm (coming March 2023)

     

    Sapphire Cove shares a different side of you as a writer. Your pen name—C. Travis Rice—helps to mark that shift from your crime fiction and supernatural thrillers. What has the shift to writing this series of romance between men been like for you? Was it harder? Easier?

    You make yourself very vulnerable when you write romance. Our culture places a higher premium on pessimism and negativity. We reflexively view them as survival skills, and so dark stories, even when they’re very genre-driven and cartoonish, are seen more “serious” than romance.  But hope and acceptance are also survival skills, and those are the essential elements that make romance a thrill to both read and write. So I’m not sure if one is harder or easier than the other, but the dismissive reactions to romance novels are more frequent and considered socially acceptable in most literary circles. When I started the first book in the Sapphire Cove series, I was working on a dark thriller in the morning and then the romance in the afternoon. It was like they tapped into different parts of my brain and my soul, and I never felt entirely depleted at the end of the day.

     

    Did you listen to music while writing? If so, what kind of music did you listen to?

    I can never listen to music with lyrics while I’m writing. But I love to assemble an orchestral soundtrack for whatever I’m working on, usually out of other film scores where I don’t have a strong association with the film itself that might distract me. There’s a raft of “trailer music” available for purchase now and I’m obsessed with it. They’re often high-quality orchestral tracks written for certain moods and themes. My understanding is they’re really sample albums for emerging composers who want to score entire films someday. I love them. You can use them to make your own soundtrack. That said, I rarely listen to them while I’m putting words on the page. I listen to them while I’m outlining or walking around my neighborhood plotting in my head.

     

    Thank you for taking the time to share more about the series, and your new release, Sapphire Spring! Before we close, can you set up the excerpt you’re sharing with us today?

    In Sapphire Spring, Naser is reunited with his old high school bully, Mason Worther, a gorgeous former jock who today is struggling to reform his hard partying ways and do right by the guy he tormented, a guy for whom he’s always felt a powerful attraction. Naturally, Mason thinks they’ll fix everything if they just hop into bed together. Naser doesn’t agree, and the slow dance that finally winds them up between the sheets together was one of my favorite things about the book.

  • Excerpt

    Mason picked up his Starbucks cup and shook it in one hand. “I would have gotten you something, too, but I didn’t know when you’d be back.”

    “We said three hours so…”

    “Yeah, but I figured you’d come back before then.”

    “Figured?”

    Mason gave him a lazy grin. “Hoped.”

    Naser wandered to the stack of pages. “What were they like? The files, I mean.”

    “Tough.” Mason’s smile faded. “Anonymous, like Leila said. But from what I saw, there are a lot of really shitty parents out there.”

    Suddenly, Naser was remembering those hateful texts from Pete Worther, figured Mason was remembering some version of them too. Then he noticed Mason staring at him, and his eyes shot to his. “Can I ask you something?” Naser nodded, frightened by Mason’s grave look. “Did you ever call this place? You know, back when…”

    Naser swallowed, but the hard lump at the back of his throat didn’t go away. “Yes.”

    The silence felt thick, like the air after a fire.

    “About us?” Mason finally asked.

    Naser nodded, wondering if that would be enough. From the way Mason stared at him, it wasn’t. “About you three. About a mother who could see what I was but didn’t want to talk about it. About the fact that Coach Harris slipped a flyer for an ex-gay clinic into my locker after the whole email debacle…and I kept it.”

    “The flyer?”

    Naser nodded. Another silence, this one heavier. Much more painful.

    “Why did you keep it?” The sudden wet sheen in Mason’s eyes suggested he knew.

    Naser had never admitted this tidbit aloud to anyone, never shared with anyone the hours he’d spent reading and rereading its deceptive language, wondering if their supposed solution might have worked for him. If it would make him as happy as the models in the stock photographs looked. His thinking becoming more and more contorted and destructive as he read—a teacher had recommended it, after all, so maybe there’d been something to the idea. Something that would bring relief, something that would make it all stop. The whole thing, he could see now, had been its own form of suicidal ideation, a desire to destroy himself as a means of ending the harassment and the pain. Once he’d realized that, he’d picked up the phone and called the number on the Outlive poster he’d seen taped to the inside of the front window in his favorite coffee shop.

    “It was either go there or call this place. At least that’s how it felt. I made the right choice.”

    Mason’s jaw quivered. He took in a long, slow breath that lifted his chest. “Definitely coming back next Saturday then. And however many others it takes to finish the job.”

    “I’m not sure I’m free next Saturday,” Naser lied.

    “You don’t have to come. It’s my job to finish. Although I’d love it if you did.”

    “Did what?”

    “Come.”

    If the word was supposed to have a double meaning, Mason’s serious expression didn’t let on.

    “You know, Mason, I’m not sure all of this was necessary. Honestly, most days, when I felt bad about high school all I had to do was remember the look on your face that day you tripped when you guys were trying to fuck up my model.”

    “I didn’t trip, Nas.”

    Naser was stunned silent.

    “I knew what day it was. I’d overheard you in the library. I knew you were making this big model of Persepolis, and I knew you’d do a great job of it, and I knew Chadwick and Tim would fuck it up if they saw it. All morning I’d been trying to distract them. I came up with the hardest interval workout I could think of and made them meet me early so we could do it on the field. But Chadwick knew about the model, too, and I had to get creative. So I took a flying leap so you could get to class before they got to you. I hurt my arm so badly I couldn’t play the next three games. And we lost all three so…”

    Naser was speechless.

    Finally.

    “At any rate, whether you come back with me next Saturday or not, I wanted you to know that. I didn’t trip. I threw myself down the stairs.”

    Naser couldn’t breathe.

    When it came to their days at Laguna Mesa, letting go of even the slightest bit of anger toward Mason felt like it might drown him in overwhelming feelings.

    “Nas?”

    “Yes.”

    “Come back to my house.”

    “For what?”

    “Dinner.”

    Naser frowned. “You can cook?”

    “What, you’re surprised?”

    “I just figured you were the order in and eat out type.”

    “I’ve been known to order in for weeks at a time, but I also grill. You a vegetarian?”

    “Hell, no.”

    Mason headed for the storeroom door. “All right, then. Let’s go. We’ll see if I’ve got everything you want. If not, I’ll get it delivered.”

    “Mason, you’ve done your three hours. You’re off the hook.”

    In the doorway, Mason stopped and turned. “I don’t want to be off the hook.”

    Then he left, giving Naser no choice but to follow.

    They barely said a word on the drive back to Mason’s house.

    Naser’s heart was in his throat by the time they stepped through the front door, and as Mason set various butcher-wrapped cuts of meat out on the counter for him to inspect the labels, he heard his responses to the man’s questions as if he were yards from his own body. Once they’d decided on which steaks to cook, Naser forgot their decision but was too embarrassed to check the labels again because it would reveal how nervous he was.

    Mason handed him a bottle of sparkling water he’d apparently asked for, and then they were staring at each other. In Naser’s condo, the surrounding appliances would have made hums and ticking sounds to fill the awkward silence, but in Mason Worther’s beach house—in Pete Worther’s beach house, he reminded himself—top dollar had purchased a whisper-quiet kitchen.

    “It was pretty stuffy in that storage room. I’d like to shower.”

    “Sure. I’ll wait down here.”

    “With you.” Mason took a careful sip of his sparkling water, eyes locked on Naser’s face. “I’d like to take a shower with you, Nas.”

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This post contains affiliate links, meaning I’ll receive a small commission should you purchase using those links. All opinions expressed are my own. I receive no compensation for reviews.

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