Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On Deadly Ground

Congratulations to "Bn100", the winner in Susan's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

When the characters and the plot for my new release On Deadly Ground came to me, I knew I had to go to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and experience the jungle and Maya ruins up close. Yes, it’s Maya for the people but Mayan for their language, but only archeologists make the distinction—and me. My husband and I spent a week in the Yucatan, soaking up the sun and ancient history.

The book is my tribute to a favorite movie, Romancing the Stone, but in reverse. Max and Kate spend days trekking through the jungle of my fictional Central American country, facing many dangers—bad guys, wild animals, earthquake tremors—and the hazards of a dangerously inappropriate romance.

I needed an unrestored site for Max and Kate’s destination. And I found one in the ancient city of Coba, a largely unexcavated archeological site deep in the jungle. This place, so primitive and wild, provided exactly the right the feel and images.

Three settlements there display the architecture of this once large city—including two ball courts and the highest Maya pyramid in the Yucatan. I modeled the temple Max and Kate find in the jungle after this smaller one at Coba. Of course, when Max and Kate find theirs, it’s covered with vines and untouched.
The Yucatan sits on a limestone shelf, and beneath it lie rivers and deep water-filled caverns called cenotes.

The ancient Maya believed these caverns were the doors to the Underworld and deposited tributes to the gods and sacrifices—mostly animals, not humans—in them. For Max and Kate, cenotes are water sources, and an underground river plays a big role in the story.

Many contemporary Maya are integrated into the larger society, but some live in the jungle year round the way their ancestors did, in thatched huts with sapling walls. They cook over charcoal fires and raise animals and crops. The women weave beautiful blankets and sew and embroider cotton clothing by hand. I wonder how long we Norteamericanos would last living that way.

Susan Vaughan is a multi-published and award-winning author. She loves writing romantic suspense because it throws the hero and heroine together under extraordinary circumstances and pits them against a clever villain. Her books have won the Golden Leaf, More Than Magic, and Write Touch Readers’ Award and been a finalist for the Booksellers’ Best and Daphne du Maurier awards. A former teacher, she’s a West Virginia native, but she and her husband have lived in Maine for many years.

Twitter: @shvaughan
ON DEADLY GROUND LINK: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SF3OAUA


Desperate to save her brother, museum director Kate Fontaine must work with Max Rivera, the ex-military guide she doesn’t trust to carry out the kidnapper’s demands and return a precious Mayan artifact to its temple. They must outrun black-market smugglers and a predicted earthquake in a race that takes them from Washington to England and into the Costa Verde jungle. When desire flares between them, risking their lives seems simple compared to risking their hearts.


The agent stepped closer. The aroma of coffee and the light tang of sweat emanated from him. Framed by thick, sooty lashes, eyes the color of melted chocolate swept her with male interest. “The thief in Kabul didn’t get away like this dude, ma’am.”

His drawl—Texas?—slid into her like red wine. The man radiated sex like heat rays.

“Kate Fontaine,” Thomas Devlin said, “this is one of my best operatives, Max Rivera.”

Max Rivera held out a hand. His expression smoothed to polite blandness. “You okay?”

“I’m fine.” She accepted his handshake, registering strength, the rasp of calluses, and a surprisingly gentle warmth. “Thank you for coming to my rescue, Mr. Rivera.” Max Rivera. The name seemed familiar. Thomas must’ve mentioned him before.

“No problem, Kate. I’m Max.”

They’d be traveling together for days. Formality was out, but she could ignore him as a man, regardless of her initial reaction. She was no lonely female looking for a fling. Especially with an adventurer like the men in her family. A man who’d take over, who’d pat her on the head—figuratively—and tell her she was out of her element. She was, but still.

“If things go according to plan, you shouldn’t need rescuing again, you or the statue.” Humor glinted in Max’s dark eyes.

She managed a smile. “Like you say. As long as nothing goes wrong.” Great. What could go wrong? Her stomach churned.

She thanked Devlin and shook his hand. The two men performed some sort of coded guy handshake, and she and Max joined the security line.

He didn’t seem inclined to chat and neither did she. They inched forward through the rope line until finally they reached the checkpoint. She deposited her gear in bins. Behind her, Max untied and kicked off his boots.

What was it about his name that niggled at her? She set her handbag and tablet case on the conveyer. Something about Doug. Max... Max Rivera. Her breath caught. Yes! She had heard his name before. She spun on him.

“What is it? You see that guy again?” He gripped her arm.

She jerked away. “No, not that. I recognize your name.”

His eyebrows shot upward.

“You’re the man who cheated my brother.”

One lucky commenter will receive a copy of On Deadly Ground—digital (anywhere) or print (within the continental US).

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST March 3rd. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email maureen@justromanticsuspense.com with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.


  1. What a great post. I learned a lot. Research must be so much fun when you get to travel and soak up atmosphere.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

    1. Debby,
      Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you learned something along with enjoying it. Atmosphere, definitely a plus when I wrote the book.

  2. This book sounds good. Don't know if I could stand the jungle myself.

    1. Debbie, Thanks for the comment on the book. I'm with you on not being able to live in the jungle. Maybe one day? LOL

  3. Love the pics... I do not travel much, so I love visiting places through the words of authors... enjoy the travels their characters take...

    1. Colleen, I too enjoy the vicarious travels of other authors. Thanks for the comments. I'll have more pictures on my website soon.

  4. I don't think I would last a week living in a jungle. The post was fascinating and I loved the pictures. Thank you for sharing them. This books sounds really good and I am adding it to my wish list. jmvarner50@hotmail.com

    1. Hi Joan, thanks for the comment on my book. I doubt I'd last more than a day living in the jungle. Hammocks for beds? I'll fall out first thing.

  5. fun setting

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

    1. Oh, yes, it was a fun setting to write. Thanks for commenting.

  6. I've recently discovered your books and I love them! I am looking forward to reading this one as well. Thanks for the giveaway!
    shelleybp (at) live (dot) com

    1. Shelly, thanks so much. I love having new readers find my books.

  7. Oh, this sounds like an amazing book!! I loved the excerpt.

    brookeb811 at gmail dot com

  8. I have never been to the Yucatan. I think this place is a place of mystery and mystique.


    1. Kai, exactly, lots of mystique. Put that trip on your wish list.

  9. The key phrase is "had to go". Life is tough sometimes.


    1. Mary, Oh, yes, so tough. We stayed at an all-inclusive beach resort. Only day trips into the jungle. You found me out. LOL

  10. I need to get out more :) Sounds like an interesting research trip!


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