Title: Last Call for Caviar (Volume One)
Author: Melissa Roen
Genre: Romance/ Fiction
Reviewed by: Suzanne Gattis
Pacific Book Review
Our heroine, Maya, is a smart but somewhat tragic figure trying her best to survive as the world comes crashing down around here. As rumors of war and the end of the world circulate around her, perhaps the worse devastation that Maya faces is not the destruction of mankind but the breaking of her own heart. To know that the world is in despair is one thing; she is strong-bodied and strong-willed to fight to stay alive. Armed with her weapon and a sexy protector, the odds are quite in Maya’s favor. However, living with a lonely heart and soul is what would be most detrimental to Maya. How many of us if we knew there was no tomorrow wouldn’t also yearn to find loved ones and tell them our true feelings for them?
The cast of characters in Maya’s world are intriguing to say the least. From her loyal companion Buddy to her nemesis Anjuli, the relationships in the story are well defined but also full of twists and turns. Many of the characters have a sense of mystery to them, which makes the book quite intoxicating. Many are the types of characters you would like to meet at a dinner party and get to know more about, which is good since there are plenty of dinner parties in the book. Even in the midst of chaos, the charades must go on.
That leads to the setting. The imagery and decadence used to describe the setting made me feel as though I was there. You can almost smell the money towards the beginning of the book and the despair at the end as their world begins to crumble further. Also, the era is fascinating. Survival of those who adapt in changing time has been an anthem in books for centuries. The author could have gone just with the end of days story and written a fine book. However, the sensuality and adventure of the book are what sets it apart from other novels. If you want to be exposed to a world of wealth, tragedy, and love, Last Call for Caviar is a great read.
Maya has the Cote d’Azur at her manicured fingertips, from the glittering nightlife of Monte Carlo to the splendid beaches of Cap Ferrat to the vertiginous trails of the coastal mountains. Her heart, however, is hopelessly in hock to former lover Julian, who’s gone missing on the wrong side of the security perimeter since they quarreled months before. When a psychic tells Maya that Julian is her destiny rather than the cad she recalls, hope floods in alongside doubt. Navigating the treacherous minefield of her disintegrating world, she finds herself drawn to Abdul, a sexy and enigmatic, Emirati, who’s up to his Guthra in the struggle for control over the gold-plated Principality of Monaco. Back in the US, anarchy is spreading, forcing Maya’s family to flee Vegas for the Oregon coast. Her domineering and capable sister, Leah, wants her to come home, but getting there may well be impossible.
The plot thickens when an exotic and seductive spiritual figure arrives in town and allies herself with psychotic Russian gangster Slava. Anjuli del Solaire claims she’s working to raise the consciousness of the world’s remaining inhabitants– especially the very rich– but Maya recognizes the Amazonian beauty with a dangerous past. Though her knowledge could expose Anjuli’s scam, Maya just wants to avoid the notice of Anjuli’s ruthless new friends. Mutually suspicious and mutually admiring, both women discover they need each other as people and circumstance escape their control.
As natural disasters, extreme weather, environmental collapse, disease, famine and resource wars roil the planet and armies of the dispossessed and murderous approach from Southwest, Maya must decide where to make a stand and with whom. Can she bum a ride on a billionaire’s jet? Will she sacrifice her independence for a Sheik’s protection? Will she risk survival to honor her obligations? Can she heal a broken heart on an irreparably broken planet? With wit, invention and old-fashioned glamour, Last Call for Caviar describes a world where a gal’s Glock fits a diamond holster and that second helping of caviar may be your last. This sharply-observed narrative of an uncannily realistic future is as fierce as it is fabulous.
Today we are talking to Melissa Roen, author of “Last Call for Caviar.”
PBR: Will we be seeing Maya and Julian again? Is there a volume 3 in the works? If there is a demand for a third book, I have left open the option to continue Maya’s saga. In the third volume, I would like to explore new underlying themes and speculate how humanity transcends the catastrophic challenges facing us as a species. From a writer’s perspective, one can’t keep revising the same ground. Novels in a series–the same as all life forms–need to evolve and expand to thrive.
In my imagination, I can already visualize the direction the story would take. Maya’s first-person narration of her continuing journey– the challenges that she and her loved ones face during the years of the Purification– would be central to the arc of the story. However, I would like to interweave chapters of multi-character points of view throughout the narration to create more richness and depth to a third volume.
Drawing from readers’ feedback, there appears to be a strong desire to know more about the intriguing cast of characters that inhabit Maya Jade’s world. They’re interested to read the story from Julian or Abdul’s perspective. And even want to better understand what motivates Maya’s adversaries, such as Slava. I think that Esperanza Jade has the potential to become an interesting character, and co-narrator, who can show–through flash forwards–how humanity and society evolves one hundred years in the future.
PBR: At any time did you ever think about Maya ending up with Abdul?
I initially wrote Abdul’s character as a foil for Julian in the 2013 edition of Last Call for Caviar. His character was a way to set up and emphasize the strength of Maya’s connection and love for Julian. The temptation that Abdul represents for her is an effective device to highlight certain facets of Maya’s character, core beliefs and ultimate choices.
Abdul is the rich-sexy-dangerous-lover-slash-alpha-male that so many heroines swoon over in romantic novels. On paper he should sweep her off her feet. She shouldn’t think twice, about abandoning the ones she loves—Julian and Buddy—and the ideals she holds dear, for a life of luxury and security in his arms.
As clichéd as the adage can be that characters can take on a life of their own, half way through the first draft of Maya Rising, Abdul and Maya hijacked the storyline. There was so much intensity in the dynamics between them and the natural flow of their interactions; Abdul’s character took on more depth and dimension. As the author, I was just as surprised as Maya Jade, or any reader, at the turn their love affair took.
Once I finished the manuscript of Maya Rising, I realized I needed to revise and do some general housekeeping of the 2013 edition of Last Call for Caviar. In the revised edition, the story line and characters remain the same as the 2013 edition. But, I took the opportunity to give more depth to Abdul’s character and intensify the chemistry between Maya and Abdul to bring Last Call for Caviar, vol.1 in line with the new developments in Maya Rising. The revised edition of Last Call for Caviar, vol.1 was published in October 2015.
PBR: Do you believe we might see then end of society, as we know it in your lifetime?
Unfortunately, I believe that we have been terrible guardians of our planet from an ecologically- sustainable point of view and that we’ve come to a critical point in our existence. We have a small window of time left to halt the destruction of our environment or, within a couple generations, our world will become inhospitable for life, as we know it, and many of the species that inhabit our planet.
An alternate near future, such as is chronicled in the Last Call for Caviar series, destroyed by greed, political corruption and the hatred and intolerance of our fellow man, is not farfetched. One only has to read the headlines in the news today to realize that this is already our reality to a lesser degree. We are destroying the ecological balance of our planet. There are millions of people who are suffering and dying because of existing resource wars and the deliberate displacement of civilian populations. What is already happening to a large portion of the global population is equally as shocking and frightening as the fictionalized world portrayed in the Last Call for Caviar series.
I pray that we can come to an epiphany and reverse course before it is too late. But the forces arrayed against this–the global elites, who control banking, weapons manufacture, fossil fuel production, politics and the media—are formidable. They have tremendous control and influence over how ordinary people live their lives. I fear, they have too much invested in the destruction of our planet, as it appears their agenda is solely based on greed and enriching their corporate bottom line.
PBR: Do you jot down your ideas for a novel over time as they come to you, or do you sit down and write in one setting?
I don’t use an outline to write the first draft of a novel, or have chapters or characters mapped out in advance. My process is much more organic. I’m fortunate that I have an overabundance of imagination and am able to visualize the next step of the story unfolding as I write.
However, I do keep a small journal with me at all times. Inspiration can strike at the most unlikely moment and I have learned not to trust it to memory. I’m very observant by nature and find story ideas in the everyday world around me. It can be snippets of conversation that I overhear, or something I read that resonates and gets my imagination going in a new direction.
When I have written myself into a literary dead-end, I often refer to my journal to find ideas for my next step in the narration. I do quite a bit of research while writing a novel. For example, I needed to research paragliding, astrophysics and astronomy in the Last Call for Caviar series to keep my writing as realistic and accurate as possible.
PBR: What one quality to you most admire in Maya Jade?
I think it’s the combination of her analytic and devious mind. While she has qualities that are admirable, such as her loyalty to loved ones, family and friends, I like that she is trying to understand and find solutions to the great and terrible times she lives in. Sometimes her solutions are self-serving, but I think that adds a dash of realism to her brand of humanity.
However, I think Maya is most appealing as a character when she realizes she can’t live with herself if she abandons Julian and Buddy. I very much enjoyed writing the scene where Maya jumps ship and swims to shore—risking everything—to be reunited with her loved ones again.