If you happened to catch my “Behind the Scenes” article in the November issue of Romantic Times, you already know I’m a former diplomat with weapons of mass destruction expertise who was stationed in Russia for several intriguing years. Although I worked for the U.S. Embassy, I lived in the open in a spacious city apartment in downtown Moscow. There, my two Siberian cats, my modern art collection and I shared many strange adventures.

It’s par for the course, toast for the caviar, steam for the banya that any diplomat living in Moscow deals with surveillance as a routine part of life. I grew accustomed to living my life–including my romantic life as a twenty-something singleton with a passion for clubs and parties–with an utter lack of privacy. I invoke that sense of hostile surveillance in The Russian Obsession, Book 3 in my sexy spy romance Foreign Affairs series.

Beyond adjusting to the uncomfortable realities of daily surveillance, I also had to deal with culture shock. My lungs adjusted to the acrid haze of cigarette smoke that shrouded most Russian offices and restaurants. To this day, I can’t write a Russian hero who doesn’t smoke. If you’re a renegade Russian submarine captain like Victor Kostenko in The Russian Seduction, you chain-smoke high-end Davidoffs without apology. If you’re a refined by lethal ex-KGB hit man like Nikolai “the Maestro” Markov, you savor an expensive Gauloise with our morning espresso. If you’re nightclub-hopping American me cruising through the high-end ethnic restaurants and lounges of modern-day Moscow, you smoke jasmine- and apple-flavored tobacco through a shisha and enjoy the rush.

A good rule of the road in any culture is never to overstay your welcome, so I’ll wrap this up. I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual glimpse into modern-day Moscow, where every girl’s a supermodel or a spy, every guy’s a mobster or a mole, and the energy’s as bracing as a bucket of ice water flung in your face! If you’re looking for a deeper dive, check out the Foreign Affairs books–and let me know what you think!

Ciao for now,