Posted in Lowery Women, Music Monday, She's Far From Hollywood, The Writing Life

Music Monday – You Make It Easy (Cole & Bree)

The summer months are heating up here in the south, and that always makes me think of the book inspired by all that “heat” – my debut romance, She’s Far From Hollywood. Carolina farmer Cole meets Hollywood diva Bree and sparks fly immediately! They can’t seem to get along, and yet they can’t seem to stay apart, either. And one of my favorite scenes happens in a steaming hot hayloft on a stifling summer afternoon (excerpt below).

Jason Aldean’s hit song, You Make It Easy, is a song I think Cole could have actually written for Bree. She smoothed his rough edges just enough, and he’s in awe of her as well as being in love with her. It’s a great song, and it was an instant-add to my romance playlist!

Here’s that infamous hayloft scene from She’s Far From Hollywood, Book 1 of my Lowery Women Series:

The closer she came to the metal roof of the barn, the hotter it got. Her body shifted into autopilot, and she kept pushing forward. The sooner this was over, the sooner she could get away from Cole Caldwell’s annoying presence and step into a nice, cool shower. She was pushing a particularly large bale over her head when her arms started to tremble with exhaustion. She stepped back so she could use her whole body to shove the stubborn bale into place…

The bale under her foot tipped farther, the one in her hands tumbled free and she was falling. But not for long. Arms like iron gripped her and scooped her up before she could cry out. Cole had leaped up two levels and caught her in mid-air. He twisted and threw himself back against the stacked bales behind him and they both came to a sudden stop…

For a few heartbeats, neither of them moved. The only sound was the chug-chug of the hay elevator. She raised her head and met his eyes, which were just above her own. Instead of the usual cold gray, his were dark and intense. Without moving his head, he slowly lowered her legs until she was standing, but still trapped tightly in the circle of his arms. The suffocating heat of the loft now felt cool against her skin compared to the fire burning between them. Every nerve ending was on high alert. 

His mouth was right there. Right. There. She could feel his breath moving across her cheeks, and she closed her eyes at the delicious sensation of it. She opened them again when she heard a low moan from deep in his throat. Whatever was happening, Cole was feeling it, too…

She could stop him. She could reach up and kiss him and stop him from letting her go. His lips were still just inches away. He shook his head slowly, as if he’d read her mind. His voice was raspy and labored when he broke the feverish silence. 

“You and me are a bad idea, Hollywood.”

She nodded and whispered the words back at him. 

“Bad idea.”

He released her and stepped back, putting more space between them. His voice was stronger this time.

“A very bad idea.”

 

Posted in Rendezvous Falls, The Writing Life

Welcome to Rendezvous Falls!

Rendezvous Falls Twitter

I’m so excited! (cue the Pointer Sisters!). I just inked a contract to create a brand new contemporary romance series for HQN! Not only will I be continuing to write Gallant Lake romances for Harlequin Special Edition, I will also be writing the stories of Rendezvous Falls, NY. This fictional town is located in the heart of the Finger Lakes wine country. Rendezvous Falls is famous for its wildly-colored, fanciful Victorian homes, and its citizens are just as unique and colorful as the town is. When the senior book club gets bored and decides to try their hand at matchmaking, the results are… interesting… because love is stranger than fiction. Their matches don’t always (never…) work out they way they plan, yet somehow love finds a way to bring the right people together.

Each book will have three points of view–heroine, hero and one member of the book club. A few book club members (a diverse and touching group of friends) will find their own “seasoned romance” Happily Ever Afters along the way.

Book 1: Corporate auditor Whitney Foster returns to her onetime childhood haven, Rendezvous Falls, to regroup after finding herself suddenly unemployed. She discovers  her widowed Aunt Helen’s winery is falling into disrepair and flirting with financial ruin. Whitney blames the most likely culprit: Falls Legend Winery’s manager. But her suspicions can’t erase the fact that Luke Rutledge’s disheveled yet determined vibe intrigues her, even if he is whispered about in town as “one of those Rutledge Boys.” When Aunt Helen’s book club decides to set Whitney up on a few blind dates to distract her from going crazy while she attempts to unravel the books, Luke realizes that he cares about the nosy “bean counter” far more than he thought.

So I’ll be hiding away in my writing cave for the next few (many!) months, creating the stories that you’ll be able to buy everywhere starting in the summer of 2019. I’ll also be working on updating the website to reflect the three existing series – Lowery Women, Gallant Lake and now – Rendezvous Falls! 

Posted in Gallant Lake, Music Monday, The Writing Life

Music Monday – Writer on a Deadline!

I generally use Music Mondays to share love songs from my romance playlist. But I’m shaking things up this week because it’s that dreaded time in an author’s life: DEADLINE WEEK. Well, technically the deadline for my first book in the new Gallant Lake series for Harlequin Special Edition is in ten days, but close enough. I have to get this book done, because it’s…it’s not done. TEN DAYS, PEOPLE!

So I’m sharing a song I’ve been playing on repeat all weekend because it calms me (a little). I thought maybe you might have stuff going on that makes you need the same message – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright. Meanwhile I’ll be over here blubbering into my wine glass and typing 24/7.

Posted in Gallant Lake, Music Monday, The Writing Life

Music Monday – In the Mood for Love

Strong Enough Dock Crop

This week, instead of matching a love song to an existing story, I’m sharing the music I played while writing my current work-in-progress. This book (the deadline is this month!!!) will be my first Harlequin Special Edition romance, releasing in 2019. It will be Book One of the Gallant Lake series. And this weekend I was writing that very special scene – the first time Nick and Cassie make love.

They’ve already shared a surprising kiss after the coworkers became friends. Or maybe it wasn’t so surprising, since they were at the Kissing Rock up on Gallant Mountain. They spend the following week agreeing to pretend that kiss never happened, but then Cassie ends up in Nick’s kayak at night, which leads to them both getting wet, which leads to them both getting…well…naked.

And what better mood music for writing what happens next than the classic by the incomparable Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It on.

Posted in The Writing Life

Beginnings: The Life She Wants

Life - ChecklistThis month, I’ve shared the beginnings of each of my books. And this beginning is quite a teaser – it’s the beginning of my upcoming June release, The Life She Wants. If you’ve read the first two books of the Lowery Women series, you’ll recognize a few familiar names here, and get a big surprise about one of them!

And hey – don’t forget to sign up for my brand new newsletter (just click “Subscribe” in the upper right corner of the page)!

And one more thing not to forget – don’t forget to pre-order The Life She Wants!

………………………………………..

Melanie, can I skip this necklace? It seems like overkill to me.”

“Mel, you don’t really expect me to wear these shoes, do you?”

“Melanie, this dress is way too short for a grandmother.”

“Mel…”

Melanie Lowery closed her eyes and took a long, slow breath.

If this was Paris or New York City, this type of fashion-model rebellion would never be tolerated. But Mel wasn’t in Paris. And while technically in New York State, she was nowhere near the fashion district. The three women in front of her were not professional models. They were her cousins, and they had volunteered to help her market this collection.

They were doing her a favor.

She could not scream at them.

One more deep breath.

“Amanda,” she said—as calmly as possible—to the petite blonde in the blue sheath, “it’s not a necklace, it’s an extension of the dress that happens to fasten around your neck. That jeweled bib is what makes the dress special. So please. Just. Put. It. On.”

The tall redhead standing by the door wore a flowing floral gown. Bright orange stilettos dangled from her fingers. Bree’s face said it all, but Mel stopped the inevitable flow of opinions before it began.

“Bree, I picked those shoes specifically for that dress. They match the clutch you’ll be carrying. It’s almost like I planned it that way.” She tried to keep the sarcastic edge from her voice, but failed.

“Pull in your claws, Mel. It’s not the color I’m worried about, it’s the crazy heels. I can’t walk in these things.”

“Seriously? I’ve seen you walk Hollywood red carpets in higher.”

“That was a lifetime ago. There’s not much call for stilettos on the farm.” Bree patted her protruding belly. “And don’t forget my passengers. Twins, babe. Twins. They’re wreaking havoc with my balance, not to mention my ankles.”

“Okay, Bree, I get it. Twins.”

……

“Nora.” Mel turned to face her eldest cousin, who was frowning at herself in the mirror while tugging at the hem of the dark red cocktail dress. “You may be a grandmother, but you’re forty, not eighty. That length makes your legs go on forever, so please stop yanking it out of shape!”

Amanda slipped her arm around Melanie’s waist. “Mel, you’re not even dressed yet, and dinner is in half an hour. We may not be models like you, but we’ll be fine. Go get your dress on, and we’ll meet outside the ballroom in thirty, okay?” Amanda turned serious, giving her a quick squeeze. Mel knew what was coming next.

“Are you okay?”

Note: The reader will come to see that’s a “code” question that Melanie gets asked a lot. Because there was a time not too long ago when she was definitely not okay. When she leaves this room and heads off to get dressed, she’ll meet a brash sports agent who will turn her already stressful life upside down. Shane Brannigan is chasing all the things that nearly destroyed Mel. Their lives are heading in totally opposite directions, and they’ll each have to examine their goals and redefine what “success” looks like to make it work. 

Posted in Excerpts, Meet Me in the Middle, The Writing Life

Beginnings: Meet Me in the Middle

Meet Me Meme Home (1)I’m visiting “beginnings” with this month’s excerpts, and today is a peek at my October novella, Meet Me in the Middle, which is part of the Falling For You anthology of small town romances. Meet Me in the Middle is set in the small town of Gallant Lake, which is also the setting for my upcoming Harlequin Special Edition series called…yup, you guessed it–the Gallant Lake Series.

Schoolteacher Sarah is feeling bad that breaking up with her ex has messed up her best friend’s wedding plans, since they’re still both in the wedding party. She doesn’t anticipate her friend’s solution to the problem, though, which puts Sarah much too close to her old high school crush–bad boy Ben Conway.

Ben’s only in town long enough to see his kid sister get married, then he’s hopping back on his bike and following the sun to Florida, determined to maintain his rolling stone lifestyle despite the loneliness he’s been feeling lately. But sweet Sarah Lowery makes him rethink his plans, and his life.

…………………………………………….

Sarah Jones dropped her head to her desk with a thunk and a groan.

“The full moon got to your monsters, too?”

She rolled her head just enough to open one eye and see her best friend, Jacqueline Conway, standing in the classroom doorway. They both taught at Gallant Lake Elementary School. The small resort town of Gallant Lake, nestled in the Catskill Mountains of New York, had seen better days, but it was working hard to make a comeback. Kind of like Sarah.

“Just kill me now, Jackie. No, don’t bother—I’m already dead.” Sarah raised her head, rubbing her temples with her fingertips. “I’m trying to teach them about the Middle Ages, and all they want to talk about is Game of Thrones and whether Westeros is a real place. I lost control completely once someone mentioned dragons.”

“At least sixth-graders can discuss something interesting. My little minions revolted shortly after lunch, and I swear for a minute there they were plotting to lock me in the closet and take over the school.” Jackie kicked off her stylish pumps and sat on the corner of Sarah’s desk, hiking up her skirt to cross her legs. “I was trying to explain the difference between odd and even numbers, and that rotten little Billy Johnson started labeling everyone in class as odd or even. There were tears and a general meltdown of decorum, including mine. I dread the emails I’ll be getting this weekend.”

Sarah winced. Technology meant teachers were available to parents 24/7, and those ranting emails that mommies and daddies fired off at midnight were so much fun to wake up to. She nodded in sympathy. “Yeah, I used to think your second-graders would be more controllable because they were smaller, but…”

Jackie finished the thought. “But they have the attention spans of gnats.” She brushed her long, dark hair back over her shoulder, looking like a poster girl for Hot for Teacher. “So about the wedding…”  

Sarah grimaced. Jackie was getting married in a week, and Sarah felt responsible for messing up a year’s worth of careful planning.

“You know I love you…” Jackie hesitated. They’d been best friends since kindergarten. Long enough for Sarah to know there was always a “but” coming when Jackie said those words. “…but I don’t have a lot of options. The only solution is to have you with Ben…”

“Ben? No. No.” Sarah was not sitting with Jackie’s big brother at the wedding.  

“It’s not that big of a wedding party, Sarah. Carl and Nicole are best man and maid of honor. I planned on having Lashonna sit with Ben, and you with Aaron. But unless you want to spend my wedding sitting with your cheating bastard of an ex, I have to put Aaron with Lashonna, which leaves…Ben.” Jackie patted Sarah’s arm. “It’ll be fine, as long as you don’t mind being with a shaggy-haired biker. He’s probably forgotten all about you following him around like a puppy dog when we were kids.”

Note: Ben definitely did NOT forget about Sarah, or the two kisses they shared way back when. Maybe the third time will be the charm….

 

Posted in Music Monday, She's Far From Hollywood, The Writing Life

Music Monday – Some Love Songs are Sad

My romance writing playlist contains a lot of songs about the power and joy of love. But we all know that true love isn’t always sunshine and roses. There are dark times and bumps in the road. Sometimes there are even endings (although we know those endings never last in romance novels!). But I don’t think any of my characters, even in the darkness of the “black moment” in their story, ever regrets falling in love.

So this is my first sad Music Monday song – Break Up in the End by Cole Swindell. It stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it, because the bittersweet heartbreak of Tennyson’s “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” feels so real in the lyrics and in the simple, heartfelt delivery.

I think especially of Cole and Bree from She’s Far From Hollywood. Cole ends up in residential rehab for his PTSD. Bree goes back to California to deconstruct the life she used to think mattered to her. They’re hurting. But they’re also stronger people at this point than they were in the beginning, and they’re grateful for the impact they’ve had in each other’s lives.

And, of course, since it’s a romance novel, there is a Happily Ever After that occurs after Cole and Bree’s black moment, because I believe in Forever Love.

Posted in The Writing Life

Welcome to Gallant Lake!

Gallant Lake SeriesIt’s official! I have a brand new series coming in 2019! With the unfortunate demise of the Harlequin Superromance line (the final Supers will be out in June, including my The Life She Wants), I wasn’t sure where I’d land. But I’m thrilled to announce that my Gallant Lake Series will be published by Harlequin Special Edition, starting in 2019.

If you’ve read Nora’s Guy Next Door, you’re familiar with the fictional Catksill Mountains town of Gallant Lake, home of the Gallant Lake Resort. Gallant Lake is also the setting for The Life She Wants. I’ve basically fallen in love with this little town of faded storefronts along the lakeshore. It’s a town left behind by progress as the old resort (think Dirty Dancing) fell into disrepair. But it’s also a town full of close-knit individuals who care about each other and the place they call home. When the resort is brought back to life, along with the historic castle next door to it, Gallant Lake begins to feel hope again. As the town rebuilds, new people and new challenges come along. And….so does love.

First up are Nick and Cassie, both new to town and both employed by the Gallant Lake Resort. Both are trying to leave troubled pasts behind, and they dare each other to make some changes. Nick shows Cassie how to be more adventurous, while Cassie gets Nick to relax and breathe once in a while. Cassie’s past is threatening to catch up with her, but if she runs, she’ll leave behind her one chance at forever love.

Next come Sheriff Dan (who appears in Nora’s Guy Next Door and The Life She Wants) and his best friend’s little sister, Mackenzie, back in town to help her dad. The last thing Mack needs is Dan bringing up memories of high school and all the dreams she failed to achieve. Dan was always the bad boy as a teen, and Mack was the sweetest little kid. These days the single dad enforces the law instead of breaking it. Sweet Mackenzie is looking for a walk on the wild side, and Dan can’t let her do that with anyone but him. But how much is he willing to risk?

And then we have Nate (who appears in Nora’s Guy Next Door) and Brittany. Nate owns the local hardware store, which has been in his family for generations. Nate’s not big on change. Brittany is in Gallant Lake for one reason — to change everything. When the hard-charging real estate developer meets laid-back Nate, she figures her job just got a lot easier. She has no idea how wrong she is, because there’s nothing easy about Nate. Including leaving him behind.

So what do you think? Are you ready to read the stories of Gallant Lake? Because I’m already busy writing them!

 

Posted in The Writing Life

She’s Far From Hollywood – FINALIST!

She's Far From HollywoodI’m so excited to share the news that my debut romance, She’s Far From Hollywood, is one of four finalists (in its category) in the New England Chapter Romance Writers of America Readers’ Choice Contest! Winners will be announced in April, but just being a finalist in this prestigious romance novel contest is a thrill.

If you haven’t read She’s Far From Hollywood yet, and you like snarky dialogue, grumpy  military heroes, strong heroines, and sexy small town romance all wrapped up in one book….then you should probably check it out!

Hollywood Checklist

Posted in Excerpts, Meet Me in the Middle, The Writing Life

A First Kiss: Meet Me in the Middle

Meet Me GraphicYes, I’m still sharing First Kisses this month! This one is from my novella, Meet Me in the Middle, which was part of the anthology Falling For You. The anthology features ten small town romances from me and fellow award-winning and best-selling Harlequin Superromance authors. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you really should!

And here’s a special announcement…Meet Me in the Middle will soon be available as a stand-alone novella. Stay tuned over the next month or so for a cover reveal and release news. Ben and Sarah’s story takes place in Gallant Lake, the same town Nora’s Guy Next Door was set in (and the same town June’s The Life She Wants will be set in). While the anthology was released a few weeks after Nora’s Guy Next Door, the events in the novella technically take place a few weeks before Nora arrives in Gallant Lake for Thanksgiving.

Technically, this is Ben and Sarah’s third kiss, because this is a second chance romance. Ben just came cruising back into town on his motorcycle for his sister’s wedding, and schoolteacher Sarah’s not ready to face her bad boy high school crush again. Those first two kisses years ago didn’t stick, but this one (in the coatroom) just might…..

……………………………………..

       The logical thing would be to go back to the wedding reception and finish the night with their friends and family. That would be the safe choice. Her shoulders straightened. Maybe Ben was right. Maybe it was time to take a risk.
      “Well, I think we need to communicate more clearly about what we’re planning. No more blindsiding. We need to meet in the middle. To have a mutual agreement…”
       “And what exactly are you planning, Miss Sarah Jones?”
       She swallowed hard. “I’m planning on walking toward you. And I hope you’re planning on walking toward me. And when me meet, I’m thinking we should have a mutually agreed upon kiss.”
        She took a step, and he did the same. Then another. Until they were just inches away from each other. His hands cupped her face, his eyes so intense she could hardly bear to look into them, but she couldn’t look away. His head lowered and his lips brushed back and forth across hers. They’d never kissed like this before—tentative, careful, tender. He pressed his mouth against her and his tongue teased her for a moment before she let him in. A groan vibrated through her body, and she wasn’t sure if it came from Ben or her. She reached up and buried her fingers in his hair, while his hands slid down her body to pull her hips into his very obvious arousal.
      Those kisses in the past had been all about pent-up desire and an explosion of passion. This kiss was more like a furnace slowly being turned up until the heat could melt steel. Their moves were slower and more measured, but no less intense. A tremble started in Sarah’s chest and rolled out to her skin until her whole body shook with it. Ben must have felt it, because he growled and wrapped his arms around her, pressing her against the wall so she no longer had to worry about her legs holding her up.
        Their mouths came apart only long enough for a ragged breath, then crashed together again. This felt more like old times—heads twisting, hands moving quickly over bodies, frantic incoherent whispers. The two of them were combustible together.