Hi, everyone! I’m so excited to welcome the lovely RITA Award-winning author Beth Andrews, who is here today to share her inspiration for her new Superromance, CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER, and to talk about how
The Times They Are a-Changin’
So far, 2014 has been a doozy for my family. Little Sis (my younger daughter and youngest child) started her senior year of high school which means she and I have been busy visiting colleges and sending in applications. Big Sis (older daughter who is actually NOT bigger than her 5’8” baby sister) is in Columbus for her second year at Ohio State. And their big brother? Well, he’s been the busiest of all. In the span of eight months he got engaged, graduated from college, started a new job, moved into a townhouse, got married and moved again.
Did I mention the part where my son, my firstborn, my only boy, got married? My baby is a married man. It’s been a month and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that one. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I birthed him? (I swear, those 75 pounds I gained were all baby)
Changed, bathed and fed him?
Kept him warm for those cold, Northwestern Pennsylvania winters.
Taught him the importance of pitching in with the yard work.
Why, it was just a few days ago we were wearing matching outfits and traipsing around in the woods.
And, of course, he learned the art of pulling off any hairstyle with aplomb from me (not to brag, but I did rock a mullet for a year back in the eighties).
Then, in the blink of an eye (or twenty-three years – same thing) my husband and I were escorting him down the aisle.
Now, he’s married to the love of his life, giving me another beautiful daughter!
Yes, there are plenty of changes afoot at my house (isn’t that the way of life?) and while those changes may take some getting used to, they should also be celebrated.
Change and the relationship between mother and son are two big themes in CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER, my December release for Harlequin Superromance (like how I tied that together?) Single-mother Penelope Denning moved to small-town Shady Grove, Pennsylvania hoping to raise her son in a warm, safe environment. But when local firefighter Leo Montesano wants to build a future with her, she feels torn between him and her son.
“As in out on a date,” he clarified. Must be he sensed that her brain had ceased working the moment he’d stepped into the room. Then again, he was probably used to having that effect on women. The power of a pretty face knew no bounds. “Dinner. A movie. Or we could go into Pittsburgh, see a show.”
Her throat dried. She couldn’t feel her fingers, had to lock her knees to remain upright. Date? Him? Absurd. They were too different. He was too good-looking. Too smooth. Too young. Too…everything.
And she was afraid she wasn’t nearly enough.
She leaned her hip heavily against the desk. “I don’t think—”
“Or we could start slow. Have lunch. Or even coffee.” His voice dropped to a husky, sexy tone that could strip a woman of her inhibitions. And her good sense. “It doesn’t matter to me. Just a few hours. I’d like to get to know you better.”
She shut her eyes. Counted to ten. But when she opened them, he was still there, broad and earnest and, it seemed, completely sincere. “Why?”
The word hung in the air, bald and loud and yes, desperate sounding. Too bad. She wouldn’t take it back even if she could. She was too curious to hear his answer.
“Because I find you interesting.” He stood and stepped forward, his body and her own pride trapping her between him and her desk. “Because I’m attracted to you.”
Her breath locked in her chest. A thrill raced through her before she could stop it. He was attracted to her? That…that was impossible. Implausible. Incredible.
He edged even closer and she pressed against the desk, the rounded edge digging into the back of her thighs. “How about it, Penelope?” he asked, drawing her name out as if savoring each syllable. He trailed the tip of his forefinger up her forearm, his light touch like a flame along her skin. “Go out with me?”
Dear Lord, but he smelled wonderful, a mix of citrus and spice that made her want to breathe him in. And when he smiled at her, his eyes dark with intent, she wanted to believe in fairy tales. Wanted to believe in foolish dreams.
But fairy tales were for children. And dreams were for people who didn’t know better. She wasn’t some naive girl waiting for a handsome prince to sweep in and make her life complete. She was a mature, sensible woman with a teenage son who needed her time and full attention.
A mature, sensible woman who was wise enough to know when she was in over her head. Leo flustered her, and she hated being flustered. She doubted that feeling would ever go away, even if they went on a hundred dates. She needed to be the one in control. She liked knowing what the right thing to do and say was, and with him, she wasn’t sure she’d ever have that ability again.
“No,” she said, her voice firm. “Absolutely not.”
I’m giving away three copies of CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER! Just leave a comment telling me the biggest change in your life recently or your idea of a dream date. Winners will be drawn at random and announced on Sunday.
When Romance Writers of America RITA® Award winning author Beth Andrews was a young wife, she started a gas grill with the lid down. The small explosion left her with singed hair and a life-long respect for propane. While no handsome firefighters came to her rescue that day, she will never forget that particular incident. Mainly because her husband reminds her of it every summer.
Learn more about Beth and her books by visiting her website, www.BethAndrews.net or her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BethAndrewsBooks.
Recently, Girlchild and I spent an afternoon in Barnes and Noble. This is ordinarily one of my Big Thrills. His Highness keeps me supplied with B&N gift certificates, so that I never feel I “shouldn’t” buy something. (Isn’t that adorable? Isn’t that…charmingly naïve? As if my conscience could stop me from buying a book!)
But that afternoon, neither of us wanted to buy a thing. We’d pick up books, then dump them back on the shelves irritably. We grew increasingly sour, wondering what on earth was wrong. Had every published novel on the planet suddenly turned to garbage?
And then, suddenly, Girlchild figured it out. The album on the store’s music system was HORRIBLE. It was mournful, and whiny, and just plain annoying. We thought about asking them to switch CDs, but we were already too bummed. We left.
This wasn’t the first time something like that happened to me. Once, many years ago, I was at my sister’s house, and she and I were having a big talk about some conflict. Ordinarily, we handle differences maturely, get them out on the table, and move on. But this day we kept arguing for what seemed like hours, getting more and more emotional. Eventually, we were both in tears, and a resolution seemed impossible.
Girlchild had come with me for the visit, but had wandered outside to avoid the drama. Then she read a book in the other room. Then she talked on the phone. Then she wandered outside again.
Eventually, she stomped in, looked at the two of us, and said, “You know, I think this might go better if you didn’t keep playing that tragic version of Ave Maria over and over again.”
Luckily, that struck us as so funny it ended the drama immediately. But the truth remains: I’m ridiculously affected by the soundtrack of my life.
Right now, I’m finishing up a new Superromance, and this one’s been difficult. I think it may be because I haven’t had a good playlist to write by. Playlists to set the mood are a big part of my writing process.
Problem is, this book is a friends-to-lovers story. That’s tricky right from the start, because I’m more a lightning-bolt-love-at-first-sight kind of lady. I don’t remember any relationships I’ve ever had that started out as just friends.
Consequently, my iTunes lists aren’t full of friends-to-lovers songs. I found only one, “What If I Said?” by Anita Cochran and Steve Wariner. It’s great, but one song won’t get me through a whole book! So I’m hoping maybe you guys can help me.
Do you know any good songs about friends turning into lovers? Even if you don’t, what are your favorite love songs? At this point, I’d welcome any suggestions to sing me all the way to The End.
In my new Montana Born novella, THE LONG WAY HOME, heroine Abby Foster’s father is sick and wants to see her safely married and well provided for before he dies.
Oh, Dad. From the safety of our reading chairs, we all know what a terrible mistake that is.
But the urge to protect your child is probably the most powerful force in the universe. (Well, maybe the second most powerful…<g>)
Our primitive instinct to shelter, comfort, heal and defend our offspring makes us do crazy things.
And it’s often at war with our brain, which knows that protecting them from everything is a) impossible, and b) dumb.
If they don’t make mistakes, how will they learn to be wise? If we rush in to eliminate pain, how will they learn to endure it without looking for a quick fix? If we imply, even subtly, that we don’t trust them to handle their own problems, how will they learn to trust themselves?
And who is to say we always know what’s right, anyhow?
Even when we understand all those pitfalls, it’s still hard to stand back and let your child suffer. Yet sometimes it truly is the right move.
I remember so well the day I learned this lesson.
One night, Boychild, still very young, had a Big Game with his first Little League team. At this Big Game, he made a Big Mistake. I can’t remember now exactly what went wrong. Maybe he made a bad throw. Maybe he dropped a fly ball and let the other team win. It was a real mistake, not a misunderstanding.
Whatever it was, it devastated him. The other kids were upset, too, and took it out on him. He kept his head up in public, but when we got on the road, he began to cry. He lay down with his head in my lap (he was still that young) and let the waves of disappointment, embarrassment and misery wash over him.
I nearly died. I adore Boychild and could gleefully have kicked every one of the other little ballplayers in the keester for hurting him. But I had no idea what to say. Everything I thought of seemed to make it worse, miss the point, or sound horribly patronizing.
I couldn’t say he hadn’t screwed up, because he had. I couldn’t say the other kids were jerks, because how would blaming them help him? I couldn’t say “man up,” because I think that’s dangerous baloney. I couldn’t say it didn’t matter in the big picture, because that denied his reality. I couldn’t say he’d feel better later, because. for a kid, at a moment like that “later” doesn’t exist.
So I just put my hand on his shoulder and let him cry. As he talked it out, and I said absolutely nothing, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Where was my wisdom? Where was my magic mommy medicine? Where was my big, rousing, Braveheart-moment speech?
My son was in pain, and I was a failure.
The ballpark had been in another little town, and it took us forever to get home. It was probably the longest thirty minutes of my life. His tears dwindled away, and he went through all the phases of grief, and I still didn’t say a word.
When we pulled into the garage, he jumped up, hugged me around the neck and, beaming, said, “I love you so much, Mommy!” Then he bounded into the house and moved on with his life.
Though he probably struck out, double faulted, or threw an interception many times in his life after that, he never shed a tear over it again.
Amazingly, because I’d choked, I’d accidentally allowed him to learn a lot of priceless lessons.
You don’t have to make pain go away instantly—it won’t kill you.
You don’t have to blame anyone else, or lash out, in order to try to ease your discomfort.
You can be honest about how you feel, because the people you love won’t tell you it’s crazy to feel that way.
Most importantly, this, too, shall pass.
And he wasn’t the only one who learned something important. My parenting changed that day, because I learned that sometimes your best move is to stay out of it.
Sometimes all you need to say is nothing at all.
How about you? Have there been any times when someone trying to console you said all the wrong things? Is there anyone in your life who understands the healing power of an understanding silence? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate and a copy of THE LONG WAY HOME to one random commenter today!
Lily Palmer is in for the Christmas of a lifetime! When the nanny signs up to watch Dr. Cullen Dunlevy’s four foster kids, she’s got her hands full. The Thomas clan is the most mischievous group of youngsters she’s ever had to wrangle, but Lily loves the job. After all, what girl wouldn’t adore spending the holidays with a warmhearted new family—and their irresistibly handsome foster dad?
Cullen doesn’t mind Christmas, but his Scrooge-like facade is there for a reason—to protect himself. His tough childhood caused him to hide behind his work and avoid entanglements at all costs. That includes avoiding falling for the deliciously tempting new nanny that Santa left for him this year…
* Where did you get the idea for A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS?
The Sound of Music has always been one of my favorite movies. I saw it for the first time when I was very young. Later, I shared it with my daughter. I hope someday she’ll continue the chain. In the meantime, I wanted to write a book that was a nod to that classic story that shows that with love and family you can overcome just about anything.
Of course, I changed it up enough to make it my own. First, it’s set during the holidays. Cullen, the hero, is a doctor rather than a wealthy navy captain; and Lily, the heroine, is a teacher rather than an aspiring nun. There are four kids rather than seven. Actually, in the first incarnation of this book, I gave Cullen seven foster children, but then I came to my senses. He and Lily were grateful because as it turned out, four feisty Thomas children were more than enough.
* Tell us about the hero and heroine of the book? Why will we want them to fall in love?
We met both Cullen and Lily in previous books. I introduced you to Lily inCELEBRATION’S BRIDE (she was the woman who won the wedding of her dreams, only to have her fiancé back out on national television). Cullen first appeared inCELEBRATION’S FAMILY. He was the stern chief of staff at Celebration Memorial, who insisted that the hero of that book participate in the bachelor auction that raised money for the hospital’s pediatric wing.
Lily’s nurturing, never-give-up-on-love spirit softens Cullen’s hard exterior and together they realize that through love and family they can heal hurts of the past.
* Is there any particular significance in the setting?
I think Debbie Haupt of RT Book Reviews said it best, “Thompson takes us back to Celebration, Texas to check in on old friends and create new memories.”
* What was your favorite scene to write?
This book was so much fun to write, that it’s difficult to pick just one scene, but I guess the scenes with the kids were my favorite…or maybe the scenes at the Holiday market…or maybe when the hero and heroine go to the Christmas ball… Wow! Choosing is kind of like naming my favorite child.
* Were there any real-life inspirations for a particular scene or character in the book?
I infused several personal details into the book. Like Lily, I lost my mother and was exceptionally close to my grandmother. My grandmother’s recipes are very special to me. I cook her food when I’m missing her.
My father remarried a wonderful woman, who was first generation German American and my lovely step-mother shared her mother’s recipe for a German Christmas bread called stollen, a confection filled with dried fruits and marzipan. In the book, the stollen recipe came from Lily’s grandmother and to bring some holiday cheer into the house, she teaches the kids how to make it.
* Do any beloved characters from your previous books show up in this one?
Oh, yes! Sydney and Miles from CELEBRATION’S BRIDE and Pepper and A.J. from Celebrations, Inc. Catering Company among others. It was fun revisiting everyone.
* Any interesting tidbits of information you discovered while researching this book?
I wanted Lily to tell the children the story of Christmas stollen and when I was researching it, not only did I learn all about where stollen came from (Lily will tell you all about it in the book), I learned there used to be an annual stollen festival in Germany. They’ve recently revived it and now it’s called Stollenfest.
That makes me wonder about your holiday traditions. I know it’s a little early for some of you to talk about Christmas and Hanukkah, but we are getting close to Halloween and Thanksgiving. What are some of your fall/winter traditions?
I will give away an ARC of CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS to one person who posts on this blog.
If you’d like another chance to win, I’ve joined with a group of authors from Tule and we’re a prize package worth $500 in the Great Thanksgiving Giveaway. Follow the link for details on how you can win.
I can’t wait to hear about your fall/winter traditions!
The hero of my October Superromance, RECLAIMING THE COWBOY, is one of my all-time favorites. Partly that’s because I’ve come to know him so well over the course of the earlier four books in the SISTERS OF BELL RIVER RANCH series, where he was only Sheriff Dallas Garwood’s goofy, adorable younger brother.
But most of all I love him because he has a raging case of Younger Sibling Syndrome, a condition I coped with for years.
In my family, being the younger child was a mixed blessing. On the positive side, I had a house full of protectors, including my sister, who was often called my “mother pretend.” They sheltered me from a lot of troubling details. And I had the luxury of lying low and watching my sister go first through almost everything. I learned (the easy way) what not to do.
But on the negative side, I was endlessly playing catch-up. I always felt like the weakest, the smallest, the least sophisticated in the house. It didn’t help that my sister was brilliant, daring, and urbane, casting a pretty big shadow. (Here I am, on our home library sofa, being typically geeky, while my sister plays it cool.)
She and I always had a choice about dinner: we could eat casually in the kitchen, or we could join the adults in the dining room. But if we chose the dining room, we had to shower, dress nicely, use good manners and, worst of all, stay until the bitter end. Every night, I’d beg my sister to eat in the kitchen with me. Every night, she chose the adults.
For years, it went like this. Our parents told a joke, and my sister laughed, but I had no idea what was so funny. They read poetry, and my sister discussed it like an equal, but I was mystified. She liked elegant, tailored clothes—I liked frills. She liked Dylan—I liked bubble gum pop.
It took me quite a while to stop trying to “grow out of” being me—to come to terms with who I am, to relax and enjoy our differences instead of seeing myself as the younger, inferior version of her.
Mitch Garwood has the same problem. Living in St. Dallas’s shadow all his life, he’s started to think no one will ever take him seriously. When he falls in love with Bonnie O’Mara, he believes he’s met the one woman who truly values him. But when Bonnie is in danger, she doesn’t turn to Mitch. In fact, she runs away, leaving him worried and heartsick for eight long months. She doesn’t trust him to be able to help. And that wounds him in his most vulnerable spot. It’s a betrayal he can’t forgive. If she wants to reclaim her cowboy’s heart, she’ll have to convince him she respects him just as much as she loves him.
What about you? Do you believe your birth order dictates anything about your personality? How did family dynamics work in your house? I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen commenter today, so I hope you can stop by and join the conversation.
Here’s an excerpt from RECLAIMING THE COWBOY, in which Bonnie tries to explain why she didn’t turn to Mitch:
“You can’t imagine…You’ve lived with love all your life, surrounded by a family that adores you. You’re sunny, and you’re kind, and you think the world is good. You aren’t consumed by ambition and greed. Those were the things about you I most…”
She stopped, swallowing the next word oddly. “I mean…that’s what drew me to you in the first place. You were light, when all I’d known before was darkness. You understand laughter and joy. You don’t understand cruelty and greed.”
He made a harsh scoffing noise. “You make me sound like the village idiot.”
She straightened up, as if scalded by his sardonic tone. “I’m sorry you take it that way. That isn’t even remotely what I meant.”
“Sure it is.” He was so angry he could hardly keep his voice steady. He was doomed, wasn’t he? He would eternally be the dopey younger brother. The likable goof. The good-time Charlie. He was used to being written off as a gadfly by Dallas, but he’d imagined that Bonnie was the one person who saw him differently.
Wrong again, moron. Maybe that just proved how naive and gullible he really was.
“It’s exactly what you meant. You meant that I’m good for a few laughs. I can provide a little comic relief on a boring road trip. And I’m not bad in the sack, of course, so that part was fun, too. But I’m not the kind of guy you take seriously. I’m not the person you’d trust with your secrets, your problems.” He narrowed his eyes. “I’m not the man you’d trust with your life.”