Please give a warm welcome to our special guest, Judy Duarte! I had the pleasure of working with Judy on Harlequin’s 2014 Fortunes of Texas series, and I was thrilled when she agreed to join us today. So, without further adieu…
You Gotta Love Those Kids…
One of the things I love about writing a romance—in addition to creating a beautiful love story—is the chance to create unique and entertaining secondary characters who add that special something to the book. And that’s why I especially enjoyed writing A HOUSE FULL OF FORTUNES!
Everyone loves a funny sidekick, a dastardly villain, or an older and wiser friend. But personally, my favorite secondary characters are children.
Having raised five of my own, I’ve also been blessed with their cousins, their friends, and now their children—my grandchildren. Needless to say, I’ve put in my share of babysitting, volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, and teaching Sunday school. I’ve cooked for kids, cleaned up after them, rocked them to sleep and disciplined them. Over the years I’ve come to understand kids and to always expect the unexpected whenever they’re in the room.
When writing Toby and Angie’s romance, I had the opportunity to create not one, but three children. Toby Fortune Jones had taken in three foster kids who had nowhere else to go. And while his heart was in the right place, he found that it isn’t always easy to juggle the needs and personalities of three youngsters. He soon found himself relying on Angie Edwards to help him with his adorable brood.
Art Linkletter was right. Kids really do say the darnedest things. That’s what makes them so fun to include as secondary characters. But when doing so, a writer needs to make them as realistic as possible.
My daughter, who is also an author, once stopped reading a book because she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that the heroine’s son kept asking his grandmother for more helpings of her delicious okra and vegetable stew. My daughter said, “Have you ever heard a seven year old boy beg for okra? I’m sure there might be one or two out there, but at my house, it’s a battle just to get my kids to eat carrots with ranch dressing. I’m not buying it.”
So kids can be cute, they can be funny, and they can be a challenge. But when created realistically, they can add so much to the layers of a book. I tried my best to do that with Brian, Justin, and Kylie. I hope my readers agree—and that they’ll enjoy watching Angie and Toby fall in love, in spite of all the antics and obstacles they have to overcome in A HOUSE FULL OF FORTUNES!
Judy is giving away an Amazon gift card to one person who posts. So, please join in on the fun and leave a comment below.
* Where did you get the idea for FORTUNE’S BABY?
Nancy Robards Thompson: FORTUNE’S BABY, book six in my Celebrations, Inc. series, is a friends-to-lovers story. It’s Bia Anderson’s and Aiden Woods’s romance. Readers first meet Bia in TEXAS MAGIC, where she was instrumental in breaking a big news story that threw the entire town of Celebration, Texas into an uproar. Also, it set the hero and heroine of that book on the path to true love. Bia has since appeared in other stories and has proven to be such a strong character that she almost demanded her own story. Naturally, I had to put her in a situation that would test her strength and challenge her independence: what better than an unplanned pregnancy?
* Tell us about the hero, Aiden Woods?
NRT: Aiden is one of my favorite heroes. He first appeared in CELEBRATION’S BRIDE as the friend and coworker of Miles Mercer. Aiden has been in love with Bia for a long time, but the timing was never right. When Bia finds herself pregnant after an uncharacteristic one-night fling with a movie star she’d interviewed for the newspaper, she’s in need of someone to pose as her fiancé and the father of her child. Of course, Aiden steps up to the job, but if he has his way, their engagement will end with them at the altar.
* Why will we fall in love with Aiden?
NRT: You’ve got to love a man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go after it…or should I say her. Aiden is a man’s man, but when it comes to the woman he loves, he has a romantic, vulnerable side and he’s not afraid to show it.
* Tell us about the heroine, Bia Anderson.
NRT: Bia is a woman many of us will identify with. She’s strong and independent. She’s been hurt before, and while she’d like to find her happily ever after, she’s decided to take some time out from romance to focus on her career. Her career as the editor of the Celebration newspaper was what landed her the opportunity to interview the “Sexiest Man Alive.” Since she wasn’t looking for anything serious, what was the harm in having a little fling with Mr. Sexy? After he found out Bia was pregnant, Mr. Sexy distanced himself as fast as he could. She loves the chemistry she has with Aiden, but he’s her best friend. She doesn’t want to ruin what they have by crossing that line…until she finally accepts the fact that the two of them are perfect for each other.
* What life-lessons do your H/H have to learn before they can find their happily-ever-after?
NRT: They have to learn to take chances. The answer is always no, if you don’t try. They also have to learn to trust in the power of true love.
* What was your favorite scene to write?
NRT: I had a lot of fun writing this book! But one of my favorite scenes was toward the end when Bia finally gives a tabloid reporter, who has been relentlessly hounding her, his comeuppance. It was so much fun!
* What was the most difficult scene for you to write?
NRT: Again, I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t want to spoil one of the plot twists, but there’s a pivotal point in the plot that involves Mr. Sexy that changes everything. I rewrote the scenes leading up to that point several different times with different outcomes until I was finally satisfied with the outcome. That’s all I’ll say.
* Can you share if there were any real-life inspirations for a particular scene or character in the book?
NRT: CELEBRATION’S BABY is strictly fiction, but I worked as a newspaper reporter for several years before writing fiction full-time. I drew on my personal experience with the news industry for Bia’s character. But, no, I never had an affair with the Sexiest Man Alive. That is, unless you’re talking about the Norwegian.
* If this book had a soundtrack, what are some of the songs that might appear on it?
NRT: Every one of my books has a soundtrack. Sadly, I can only listen to instrumental music when I’m writing, but I always put together a playlist to listen to when I’m not at the computer. It sets the tone and keeps me in the story. Here’s the soundtrack for CELEBRATION’S BABY:
If It Kills Me by Jason Mraz
I’ve Got This Friend by The Civil Wars
Just Like A Butterfly That’s Caught In The Rain by Diana Krall
Chasing Pavements by Adel
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight by Bob Dylan
Blue Jeans by Lana DelRay
Never Loved A Girl (the way that I love you) by Aerosmith
18th Floor Balcony by Blue October
Landslide by Dixie Chicks
I’ll Be There by The Jackson Five
* Do any beloved characters from your previous books show up in this one?
NRT: Oh, yes! It’s a Celebration’s, Inc. reunion. You’ll catch up with Sydney and her husband Miles (CELEBRATION’S BRIDE); Pepper and her husband Rob (TEXAS CHRISTMAS), Caroline and Drew (TEXAS MAGIC); and A.J. and her husband Shane (TEXAS WEDDING). Oh! I can’t forget Maya the chocolate maker. She has a very special role in this book.
* Why will readers enjoy this book?
NRT: It’s a friends to lovers to story about two best friends finally claiming the true love that’s been there all along, and it’s a chance for fans of my Celebrations, Inc. series to revisit Celebration Texas and some of the characters from past books. Plus, RT BookReviews gave it 4 stars and had some lovely things to say about it: “…Thompson unveils not one but two romances in this latest Celebration, Texas story, showcasing vivid storylines and rich, flowing narrative. Bia and Aiden are so right for each other; it’s fun to watch them get bull’s-eyed by Cupid’s arrow…”
In Celebration (pun intended ) of my new release, I’m giving a copy of CELEBRATION’S BABY to three people who comment below. Tell me anything – have you ever fallen in love with a friend? Have you ever met – or dated- a celebrity? Who do you think is the sexiest man alive? The field is wide open. I can’t wait to hear from you!
My mom died when I was in my early 20s. She and my dad had been married for nearly 27 years. My father, who was young for a widower, was bereft. We all were, but while my brother and I had our lives ahead of us, my dad had lost his best friend, his partner and soulmate. Never one to give up, about a year later, he started going to a support group for widows and widowers. Little did he know when he joined, that group would not only help him deal with his unspeakable grief, it would prepare him to love again and lead him to the next love of his life.
The woman who would eventually become his second wife (and I must add that I couldn’t have hand-picked a better stepmom) was in that same group. She’d recently lost her husband of decades and had turned to the “Rebounders” for help, too. It was so beautiful to watch two brokenhearted people become whole again and take a second chance at love. While neither could “replace” the other’s first spouse (or my natural mother or my step-siblings’ natural father), our families became whole again, too.
Their story of the healing power of love was the spark for my new book CELEBRATION’S FAMILY. My hero, Dr. Liam Thayer, lost his wife in a tragic accident. While my heroine, Kate Macintyre had never married, she’d still experienced more than her share of personal loss. Just when it seemed like life was at its darkest, they met and love lit the way to a brighter future together.
Just to be clear, my stepmom never goaded my dad into participating in a bachelor auction as Kate persuades Liam (Thank God! I must admit I probably wouldn’t have been as gung-ho about the idea as Liam’s little daughters are in the book. Come on, guys, this is my dad were talking about!). But the healing power of love is at the heart of both CELEBRATION’S FAMILY and my parents’ story. I hope it’s something we can all count on in our darkest hour.
Do you have your own “power of love” story? Or can you think of a movie or book that celebrates healing love? Or just tell me what you think of how they depicted Liam on the cover. Isn’t he gorgeous?! I’ll give away a copy of CELEBRATION’S FAMILY to TWO people who comment.
RT Book Reviews gave CELEBRATION’S FAMILY 4 stars and said, “Thompson’s broken, heartwarming couple are engrossing as they find love after tragedy in this terrific installment in the Celebrations miniseries. Supporting characters like the chocolitier /matchmaker will charm, and the doctor’s twin girls add the perfect “aww!” factor.”
Here’s a quick look at CELEBRATION’S FAMILY’S first scene (Q&A and contest follow):
A bachelor auction?
Dr. Liam Thayer waited for Cullen Dunlevy, Celebration Memorial’s chief of staff, to crack a smile, or indicate he and the pretty blonde in the business suit at his side were delivering a bad joke to lighten up the impromptu staff meeting.
Please. He could use a little levity to jolt him out of his bad mood. It had been one of those mornings. The twins, Amanda and Calee, hadn’t wanted to get out of bed. Five minutes before they were supposed to walk out the door, Amanda remembered that she was supposed to bring cupcakes for an after-school club meeting.
To spur the girls along, he’d said, if they left on time, they could stop at the grocery store on the way. But then the dog got out, running several victory laps around the neighborhood, before Liam had been able to wrangle, harness and deliver him home.
They didn’t have time to stop for cupcakes, and by the time he’d deposited the girls at Celebration Middle School, they were all out of sorts. Well, he and Amanda were. Not Calee, who lived in her own little world of sugar-plum fairies and nutcracker princes. As long as Calee was dancing, the world was a beautiful place. She was so much like her mother, who had also been a ballerina, before she’d given it all up to marry Liam and start a family.
He and Amanda, on the other hand, seemed to be cast from the same mold. This morning he’d left her with a promise that their housekeeper, Rosalinda, would leave a dozen cupcakes at the school’s front desk in time for this afternoon’s club meeting—which Amanda would have to cut short because she and her sister couldn’t be late for their dance class.
Amanda had been dubious and a little surly. She hadn’t wanted to go to dance class today.
“Why can’t Rosie take Calee while I stay at the club meeting? Then Rosie can come back and get me. Or better yet, why can’t I skip dance altogether?”
“Because you have a commitment, and Rosie doesn’t need to be running herself ragged to accommodate you. She’s already going out of her way to make sure you get the cupcakes.”
It had only made matters worse when Liam had snapped, “Next time maybe you’ll remember to tell me these things before we’re walking out the door.”
He shouldn’t have said it. Not like that, dammit. Even if it was true and a lesson she needed to learn. Now, as he sat there in the conference room trying to change gears from dad mode to doctor, he couldn’t get the image of Amanda’s sad face out of his head.
At that moment he missed his wife, Joy, so much it almost leveled him. She’d always taken care of things like cupcakes, permission slips and new ballet shoes. She’d had an uncanny ability to almost read their daughters’ minds or, on the off chance when they did end up in a bind—like they had this morning—she’d always been able to pull a rabbit out of her hat and make things work.
Liam didn’t know how she’d managed it. She had been perfect like that. Tiny, intuitive and good-natured, Joy had always been all about her family.
A series of sickening flashbacks transported Liam to that night when the cop had stood on their front porch and asked, “Is this the residence of Joy Thayer?” He’d told Liam that there’d been an accident but wouldn’t give him much information, just asked if he would come to the hospital. When he’d identified his wife’s body, his life and the lives of their daughters had shattered into a million irreparable pieces.
Liam scrubbed a hand over his eyes, trying to erase the memory. It had been two years. When would life without Joy get easier? When would the numbness give way to the manageable ache that the grief counselor had promised would come in time? Maybe never. Because part of his soul had died right along with his wife that night. The part that lived and laughed and felt.
Now his daughters kept him going. Because life didn’t stop to mourn. Hell, it didn’t even slow down to regroup. It kept marching forward, and, if you didn’t get on your feet fast, it would drag you right along behind it.
He refocused, irritated that he had to waste time this morning listening to the chief and this woman rattle on about…bachelor auctions? For God’s sake.
This had to be a joke.
But a sinking feeling warned him not to bank on Dunlevy delivering the punch line. Especially when his boss glanced over at the blonde and uncharacteristic warmth drew up the edges of his mouth.
“This is Kate Macintyre of the Macintyre Family Foundation,” said Dunlevy. “She and her staff have been working tirelessly to raise money for the new pediatric surgical wing here at Celebration Memorial Hospital. I’ll turn the meeting over to her and let her tell you more.”
The new surgical wing—Joy had been excited about it. In fact she’d been one of the first volunteers to organize a kick-starter fund-raiser.
“Good morning,” said the blonde.
What was her name again?
“Thank you, Dr. Dunlevy. I appreciate you letting me attend your meeting today. Even more I am grateful that each of you has agreed to help raise money for the final leg of funding for this very special project. This pediatric wing is extremely near and dear to my family and me. I appreciate you all taking an active role in making it a reality.”
Near and dear to her family? Liam glanced at her left hand. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. Reflexively his thumb found the back of the band he still wore. It was the touchstone that kept him grounded, and reminded him of what was and always would be important in life. Family.
The blonde smiled at Liam’s colleague, Charlie Benton, an internist, who was seated to her left. She held out a stack of pamphlets. “Would you mind taking one of these and passing them around, please?”
Eagerly Charlie obeyed.
Great. Judging by the look on his coworker’s face, Liam would bet, if she’d asked Charlie to run out to fetch her a bagel and a cappuccino, he would’ve fallen all over himself to oblige. Liam glanced around at the other men in the room. They all seemed transfixed, too. Apparently Liam was the only one immune to a pretty face and a great pair of legs.
“For the past three years, the Macintyre Family Foundation has partnered with the hospital to raise money to build a much-needed pediatric surgical wing,” she said. “During this time we’ve been diligently working with the hospital’s Department of Charitable Giving. They’ve been amazing. We only need 5 percent more to reach our two-million-dollar goal.
“That’s why we were delighted when Dr. Dunlevy agreed to the idea of giving you all, the doctors of Celebration Memorial, the opportunity to play a key role in raising part of the remaining funds. When I learned that I’d be working with seven single male doctors, I thought, what was the chance of that?”
Her blue eyes sparkled as she looked from one face to the next, radiating enthusiasm and sincerity. She was doing a credible job.
“With seven eligible men, it only seemed natural to hold a bachelor auction. So, everyone, please save the date—one week from Saturday—for our first-ever In Celebration of Bachelors auction.”
Liam shifted in his seat, resisting the urge to excuse himself. This bachelor auction was not a joke, but there was no way in hell that he was going to subject himself to the humiliation of being sold off to the highest bidder. Even if the shenanigan would raise money for a good cause.
As a pediatric hospitalist and a single father to two teenagers, he didn’t have enough time to devote to his daughters on a good day. He certainly didn’t want to waste a night going out on a date with a woman who’d bid on him like a steer in a cattle sale. He might have been providing all the necessities, but he hadn’t been able to give his children as much of himself as he wished he could. Not like his wife, who had always been there for them emotionally.
And, he had to admit, at the root of everything, participating in something like this felt disrespectful to Joy. Even if she was gone, it didn’t mean he felt any less married. Certainly not single.
“Is something wrong, Dr. Thayer?” Cullen asked. “You look like you smell something.”
Liam clicked his ink pen. He wanted to say, There’s nothing like the stench of a bad idea first thing in the morning. But one glance at Kate Macintyre’s hopeful expression—Kate Macintyre, that was her name—and he was weighing his words. “Is this bachelor auction idea a done deal? Do we have any other options?”
Q: CELEBRATION’S FAMILY has been getting some nice reviews!
Nancy Robards Thompson: I’m so grateful that it has been well received! RT Book Reviews Magazine gave it four stars and said, “Thompson’s broken, heartwarming couple are engrossing as they find love after tragedy in this terrific installment in the Celebrations miniseries. Supporting characters like the chocolatier/matchmaker will charm, and the doctor’s twin girls add the perfect “aww!” factor.”
Q: That’s great news! Where did you get the idea for CELEBRATION’S FAMILY?
NRT: Liam and Kate’s story is the fifth book in the Celebration’s, Inc. series. My heroine, Kate Macintyre, has been featured in a couple of other books in the series and it was high time she found her soulmate. I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of a bachelor auction. What could be more fun than an auction full of eligible doctor bachelors?
Q: Tell us about the hero of the book? Why will we fall in love with him?
NRT: Dr. Liam Thayer believes true love only happens once in a lifetime. He fell in love with and married his high school sweetheart. They had two perfect decades together before she died in a tragic accident. The loss turned life upside down for Liam and his thirteen-year-old twins.
Q: Tell us about the heroine. Why is she the absolute perfect woman for the hero?
NRT: Kate Macintyre would like to believe in true love and happily ever after, but she’s never experienced anything remotely like it. Well, until she falls in love with the grieving Dr. Thayer and his adorable daughters.
Q: What life-lesson do your Hero and Heroine have to learn before they can find their happily-ever-after?
NRT: Liam believes that true love happens only once in a lifetime and Kate has never been in love. To reach their happily ever after, Liam has to believe that looking to the future doesn’t mean he has to forget about or devalue his first marriage. Kate has to allow herself to be vulnerable and open to love. Together, as they become a family, they heal each others’ wounds and become whole again.
Q: What was your favorite scene to write?
NRT: That’s a toss-up between two scenes: the bachelor auction, because, of course, Kate’s seemingly foolproof plan to get Liam off the hook by placing the winning bid for the date with Liam goes absolutely awry; and the Doctor’s Ball, which takes place in the ballroom of a swanky Dallas hotel. I love writing scenes like the Doctor’s Ball because they’re so glamorous and romantic.
Q: Is there an underlying theme to the story?
NRT: CELEBRATION’S FAMILY is about the bond of family and second chances at love. Those are powerful themes to which so many of us can relate, and that’s why I believe readers will enjoy this book.
Now, I have a question for you: What themes do you like to read about? Family? Love at first sight? Friends to lovers? Reunion stories? In “celebration” of her new release, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky person who posts. Check back on Sunday when I post the winner’s name.
This is Nancy’s eighteenth book for Harlequin and the fifth book in her Celebrations, Inc. mini-series. For more information please check out her website NancyRobardsThompson.com or connect with her on Facebook (Nancy Robards Thompson Author) and Twitter @NRTWrites.
How They Met Themselves, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, watercolor, 1864
Not long ago the Norwegian and I were out for dinner when a complete stranger approached me and asked if I had seen the show Breaking Bad. I hadn’t, but he told me that Anna Gunn, the woman who plays Skyler White on the show, was my doppelgänger.
I looked her up when I got home. I could see a vague resemblance in the photograph. Of course, it piqued my curiosity about the show, especially since it has garnered so many awards. I started watching it and now I joke that I have a serious meth addiction. Really, I don’t. And I know drug addiction is no laughing matter, but the show’s writing is incredible and the acting is superb… But I digress.
They say everyone has a double. I guess mine might be Anna Gunn – sort of. We’re not identical. Our noses are completely different, and once I started watching the show and saw a more dimensional version of the actress, I thought she and I resembled each other less. Sometimes I think mannerisms and certain expressions make people similar even if they don’t look alike. In fact, that’s one of the story lines in my book, Celebration’s Baby, which will be out in April 2014. A secondary character, Maya, lost the love of her life years ago. He died in an accident and she hasn’t been able to love since. Fast forward years later, a man who reminds her of her old love shows up. She can’t decide if she’s attracted to him because he reminds her of her dead lover or if her heart is truly ready to love again.
He’s not exactly a doppelgänger, not in the true sense of the word. Then again, the meaning of the word has changed over the years. In folklore, doppelgängers are perceived as sinister versions of a person – an evil twin. In the old days, when you saw your doppelgänger, it was a harbinger of bad luck or an omen of death.
But, of course, the contemporary meaning of doppelgänger is simply a look-alike. Doppelgängers are a running gag through the sitcom How I Met Your Mother: at one time or another, the characters have spotted uncanny look a likes of each other, except for Barney (Neil Patrick Harris’s character). The absence of his doppelgänger is used as a significant plotline, which I won’t spoil in case you haven’t seen the show and want to.
Who’s your doppelgänger?
Celebration’s Bride is available now!
RT Book Reviews gives Celebration’s Bride 4.5 stars and says, “Thompson’s reality TV show setup rocks the pages with its quirky cast. Her couples’ imperfections make them realistic and alluring….”
Celebration’s Family - February 2014
Celebration’s Baby - April 2014