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
In January, I read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s an account of how the author spent one year “test-driving” the theories and practices of happiness. Before starting her research, she’d had an epiphany: “The days are long, but the years are short.” She realized time was passing and she was not focusing enough on the things that really mattered to her.
The book resonated with me. As a writer, life is a constant juggling act. I’m always mindful of striving for balance between family and work. More often than I’d like to admit, life gets out of balance. The result: my family and I get very unhappy.
Enter The Happiness Project.
I loved Gretchen’s method: after analyzing what made her happy, what made her unhappy and what felt “right” and what could be a better fit, she identified twelve areas of her life that needed attention and devoted one month to exploring each in an effort to enrich her life and make her truly happy.
Among practical and profound tips for living a happier and more fulfilled life, the book also made me realize that all my New Year’s resolutions and goals didn’t necessarily have to be tackled at once. Why not break them down, assign them specific months in 2013? Why not look at it as my own personal Happiness Project? It seemed like a good way to make it easier to achieve my goals without feeling overwhelmed Also, I hoped to keep each ball in the air as I add others (after the previous goals had gained traction). As we prepare to enter the last third of 2013, I wanted to review what I’ve done so far and what I have left to tackle in the final third of the year.
Here’s what I’ve been working on:
1. January – Set office hours and guard them
I have definitely been more mindful of “reporting to work.” Because of that, I’ve been more productive this year. I’ve met my Special Edition goals and have been working on some other projects, too.
2. February – Limit social media time to make room for other things in life
This is a struggle for me. I can get *so* caught up in social media – especially FaceBook and Pinterest. I’ve had to really reign myself in. Sometimes I fall off the wagon, but I get right back on. Many of you know I’ve been MIA on FaceBook recently. I will continue to strictly limit my time until after I meet my October 1 deadline.
3. March – Learn to say, “No, thank you”
Another difficult task. However, I’ve started to look at time as currency and I’ve been on a pretty strict “budget.” This, along with maintaining my “office hours” had helped me be more productive.
4. April – Mental declutter: Let go of what weighs me down/doesn’t make me happy
This was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. However, I’m often plagued by “mind squirrels.” I use affirmations to keep the under control.
5. May – Refill the well: dedicate at least one hour once a week to art journaling
As much as I hate to admit it, this one had been hit and miss. I need to focus on it more. See, by revisiting these goals, I’m reminding myself what I need to work on.
6. June – Make more time for reading
This had been going well. I should’ve kept a list, and I think I’ll start. I want to concentrate more on the classics – one of my goals (not on this list, but on my actual list of 2013 goals was to read all of Jane Austen’s works this year. I’ve read three so far… I have some catching up to do. Right after I finish MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick. It’s one of the best books I’ve read all year.
7. July – Physical declutter part 1: tackling my closet
Just in time for RWA! I did go through my closet and try on EVERYTHING. I sent donated fifteen bags of things I no longer needed. Then, of course, I went out and purchased things for the RWA conference. Not fifteen bags worth, but I didn’t feel as guilty adding more to my closet.
8. August – Physical declutter part 2: tackling my office
This had been interesting. I’ve been deep in deadline since returning from the RWA conference. So, I’ve used the Fly Lady’s suggestion of throwing away or donating seven things every day. It’s a slow method, but I can see the progress. This task will probably stretch to the end of the year.
That’s it so far. I still have the following on the list:
9. September – Time to get healthy: yoga, water and vitamins
10. October – Continuing education
11. November – Gratitude
12. December – Take inventory and plan for the new year
I’ll check in toward the end of the year and report on my progress. In the meantime, have you revisited your 2013 goals? Or what would you like to accomplish between now and the end of the year? I have some books that I brought back from the conference to give to a couple of people who post.
Nancy’s book CELEBRATION’S BRIDE is available now. RT Book Reviews gave it a fabulous 4.5 star review, saying ” Thompson rocks the pages with her quirky cast. Her couples’ imperfections make them realistic and alluring….” I hope you’ll enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
My new book CELEBRATION’S BRIDE hit the shelves yesterday! It’s a milestone in my career because it’s my twentieth published novel! My how time flies when you’re having fun! In celebration (no pun intended – since the book is set in Celebration, Texas), I thought I’d do a Q&A that gives you a little more insight into the writing process and characters. If you answer my question at the end of the post, you could win a gift card!
* Where did you get the idea for CELEBRATION’S BRIDE?
This is the fourth book in my Celebration’s, Inc. series, which is about a group of women who run a catering business that’s also featured on a reality television show called Catering to Dallas. CELEBRATION’S BRIDE is Sydney James’s story. Since she has been a prominent secondary character in the other books in the series, the idea for her story developed organically out of the other books.
* Tell us about the hero of the book? Why will we fall in love with him?
Miles Mercer is one of my favorite heroes I’ve ever written. He’s a complex guy who is more than a little disenchanted with life: his career is not at all where he thought it would be at this point in his life, and he and his father have some “issues” to workout. Yet, the other members of his family remain at the heart of everything he does. In fact, one of my favorite aspects about his character is his capacity to love.
* Tell us about the heroine?
Sydney is a major commitment-phobe, in both life and romance. Because she grew up in the foster system, she’s never settled in one place for long. She’s been in Celebration, Texas much longer than she thought she’d be. She knows her job on the reality television show Catering to Dallas, which chronicles the inner workings of the Celebrations, Inc. catering company, will not last forever. If life has taught her one thing, it’s that nothing this good ever lasts. She interviews for an overseas job that seems a perfect fit and a logical next step in life. But when Catering to Dallas gets a new director, career-driven Miles Mercer, suddenly things look especially delicious in the catering company’s kitchen.
* What life lessons do your H/H learn before they can find their happily-ever-after?
Growing up in the foster care system, Sydney has never known what it’s like to have permanent family ties. When she meets Miles and his big, boisterous family, she sees the beauty in their bond and, in turn, she helps Miles learn the importance of making amends with his father. Along their journey to happily-ever-after, Sydney learns to trust and Miles learns to forgive. It soon becomes evident that through their growth they’re both ready to fall in love.
* What was your favorite scene to write?
There’s a scene in the book where Sydney, who is a bit perturbed with Miles, calls him late one night expecting the call to go to voice mail because his cell phone should be turned off and he should be sound asleep. Much to her dismay, he picks up and she completely forgets her well-rehearsed speech because she’s so flustered. Of course, he seizes the opportunity to flirt with her until she forgets why she’s angry…or maybe she suddenly realizes her bone simply doesn’t matter anymore.
* What do you feel are some of your strengths as a writer and how did those show up in this particular book? I love developing characters that my readers would want to call friends. So, it’s especially fun when these characters make appearances in other books both before and after they’ve found their own happily-ever-afters. Also, I grew up in a small, close-knit community and in CELEBRATION’S BRIDE; I hope I’ve been able to create that same sense of place that I cherished as I was growing up.
* So, does that mean some beloved characters from your previous books show up in this one?
Oh, yes! As I mentioned earlier, this is the fourth book in the Celebrations, Inc. series. So, many of the cast members of my previous books make appearances in CELEBRATION’S BRIDE. It’s a lot of fun writing about them. It’s like visiting old friends. And the friendship among the four girlfriends, Sydney, Pepper, A.J. and Caroline, continues to play as important a role in this book as it did in the others.
* Is there an underlying theme to the story?
This book is about finding love and family where in the most unexpected places. It’s also about redemption and the power of love and forgiveness.
Tell me about a milestone in your life. What did it mean to you? What are your goals now? As I said, one person who comments will win a $10 gift card (Amazon or Barnes and Noble – your choice). I hope you’ll enjoy reading CELEBRATION’S BRIDE as much as I loved writing it. Thanks so much for being part of the Jaunty Quills community and making it possible for us to do what we love.