On my birthday last Tuesday, my birthplace of Denham Springs, Louisiana, was 90 percent underwater. My grandparents’ house in Baton Rouge—to which my parents took me when I was only a few hours old—was empty and destroyed, filled with feet of mudflow and floodwater.
My grandparents were safe. In the boat of a neighbor escaping his own home along the flooded street, they evacuated the house they’d lived in for almost 50 years, leaving just as water began to flow across its floors. When the floodwaters receded several days later, they entered their house only to learn that they had lost almost everything they owned.
This past Sunday, my grandmother called me at my home in the Midwest and together we worked through her online FEMA disaster assistance application. One of the first questions to answer was something along the lines of, “where are you staying?” I knew the answer: she and my grandfather are staying with one of their daughters, an aunt of mine whose home didn’t flood. But my grandmother had a slightly different answer. “With family,” she said. “And we couldn’t be better taken care of.”
I was floored that she could think of her situation so positively. But that sort of resilience, gratitude, and generosity has marked the response to the recent natural disaster in Louisiana. As tens of thousands of homes were destroyed by rising floodwater, civilians with boats—the so-called “Cajun Navy”—have rescued thousands of neighbors and friends and strangers. They’ve brought supplies where cars couldn’t go, traveling in the flat-bottomed boats that seemingly every sporting household owns. (My dad hasn’t lived in Louisiana since 1990, but he still has his pirogue.) And then there’s the response from the people of New Orleans, who know better than anyone about the heartbreak of a flooded city. The headline of this article—“Dear Baton Rouge: New Orleans has your back”—says it all.
Louisiana will recover. It always does. But the process will be long and difficult, and people will be leaning on one another, because there’s no other way to survive when you don’t have power for weeks and there aren’t any groceries in the stores. Or when power returns and store shelves are stocked, but you have four feet of black mold in your house. And so on.
The day after my grandmother and I went through the disaster assistance application, my brother’s wife (who does not live in Louisiana) delivered a healthy baby girl. My aunt in Baton Rouge, exhausted from helping my similarly-exhausted grandparents figure out the process of recovery, said upon hearing of the birth: “Wonderful news to welcome new life in this old tired world.”
It does seem tired. Tired and numb. I’m so sad for my relatives, and all the thousands who lost everything, and for the people who even lost their lives. But when I saw pictures of my baby niece, sleeping in the arms of her loving mother and father, it didn’t seem so tired anymore.
The state song of Louisiana is “You Are My Sunshine.” It’s melancholy and hopeful at once—and so it seems as good a way as any to end this post. I haven’t been thinking of much lately except for my first home state, so there was nothing else I could write about today. Thanks for reading. And thanks, always, for being here.
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
It’s May which means it’s my birthday month, though that’s not really what I want to talk about today (but feel free to send gifts b/c I love presents.) May also is the month when Brenda Novak hosts her annual on-line auction for Diabetes research. To date her auctions have raised over a million dollars. You can bid on anything from meet & greets with authors to fabulous vacations to jewelry. There’s truly something for everyone. I’ve donated to this auction for many years, but a few years ago the cause came near and dear to those I love and now it means so much more.
When The Professor and I started dating he was finishing up his PhD and living with his best friend since 2nd grade who was also completing a PhD – my fella had moved to Austin (from their native OH) before Jeff came, but then they were roommates until Jeff got married. While the Professor and I were falling in love I got to know Jeff and his then fiancé, Rendy – they were planning their wedding and their future. He was one of those big dreamers, lots of plans for the future, wanting the best and the most of everything. He was fiercely smart and though he could be a toad at times (what man can’t?) he was crazy about the Professor and I know would have done anything for him.
He stood next to the Professor at our wedding, gave an amazing best man speech that made me cry. There we were two married couples and for a while we all lived in the same city and we’d have dinner on occasion. Then we all moved, us to Tennessee and them to Ohio. First jobs, first homes, we were on our way. We visited each other in our perspective homes, saw each other for holidays and the guys talked for hours on the phone every month or so.
Then we moved back to Texas and the week The Professor started his job here we got the call. Jeff had died. A victim of his juvenile diabetes. He was 33 and he and his wife had just celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary. The Professor was heartbroken. He gave the eulogy at Jeff’s funeral. And all of a sudden this auction that I’d donated to because I knew it was a good cause came home to the DeHart house.
So here we are in May once again and I don’t know if you’ve had Diabetes affect anyone you know and love, but it is a devestating disease that affects millions of children and their families. If you are so inclined I’d encourage you to go over and see if there’s something you would be interested in bidding on – or you can also simply make a cash donation. I’ve linked the image at the top of this post to the auction. Also, here are the two items I’ve personally donated.
The winner of this auction will receive a complimentary copy, in the winner’s choice of digital file, of all of Robyn DeHart’s Entangled Scandalous titles
All the books in her current Forbidden Love series:
A LITTLE BIT WICKED
A LITTLE BIT SINFUL
A LITTLE BIT SCANDALOUS
Also included will be copies of her upcoming trilogy (releasing in 2014), THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE SWORD.
Popular writing instructor and award-winning author Robyn DeHart is known for creating authentic characters that readerslove. Here she’ll offer one-on-one character mentoring. Get personal assistance with creating your characters from the GMC to character arcs to how to use your characters to grow the plot of your book.
**If you’re attending RWA National Conference this summer in Atlanta, GA (July 17-20, 2013), Robyn will even throw in a short meeting for coffee to get the ball rolling.
So what’s your favorite charity to donate to, whether it be time or money? I’m giving away 3 copies of the first book in my Forbidden Love series, A Little Bit Wicked, so comment and you could win!