My new contemporary romance series — “Mirabelle Harbor” — is beginning in a month, and I can’t tell you all how excited I am about this project 🙂 . It’s been a long time coming!
Let me tell you a little story… Once upon a time, there was an aspiring writer who lived in the northern Chicago suburbs and who had a deep love of Jane Austen, a longstanding addiction to brownies, and a fascination with film actors… She wrote a manuscript that was populated with some modern Austenish characters (i.e., friends who have a close sisterly relationship, men who behave like Darcy or Wickham or some other intriguing JA-inspired chap, jealous Caroline Bingley types, mothers who want their daughters to marry advantageously, etc.), and she placed them in a setting that was the suburban equivalent of “three or four families in a country village,” which she believed was “the very thing to work on.” 😀
Despite her good intentions, however, this writer had not — at that time — learned all that much about the craft of fiction. She knew how to identify a great character and a perfect setting, but the construction of an original plotline, the escalation of narrative tension, and the emotion of a character and how it changes…well, these were things that would take some time to develop. So, she put this manuscript away and wrote a bunch of other books.
Fast forward 15 YEARS (!!!) and the time was finally right to bring Julia Crane — along with her best friend Sharlene, her old high school boyfriend Kristopher, her college flame Ben, and her longtime movie star idol Dane Tyler — back into the world again. Almost nothing but their names and a few scenic details could be kept from that first manuscript, but the writer KNEW these people, and now she also knew how to tell their story…
So, that was how THE ONE THAT I WANT was born, way back in the summer of 2000, although it went by many other titles before I found the right one. My love of Austen, brownies, and film actors has only grown in the years since then, and they all have a place in this new novel. But, more than that, my concept for where this story fits into the fictional worlds I’ve imagined has also grown and morphed into something rather different from the original. Several months ago, I realized that the Mirabelle Harbor community I’d envisioned — my version of “three or four families” — encompassed not one story but several novels I’d planned to write or, in fact, had already begun working on.
Perhaps some of you remember my Sense & Sensibility-inspired story GIFTS BY THE SHORE, yes? I posted several chapters from it back in the fall. and I now have about 2/3 of the novel completed. When looking in depth at the characters who live in my town of Mirabelle Harbor and the community they’ve created, I was stunned to realize that sisters Marianna and Ellen belonged there, too. That was the environment where they grew up. Julia’s family (the Meriwethers and the Cranes) and Sharlene’s family (the Michaelsens and the Boyds) were all ones that Marianna and Ellen would have known. So, I thought about all of these characters, who they were and how they’d interacted with each other in the past, and I began connecting the lines that linked them… As a result, GIFTS BY THE SHORE has been renamed STRANGER ON THE SHORE and it’ll be Book #4 in this new series! (I’m hoping that’ll be released this winter.) Before that one comes out, however, there are a few other stories to tell, *all* of which are stand-alone books. But readers can definitely expect characters from one novel to show up in the others!
The first two stories in the series, TAKE A CHANCE ON ME (Book #1) and THE ONE THAT I WANT (Book #2) will be released at the end of July!! (The pre-order for THE ONE THAT I WANT just went live — squeee!! And it’s on sale on Amazon until the release date!) I’m still putting the finishing touches on Nia Pappayiannis & Chance Michaelsen’s romance (TAKE A CHANCE ON ME – the Goodreads page HERE has the book description), so there won’t be a pre-order for that, but expect them both to come out within a week of each other. Chance, by the way, is Sharlene’s younger brother, and he’s a hot personal trainer at the local gym, Harbor Fitness. For those of you who’ve followed my “adventures at the health club” posts on Facebook, you won’t be surprised to hear that I drew my inspiration for Chance’s character from that Ryan Gosling lookalike that I see exercising sometimes. (*swoon*) If that’s not a reason to work out, I don’t know what is!!
I’ve told you some of the inspiration behind THE ONE THAT I WANT…but not all of it, LOL. Let’s just say that we all have our favorite actors from our teen years. Imagine somebody who fell in love with, say, Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen when she first saw him on the silver screen, and then 20 years went by and she finally got to meet him in person. What would that be like? And let’s say that high school or college boyfriend who still haunted your memories suddenly came into your life again, too, and perhaps wanted to pick up where you both left off, hmm? It was a premise that I found fascinating, even over a period of 15 years! And, so, here’s the back-cover blurb and a little snippet from THE ONE THAT I WANT. I hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂 .
The summer after her beloved husband died in a car accident, Julia Meriwether Crane is still picking up the pieces of her life in Mirabelle Harbor and trying to help her ten-year-old daughter adjust to this difficult new reality.
After her best friend Sharlene—one of the well-connected Michaelsen siblings—talks her into finally going out on the town again, Julia finds herself stunned to be the object of interest of several different men: The boy who’d broken her heart back in high school. The college ex she’d left behind. And most surprising of all, the movie actor she’d always fantasized about but had never met in person…until now. Can one woman have more than one “great love” in the same lifetime? And, if so, how can she be sure which man that’ll be?
Sometimes the person you think will be best for you isn’t the one you really want. THE ONE THAT I WANT, a Mirabelle Harbor story.
From the Novel:
With the exception of my best friend Sharlene, the others had gone back to their conversations so, thankfully, I didn’t have too many people witnessing my fumbles with setting up a (sort-of) date for the first time in twelve years. It was awkward, but I agreed to coffee with my old high-school boyfriend and gave Kristopher my phone number, which he dutifully punched into his cell so we could arrange a time and day to meet.
Shar nudged me when he wasn’t looking and whispered, “See? Not so hard, is it?”
I made a face at her and shrugged.
Finally, the party was beginning to break up. I was mentally congratulating myself on making it through the evening when the very sweet, well-dressed woman—Elsie was her name—wolf whistled. “Wait, people!”
“I’ve been wanting to tell you this good news all night.” She paused for effect. “You know my friend Rosemary, the one who works at the Knightsbridge Theater in the city, right?”
Most of the group nodded, seeming to have met Elsie’s friend or, at least, heard about her.
“There’s a dress rehearsal for their upcoming summer production, ‘The Bachelor Pad,’ this Thursday at six-thirty in the evening, in advance of next Friday’s Opening Night,” Elsie said. “And Rosemary reserved a block of seats for us.”
Despite the noise in the wine bar, an audible spike in sound came on the heels of those words, and a couple of the women actually squealed.
I squinted at them. I mean, tickets to a play were always nice, but wasn’t this taking theatrical enthusiasm a bit far?
“But that’s not all,” Elsie continued enthusiastically. “Rosemary also got us passes to meet the cast, just as she did for that steampunk musical last year—”
“Steampunk musical?” I hissed in Shar’s ear.
She nodded. “It was bizarre. Tell you more about it later.”
I grinned and brought my glass of wine to my lips, draining it of its final swallow.
“—including a special Q&A session with the director, Zachary Leeward,” Elsie added, “and with the star of the show, Dane Tyler.”
I choked on the last drops of merlot, coughing so hard that Bill reached across the table to hand me a fresh glass of ice water, Shar patted me on the back, and everyone else stared at me worriedly. Except for Kristopher. He shot me a knowing look.
Yeah, of course he’d remember that.
“Are you okay?” Elsie asked me.
I gulped down half the water. Oh, God. Of all the actors on the planet—Dane Tyler. Here? REALLY?
My teen world had just materialized out of thin air, like that freaky phantom ship that came from absolutely nowhere in Pirates of the Caribbean. My gut twisted weirdly, and I could barely breathe. “P-Please go on,” I managed to whisper.
She smiled. “So, if any of you want to go to the performance, and I know you do, let me know now, and I’ll email the list of names to Rosemary in the morning.”
Elsie was right. With the exception of one accountant guy, who had an out-of-town business trip next week, and a very disappointed single mom, whose kid was playing in a baseball tournament Thursday night, everyone else signed up to go.
Including me, at Shar’s insistence. And including Kristopher.
My old high-school boyfriend leaned over the table and said with a laugh, “Well, isn’t that something? Maybe, if you ask him real nice, he’ll recite your favorite lines from your favorite movie to you.”
“Ha,” I said weakly.
“Which lines? Which movie?” Shar asked.
Before I could reply, Elise jumped in and pointed to Shar and then me. “You two want to ride down with me?”
Shar answered for both of us. “Oh, yeah!”
Although I managed to stop tripping over my own tongue and was able to thank the kind woman, I didn’t succeed in making more than a few last bits of small talk. All I could do was blush furiously and think to myself, in the fevered squeaking of an adolescent schoolgirl, OMG, I’m finally going to see Dane Tyler in person! Maybe even talk to him!
In just one evening, three distinct memories of men from my past played out like a warped summertime version of A Christmas Carol in my mind. Haunting memories of relationships that I’d had or had lost or had wanted—sometimes simultaneously and always more powerfully than I’d expected—were reeling through my brain on a continuous loop, braiding my emotions with the mental film footage.
Before my best friend could ask me any more questions I didn’t want to answer, I hugged her goodnight and raced into the evening, forgetting until my feet hit the pavement and I collapsed into the driver’s seat of my car that I wasn’t, in fact, lost in time.
That I wasn’t living out some high-school fantasy.
That I wasn’t a vulnerable young woman, helpless in the face of fate.
I started the engine, replayed those last three thoughts again, and shook my head.
Like hell I wasn’t.
FYI: There’s a special pre-order price on Amazon worldwide for THE ONE THAT I WANT — 25% off right now!! Here are the direct links: Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK
The book is also up for pre-order on Smashwords and Kobo, and it’ll coming soon to iBooks and B&N!
So, who’s the actor/actress you had the biggest crush on as a teen? Would you want to meet him/her now?? 😀