I’ve had romance on the brain for a few weeks now because I’ve been writing a Valentine’s themed story. This doesn’t mean I don’t always think warm-fuzzy thoughts, but reality and fiction are very different, in case you haven’t noticed. 😉 During the day, I do a lot of “mom-ing”, but at night after the family is in bed, I get to relive falling in love again along with my characters. Writing a Valentine’s Day story seems even more romantic than usual because I get to mention the colors red and pink (I love pink!), heart-shaped everything, stuffed bears, engagement rings, and more—all in one story. (That was a major spoiler alert if you didn’t notice. LOL). I also included my favorite romantic trope—friends to something more—to make the falling in love part of this story as sweet and organic as possible. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, and hope you’ll love it, too!
So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Gracie Sutton and Brady Hansen of Romantically Ever After!
If you read Chasing Romance, you’ll remember Izzy’s daughter, Gracie. Well, it’s now her turn to find her happy ending (but not without a few bumps along the way first).
Two best friends find romance in the most unexpected place: each other.
Despite her parents’ broken relationship, Gracie Sutton still believes in love. Even though her first year at college hasn’t turned up any romantic prospects, an unexpected message gives her a chance to reunite with a loved one. With her best friend, Brady, by her side, Gracie returns to her hometown to meet her estranged father.
Spending Valentine’s Day weekend in Romance, Oregon should be a wonderful occasion, but the tension between her parents and her mom’s new boyfriend makes her heart weary. Gracie questions whether or not happy endings exist anymore … until Brady helps her discover her own romantically ever after.
Romantically Ever After is now available for pre-order HERE! Release date will be February 1, 2018. There are also 2 other books from the Welcome To Romance series releasing with mine for Valentine’s Day. Find out more about the series HERE!
I’ll close with one of the songs I listened to on repeat while I wrote this story, Kenny Holland’s “This Dance”. It’s such a sweet song about young love, which is what Gracie and Brady experience.
It’s been a month of S’s since the munchkins’ summer school ended: sibling squabbles, slamming doors, swimming every day, and (slightly) sweet boba teas (for my sanity’s sake). When the friendly cashier at Trader Joe’s said to me yesterday with a sympathetic smile, “School’s almost starting, isn’t it?”, I had to try super duper hard to suppress my glee. The truth is, I do enjoy spending time with E and C more now that they’re older and more independent … but I do like my me-time, too. (Any other introverted moms here agree?) 🙂 But I’m doing my best to go with the flow and savor each moment, even moments like right now as C sings into a rolled-up paper tube, “Sad day, sad day, hey, it’s a sad, sad day,” because I asked for a few minutes to write this blog post before we go out and do something fun. 😉
Sad day, indeed. 😀
Speaking of S’s, I thought I’d share a sneak peek at my latest story, Tropical Kiss Or Miss, that’s part of Kisses, Kids and Bundles of Joy, an awesome boxed set of 7 Christian romance novellas. Oh, but before that, here’s the cover! I have to give a shout-out to my dear friend, M, for her artistic eye in helping me choose the perfect colors for a story set in Hawaii. 🙂
And here’s an excerpt to introduce you to Olivia and Matt (a flashback from their college days in 2005).
“Well, you could use the time to study like all the other students around here.”
Olivia rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. Like you don’t hear the parties going on every night upstairs. I am studying,” she pouted, partly because Matt had put a shirt on. Blue cotton with the word Cal in gold letters covered up the toned abs she’d secretly been eyeing. “Psych majors are supposed to study people. I happen to be studying the ones on TV.”
“In case you have to counsel someone in the future whose plane crashed on a deserted island?”
“Totally. And it’s not deserted. There’s a whole group of ‘The Others’ who are trying to kidnap them.” She crossed her arms when he laughed again. “Don’t diss my show. If you don’t like it, you can go find some boring real-life story to write about.”
“Guess what? I already turned in my article for Friday, so I’m free to enjoy some fictional entertainment.” He raised his feet onto the glass coffee table in front of them and sank back into the cushions. “Let’s see how good this show really is.”
Hmm? As a lead beat reporter for the university paper, Matt was usually busy researching, conducting interviews, and meeting deadlines. Yet this was the fourth time he was joining her this month. Truth be told, she didn’t mind his company. Especially when he was close enough for her to breathe in the fresh, minty scent of his soap. “Fine. But no talking.”
A sly smile crossed his lips. “What about chewing?”
Olivia’s eyes widened in delight. “You didn’t—”
“I did.” Reaching behind the couch, he produced a black bag and tore it open. “I’m surprised to see you empty-handed.”
“I ate my last bag yesterday. Care to share yours?”
He pretended to ponder her question. “I guess I could.”
“Taro chips, my favorite,” she gushed, grabbing a white chip with purplish lines running across it. She shoved it into her mouth and brushed some crumbs off her black leggings before reaching for another one. “Thanks, Matt. You can definitely stay now.”
He chuckled. “You know this is my apartment and my TV you’re watching. Not to mention”—he held the bag up—“my chips you’re eating. If anyone should be begging, it’s you.”
“But I’m your best friend’s sister. That’s gotta count for something.” Kneeling on the couch, she reached for the bag he kept dangling farther and farther in the opposite direction. “You should know I’ve been playing keepaway with my brother my whole life and I always win.”
“We’ll see about that.” He stretched out his arm and held the bag high over his head, jerking it away as Olivia got close. “Not bad.”
“Come on, the show’s starting.” She yanked his arm down, surprised at the effort she had to exert. “It’s not fair. You have more muscles than Brian.”
“That’s no surpri—stop!”
“Huh?” Olivia stared in disbelief as Matt doubled over in pain, his gasps for breath mixed with laughter. “You’re ticklish?”
“Here, take it!”
She had obviously hit a sensitive spot on his body. Make that several spots. The poor guy had dropped the bag onto her lap like it was on fire, his face contorted in fear as she wiggled her pink fingernails at him. It was too much fun. She gave his side one last poke and sat down. Stuffing a few chips into her mouth, she savored the salty and crispy taste of victory. She couldn’t help but flash a cheeky smile. “I told you I’d win.”
He narrowed his eyes and smirked. “I’m just letting you hold the bag”—he cocked his head in her direction—“so I can do this.”
She shrieked as droplets of cold water flew onto her face. “Ew! You’re like a wet dog.”
“I thought you liked dogs?”
“Not slobbery ones.” She fell back onto her elbows and tried backing up toward the other end of the couch. Her oversized gray sweatshirt caught beneath her body, preventing her from making it very far. “No more—stop! You can have my chips!”
Playfully shaking his hair in her face, Matt leaned in close until they were nose to nose. “You mean my chips.”
Olivia swallowed hard, her throat suddenly dry. Everything around her—the sounds coming from the TV and the glare from the lamp beside the couch—faded away. She could only hear the mesmerizing tone of his voice and focus on the intense look in his eyes. Eyes that made her wonder if he wanted to kiss her.
Yup, if you noticed, I reference one of my and hubby’s favorite shows, Lost, in this story. I also pay homage to another show we used to watch together with the female character’s name, Olivia. Anyone know which show I’m talking about? (Pacey Witter starred in it, too.) 🙂 So much of Tropical Kiss Or Miss was inspired by a lot of real-life stuff—my love of taro chips, my counseling background, and my dream of getting a tattoo (which is still a dream thanks to my fear of needles, ha!). There’s lots of happy moments in the book, but also some not-so-fun reflections on marriage. I really wanted to tackle the question of how do two people who were once so in love get to a point where they feel like strangers. So, yes, the excerpt you read is when love was just beginning to bloom for Olivia and Matt … and things do get “real” and hard as they try to find their way back to each other. But I promise you there’s a happy ending with lots of redemption and grace.
To read the rest of this story (and also meet their sweet son, Micah!), you can pre-order Kisses, Kids and Bundles of Joy for only $0.99! I’ve read the 6 other stories in the set and can vouch that they are all creative, heartwarming, and sweet.
Snuggle up with seven Christian winter romances from bestselling and award-winning authors. Kisses and kids abound in this collection of novellas that will warm your heart all winter long.