Welcome to our third week of celebrating the fabulous
In today's post, we'll talk about the Lake Lovelace books, plus a personal story Vanessa has chosen to share. Also, at the very bottom, will be another chance to win!
First up, Double Up
Knowing he’s loved can make any man fly.
Fifteen years ago, Ben Warren was a wakeboarding champion: king of big air, ballsy tricks, and boned grabs. Until a career-ending injury left him broken in ways he still has no hope of fixing. Now he takes his thrills where he can get them, and tries not to let life hurt too much.
Then Davis Fox arrives in Ben’s sporting goods store with a plan to get in touch with his estranged brother by competing in the annual wakeboarding double-up contest. The catch? He’s never ridden before. It’s crazy, but Ben’s a sucker for the guy’s sob story—and for his dimples, too—so he agrees to coach Davis.
Davis is everything Ben isn’t: successful, confident, and in love with life. And he wants Ben to love life—and him—too. But before Ben can embrace a future with Davis, he needs to remember how to hope.
There are three types of houses on Lake Lovelace.
First, you have the eyesores. Built in the fifties and sixties just after the lake was made, most of them are only used on weekends. Some are little more than camping cabins with a dock. The land was sold cheap back then, but it’s worth a fortune now. The eyesores are goldmines.
Next, you have the McMansion monstrosities. Probably eighty-five percent of lakefront lots sport one of these houses. Nearly identical to each other, all ubiquitous gray stucco and columns, metastasizing across the landscape like the tacky cancers they are.
Last, you have the objets d’art. Designed by real architects, not picked out of a catalog, sometimes they spring up from the lakefront like a jewel in an exotic setting. Sometimes they nestle quietly into the landscape—a tribute to nature, all glass and stone and wood and gorgeous. Before my career imploded, I fantasized about owning one of those houses; waking up at dawn and slipping out my back door, down the dock, and into the lake for a swim or a ride or a lusty fuck in the morning fog.
Standing in front of Dave’s house, a house right out of my sweatiest, dirtiest, most hope-infused fantasies, I shiver. The building is elegant, not flashy—a simple stone façade shows off large wood-framed windows, a gently sloping roof, and a shaded walkway offering a glimpse of the lake. The whole thing is set off by a carefully groomed yard and tiered flower beds. Even the palm trees manage to avoid looking kitschy. Dave’s house looks like it was crafted with love and pride—it looks like home. Seeing it makes my stomach do a sad little roll. I don’t know if I’m just jealous—cause I’m sure as fuck jealous—or nostalgic too.
He opens the front door while I’m still gawking on the front lawn and flashes his dimples.
“Well, hey. You’re fifteen minutes early. I was going to sneak out for Starbucks but you’ve blocked me in.” He gestures to my truck, parked behind the Rover. “Now you’ll have to give me a ride.”
“Don’t worry, I brought caffeine.” I smile back at him. And yep, he’s still really fucking cute. He’s wearing board shorts—simple black, knee length—and a white T-shirt. No fuss. His legs are toned and more tanned than I would have expected from a guy with freckles. His hair is still messy from bed, and little creases line his face. Cute isn’t a strong enough word. He’s fucking adorable.
“Coffee?” He walks toward me, his expression so hopeful I want to kiss him. But how he can even think about drinking hot coffee on a summer morning in Florida is beyond me.
“Monster.” I hold up my cooler.
He shudders. Honest to God shudders. “But . . .”
“But nothing. You spill hot coffee on your lap when you hit a wake, it sucks. Trust me. You do not want to burn the wedding tackle in front of all your friends.” I wince theatrically. “No dignity, dude.”
“So, is that a prerequisite to wakeboarding?” He takes the cooler as I heft my gear bag onto my other shoulder and follow him toward the house.
“No.” He looks over his shoulder and grins mischievously. “Calling people dude and using words like ‘wedding tackle.’”
“Oh, now you’re making fun of the way I talk? See if I bring the energy drinks tomorrow.”
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Second in the series, Rough Road
Eddie Russell is many things: A wealthy pillar of the community. An outrageous flirt. A doting best friend. A masochist with a kink for brawling with his bedmates. But he is definitely not a man who invites intimacy. His friends are close but few, his lovers rarer still.
When Eddie runs his Mercedes off the road on a hot July afternoon, Wish Carver comes to his aid—and leaves his number in Eddie’s phone. Wish, a road crew worker half Eddie’s age and sexy as sin, seems fascinated by Eddie’s different sides. Mutual attraction and compatible kinks ignite the sheets, but it’s their connection outside the bedroom that Eddie begins to crave.
When the two come down on opposite sides of a local issue, Eddie finds his growing feelings for Wish at odds with his business interests and his devotion to his best friend, local wakeboarding legend Ben Warren. Torn between old loyalties and his new love, Eddie is reluctant to make a choice. But he knows he can’t make Wish wait too long to make up his mind.
When he gets out of the car, we stare at each other for a long moment. I want to invite him in. I want to climb him like a tree. I want. But he’s so damned young.
“You don’t know me.” He gestures toward the door. “And I can see you have a nice place and maybe you’re second-guessing bringing a virtual stranger here. I get it. Why don’t I go, and then I’ll call you later in the week. Fair warning, I’d like to ask you out on a real date.”
“No.” I shake my head. “It’s not about you being a stranger. I’m trying not to think of you as a corruptible young thing.”
“Here I thought we were going to finish our sandwiches, and all this time you were planning to corrupt me? Eddie S-Class, I do believe you have a dirty mind.”
Oh boy, did I read that wrong. “Oh my gawd.” I cover my face with my hands, peeking at him between my fingers. “I’m so embarrassed.”
“Mmm. I like it. How would you corrupt me? I mean, I know I’m younger than you, but this ain’t my first rodeo. I’m curious. How would you do it?” Okay, maybe not so wrong at all.
“You want me to . . .”
“I want you to tell me, in great detail, the story of my own corruption.” He crosses his arms over his chest, leans back against his truck, and watches me expectantly.
God in heaven, he really means it.
“Let’s go inside.” I reach for the button to close the garage door.
“No. I want you to tell me out here, in your garage, with the door open, where anyone in the neighborhood who happens to be going for a walk can hear you talking dirty. And, S-Class? Make it dirty.”
I don’t know what it is about him that makes me go for it. Maybe it’s because he came to the hospital to save me from my own boredom. Maybe because of the teasing nickname. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had truly awesome sex in long enough that I’m starting to forget what it’s like.
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And so far, third in the series, Roller Girl
Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.
Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama” Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.
Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.
With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.
Doesn’t every girl dream of waking up to a face full of water and Elvis standing over her, his rhinestones a-glittering and his tongue all hanging out?
When the shock of it wears off, I turn on the light.
Oh God, I’m not dreaming. My dog is soaking wet and standing on my bed.
I rub a hand across my face and blink up at him.
“Did you tip over your bowl, baby?”
He shakes out his coat again, and it hits me that he’s really soaked. Not paw-in-the-bowl wet, but fell-in-the-lake wet. At one in the morning.
“Down, Elvis,” I order, sitting up.
With a whine, he jumps to the floor and starts rolling on the carpet to dry himself. My bed is drenched. Jesus. I’m going to have to wash the sheets. At one in the morning.
“Thanks, Elvis.” I glare at him.
He wags his tail. Damn, it’s hard to stay mad.
“Come on.” I pull on my robe, and Elvis follows me through the house but stops before we get to the kitchen and starts whining.
Of course I don’t take the hint. One step onto the tile floor and I’m flat on my ass—with a splash.
The kitchen is flooded; water’s pouring out from—the washing machine? Oh God, I’m useless at fixing things. People? Bodies? I can work with. But things?
Lisa would have known what to do. Lisa could fix anything. It hits me like a fist in the stomach—Lisa isn’t my wife anymore, and she isn’t ever going to fix anything for me again. Sitting on my ass in cold, soapy water, I actually think about calling her. Yeah, that conversation would be fun. I can hear it now.
Oh, hi, Lis! I know it’s the middle of the night and you hate my guts for killing your husband, but can you tell me how to fix the stupid front-loading washing machine I bought you for our anniversary?
No calling Lisa.
I’m so fucked.
I run through the list of people who are still talking to me who might know what to do and who would answer their phones in the middle of the night. Eddie—but he’d just wave his wallet at the problem, and I don’t need money; I need someone to tell me what to do. My dad? No, not unless I want him to talk to me like I’m three instead of thirty-eight.
One in the morning. I cringe, but I dial anyway.
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A Personal Story:
One of the biggest themes in my writing is community—what it means to be a part of one and how they define us. Friends, family members, the places and spaces we inhabit together. How do they shape us and create paths into the future?
About two dozen years ago, I was a student in a small New England prep school, which is a community all unto itself, and formed a fast friendship with two other girls in my class, L and E. L was serious, political, and snarky—we would get into epic fights, but we always made up. E was one of those people whose laugh made everyone else laugh—and her laugh came easily and often.
Together the three of us would sneak off into an unused storage area between classes and we would talk, laugh, and sometimes read. I remember one day, E handing us a book and saying “You HAVE to read this.”
It was Mary Jo Putney’s Thunder and Roses, and thus began my introduction into the romance reading/writing community. We traded books back and forth until I moved away, and then we all went off to college, lost and found and lost and found touch again. We got married and had kids and bought houses.
And romance novels. Lots and lots of romance novels. And somewhere along the way, I became a romance novelist—because once upon a time, I made a fierce friendship with two wonderful women who shared a book with me.
Readers - what special friendships have changed your life, and in what way? Tell us in the comments!
Meet the author:
Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.
Thanks for joining our celebrations today. Come back next week for our Grand Finale with more of Vanessa's books, plus our Q&A, and one more chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!!