Ward Cantrell always went for the long shot. But that recklessness cost him his college scholarship and his chance to play pro ball, and—worst of all—it ended his relationship with the girl next door. Neither the town nor the girl has ever forgiven him. Now he's taking one last long shot by opening a boutique distillery on the family farm he inherited.
Piper Morrissey spent high school in Ward's shadow, but she's come into her own in the years since. Maintaining her spotless image, and that of her family's winery, is priority number one. Nobody knows that she still yearns for her golden-boy ex. Or at least they didn't—until Ward agrees to sell Piper the land she needs to start her precious port line. The caveat? She'll need to date him for one month.
Ward hopes a month is all it'll take to convince his former sweetheart that while he's changed, his love for her hasn't. But when the chance arises to thumb his nose at the town that turned its back on him, he can't afford not to reject Piper's offer. Will that make her reject him and his love—for good?
When Your Hero Surprises You, It Means TROUBLE
Hi everyone. My name is Christi, and I’m a…..plotter. (That was for my pantser friends, who insist I’m doing it all wrong. Whereas I KNOW their lack of planning ahead is sheer crazypants.) Seriously, I spend quite a bit of time working out exactly what happens in a story. Since I write series, I spend even more time seeding in clues for book three into the initial planning for book one. Before I start, I have photos for every hero. I have backstory (well, some/enough – ‘cause I’m also lazy). I’ve written down solid goals, motivation and conflict. Chances are good I even know the super special/sexy/romantic way they will hit the sheets for the first time.
So I’m not one for surprises when I write. (Sidebar – I also don’t like them in real life. I’d far rather anticipate a present or a vacation for two months, than just have it slammed down in front of me. My husband loves giving surprises, and this is a constant source of irritation for him – and martyrdom, as he has rolled over to doing it my way after all these many years of wedded bliss.) They disrupt my momentum. They make me cranky. And, more to the point, they are incredibly rare.
When I began writing the Shore Secrets trilogy, I knew Ward Cantrell would be the hero of book three, Back To Us. I knew he’d never gotten over the high school sweetheart he lost. Piper, who somehow stayed one of his three best friends…and yet completely off limits as far as rekindling that first love. I knew he owned a distillery.
To my utter shock and chagrin, Ward surprised me. First of all? He had scruff. No, a full out goatee/beard mix. Alright, I’ll be perfectly honest – he’s Joe Mangianello. (I’ll pause while you go look him up. Or just send you to my Pinterest page to show off a photo of him half naked and wet ). I am never attracted to men with facial hair. If my husband goes more than a day without shaving, he’s ON NOTICE. And I’m supposed to spend four months being attracted to this guy in my mind while I write him? Gah. He’s freaking sexy. There’s no way around it. But I had to force myself to write the feeling of the scruff as sexy (without visual aids), which is usually anathema to me.
As if that wasn’t bad enough? The small town where he grew up basically tarred and feathered him and ordered him never to return. In my mind? Right back at ya. But he came back. After his father died, he came back to salvage the family farm. Why? It was just dirt overgrown with weeds. He had a promising career lined up far, far away. So why the heck would he come back to a town where two out of three people crossed to the other side of the street just to avoid him? (Not a rhetorical question, BTW – I truly had no idea why on earth he’d do it). Seemed pretty idiotic and self-defeating to me, I gotta say.
Lastly? When he actually convinces his high school sweetheart to date him again for a month – and only a month – he takes sex off the table. *jawdrop* This is a guy who looks like Joe Mangianello. Ward knows his way around a female body. Hot sex is the ace up his sleeve. He could seduce Piper into blissful happiness with one hand tied behind her back…I mean, with no effort whatsoever. Ward could probably wrangle her into marriage after just one date as long as he ended it by getting naked and horizontal. But nooooo. Stupid, uber-honorable man. He doesn’t use the tools at his disposal (see previous paragraph about being idiotic and self-defeating). WHY NOT?!?!?!?!?
I promise, this is not an elaborate tease meant to get you to read the book (but be my guest!). For once, I, the plotter extraordinaire, was utterly surprised by my hero. It sucked. It was trouble with a capital T and it rhymed with holy crap this is harder than I planned. This book did not flow easily from my fingers onto the keyboard. Here’s the kicker, though – Ward was right. All the surprises were worth it. Although I worked quite hard to prevent any surprises in my next book. (At least I thought I did – and then my heroine decided to be a freaking virgin – but that’s another blog post.)
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All for You ~ Review
Back to Us ~ Review
Christi Barth earned a Masters degree in vocal performance and embarked upon a career on the stage.
A love of romance then drew her to wedding planning. Ultimately she succumbed to her lifelong love of books and now writes contemporary romance.
Christi is President of the Maryland Romance Writers and lives in Maryland with her husband.
Ways to stay connected with Christi Barth: