by: Nancy Herkness
Series: Wager of Hearts
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: Montlake Romance
“No strings, no rings.” That’s Luke Archer’s motto. As the champion quarterback for the New York Empire—not to mention a self-made billionaire—Luke has given up on serious relationships. Women only want him for one thing: the thrill of being with a superstar. And he likes it that way too. But when his best friend announces he’s retiring from football to spend time with his wife and kids, Luke feels like he’s missing out on something much bigger than his career.
The assistant concierge in Luke’s luxury high-rise, Miranda Tate fled her family’s dairy farm to come to the bright lights of New York City. She works hard to move up and sends her spare earnings home to her brother. When she and Luke meet, there’s an instant sexual attraction which turns steamy quickly, but they’re in completely different leagues. Could Miranda be just the woman Luke needs to win the most important game of his life?
Miranda exited her boss’s office as fast as she could without running. Most of the time, she loved her job. Getting her clients exactly what they wanted while making it look effortless was a point of pride for her. Which was why Trevor’s request had distressed her. She wanted him to be happy while he was at the Pinnacle, but she’d been unable to make it happen without breaking the rules and, even worse, venturing into territory that bordered on illegal.
When she recrossed the lobby, Luke Archer walked out of a shadow by the elevators and came toward her. As he strolled through an early morning sunbeam shining through the plate-glass window, his hair turned to molten gold, and the muscles of his forearms were outlined in light and shadow. He moved as though he knew how every part of his body worked most efficiently.
The sheer beauty of the man made her gasp out loud, her body reacting without conscious thought. She tried to turn the sound into a cough, but she caught a flicker of something in his face that meant he’d caught her response. So much for her facade of cool sophistication. Of course, Luke Archer was probably used to the effect he had on women.
He stopped in front of her, his hands shoved into his jeans pockets. “I owe you more than a football for putting up with Trevor’s crap. Tell me what I can do to make it right with your boss.”
Even with her high heels on, she had to tilt her head back to meet his gaze. She felt delicate and feminine when she stood so close to him. It wasn’t unpleasant.
“Everything’s fine with my boss,” she lied. “It was just a misunderstanding.”
Archer shook his head. “I didn’t read it that way.”
One thing Miranda was not going to do was involve this prominent resident in a work squabble. “Mr. Archer, I appreciate your concern, but there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Call me Luke,” he said. The honey of his drawl poured through her, kicking up little flares of sensation. As the silence drew out, she realized he was waiting for her to use his given name.
“Thank you, Luke.” And she would never address him that way again. She had to remember he was a client.
He gave her another one of his appraising scans. “You let me know if something becomes a cause for concern.”
“Of course, Mr.—er, Luke.” So she had to use his name one more time.
“You take care,” he said, giving her a nod of farewell before he headed back to the elevators.
She couldn’t resist watching him walk away. His jeans fit him almost as tightly as his football uniform pants, which gave her an excellent view of a tight butt and rock-hard thighs. The cotton of his shirt draped over a magnificently contoured back. Something seemed to melt low in her belly, and she shook her head to break the powerful spell.
Even if Luke Archer hadn’t been a client, he was miles out of her league in every other way.
She was just bowled over that he’d stayed behind to see if he could fix things. Her brother always claimed that the great quarterback was a decent guy, not a prima donna. Maybe his image wasn’t just a skillful public relations campaign.
She shook her head again. No one that famous and that good-looking could be a normal human being.
Hi Nancy. Welcome to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
I’m delighted to be here, Kim. I heard about your wonderful reviews from my fellow Montlake Romance authors, and they were right!
Thank you very much. Your latest series is called Wager of Hearts from Montlake Romance. I love the idea behind the series. I mean honestly, it sounds like the start of a bad joke (Three billionaires walk into a bar...). Could you tell us about it?
It all started with a vision that popped into my head of three rich, gorgeous guys, decked out in tuxes, drinking at separate tables in an ultra-exclusive club, in the wee hours of the night. What’s not to love about that?!
I knew those three men were there because they were lonely, despite all their wealth and success. After all, it’s a truism that money can’t buy you love. But what would convince them that they needed to find it?
They’re apex competitors so it would be a bet, a wager with a deadline and high stakes. And the wager would be on finding a woman who loves them for themselves and not their money.
That’s how the Wager of Hearts series was born.
Okay, so we have three billionaires. I can understand how the CEO became a billionaire. How did a quarterback and novelist become billionaires?
You’re very sharp! My critique partners wanted to know the same thing about my heroes’ finances. As it turns out, Luke Archer is not just a great quarterback, he’s a savvy angel investor. A good friend of his needed some venture capital for his start-up. Luke obliged, and the start-up took off. When the IPO happened, Luke’s equity catapulted him out of the multi-millionaire into the billionaire category.
As for Gavin Miller, his best-selling spy thrillers were turned into movies, à la James Bond. Like J.K. Rowling, Gavin crossed the billion-dollar mark through the based-on-the-books movies. In fact, Gavin’s super spy has developed into a whole mini-industry, so his writer’s block is a huge problem for a lot of people.
I get it now. Thank you. What can you tell me about Nathan Trainor from The CEO Buys In, Luke Archer from The All-Star Antes Up and Gavin Miller from the upcoming third book in the series, releasing in 2017?
Nathan Trainor is the CEO, an inventive genius, who’s gotten so bogged down in the corporate responsibilities of the company he founded that he’s lost the joy of creating things. He’s also discovered that it’s lonely at the top, and the women who want him do so for all the wrong reasons. Deep down inside he still feels like that geeky teenaged computer nerd who had to battle with a domineering father to follow his dreams.
Luke Archer is the golden boy of the Wager of Hearts trilogy. His looks are a combination of Apollo and Thor. His athleticism and leadership on the football field are the stuff of legend. Some brilliant investing has turned his already stellar compensation into billions. But being a quarterback has been his entire focus all his life, so he feels unprepared to face life after football, a prospect that’s rapidly bearing down on him.
Gavin Miller hides his pain behind snark. Dark and cynical, Gavin is the best-selling author of the Julian Best novels, whose super spy hero is combination of James Bond and Jason Bourne. When he and his actress fiancée break up and his father dies, Gavin develops a serious case of writer’s block that he just can’t break through.
Now that you’ve told me about them. What do you love about them?
Nathan feels a powerful sense of responsibility to all the people who depend on his company for their livelihood. He won’t even allow himself the pleasure of working in his own R & D lab because he feels it’s self-indulgent. I love him for his self-sacrificing sense of duty. He’s a really strong man to be able to carry the lives of so many people on his broad shoulders.
Luke is a sports legend, yet he’s only arrogant on the playing field where arrogance is a requirement. One of the things I find endearing about him is that when he’s making love to Miranda, he always asks first if what he wants to do is all right with her. He’s very aware that his physical strength could be overwhelming, so he is careful not to take advantage of that.
Ah, Gavin. How could I not love him? He’s a writer like me. He’s sarcastic and witty. He loves to play with words. He understands how hard it is to write a book. I suppose in some ways, he’s one aspect of my own personality. He happens to be my critique partners’ favorite hero, but that’s probably because they’re all writers too.
I love all my billionaires because they made their money the old-fashioned way: They worked like dogs and made sacrifices to earn it. They have no sense of entitlement or privilege because they know how hard it was to get where they are.
I like that they all sound so down-to-earth and approachable. What can you tell me about the women who captured the hearts, minds and souls of the billionaires?
Chloe, Miranda, and Allie are hardworking young women who are just trying to make their way in the everyday world. They don’t want to be superstars; they just want to support themselves and those they love. Like my three heroes, they come from modest backgrounds, which gives them a firm grounding in reality. They all have generous and caring hearts, as they prove by their ability to overcome the hardened cynicism of my billionaires.
When it came time to choose lady loves for these heroes what were you looking for and how did you match the woman to the man?
I looked at each hero and decided what qualities would be most necessary in his soulmate to overcome his emotional baggage. Of course, I went the other way too, because my heroines have their own issues to contend with.
Chloe understands Nathan because her father was also inventor, so she can encourage him to find the joy of making something new again. Chloe and Nathan both need to come to a more adult understanding of their fathers.
Luke’s fame causes him to value privacy above almost all else. Miranda is a concierge so she is required to be utterly discreet. This loyalty to her clients first attracts Luke to her. They both have built public facades which don’t always correspond to the real person behind the mask, so they learn to peel those away together.
Gavin lives very much in his mind, so I matched him with physical therapist Allie Nichols, who understands everything about the body. She’s a healer by nature and Gavin has some pretty deep wounds, so they seemed a natural match. They sass each other too, which is great fun to write.
I love covers. In fact, covers are what generally draw me to a book in the first place. Until I read your article on creating the cover of The All-Star Antes Up I had no idea so much work went into them. How did you finally know when you had the right cover?
Ha! I never think the cover is exactly right. I mean, I wanted Chris Hemsworth to model for Luke Archer and he just wouldn’t do it. Said he was too busy making movies. What’s with that? And if you have any connections with Ioan Gruffud, please let me know because I’m trying to hire him for Gavin Miller’s cover.
Seriously, I know the cover design is finally where it needs to be when I say, “Yes, that cover will tempt the reader to buy this book, while at the same time, it accurately portrays what kind of read she is going to get when she opens it.” I hate covers that promise one kind of book, and then you get something different when you start reading.
By the way, I’m so excited to hear that you learned something from my article on designing my covers. Thanks for taking the time to read it.
You’re welcome. I tend to do a little author stalking, when I’m preparing for interviews or reading a book. Who was the most difficult billionaire to deal with and why?
I would say Nathan Trainor was the hardest of the three men to write. It’s not his fault though. It’s simply that his was the first book in the series, so I was building the world he lives in from scratch. In addition, Luke and Gavin appear in Nathan’s book, so I was already getting to know them as I wrote about Nathan. By the time I got to Luke’s book, I was so familiar with my characters and environment that it just flowed.
I have a confession to make about Luke Archer: He came from another manuscript of mine. Of course, he was a hockey goalie in that old manuscript, but the mindset and some of the issues were the same. I simply translated them from ice to turf. That made him a lot easier to create.
Characters are always full of surprises. How did these men and ladies surprise you?
Nathan’s father being a Marine was a big surprise. In fact, my brilliant editor at the time, JoVon Sotak, sent me in that direction when she mentioned a character’s military background in a television show.
I knew Luke Archer was facing the end of his career with trepidation, but I didn’t know that his fear was fed by insecurity about his mental capabilities. It turned out that his family had always made him feel inferior for being a jock. That was a shock to me because I thought they had supported him from childhood. The things our muses throw at us!
I wasn’t expecting Allie to come from Sanctuary, West Virginia, where my Whisper Horse novels are set. Yet when I started writing her character, it just popped out at me. I gave my loyal readers some fun cameos of a couple of characters from Take Me Home, because of that connection.
Nancy, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I’m looking forward to reading the series.
It was a pleasure to answer your thought-provoking questions, Kim. I hope your readers are intrigued by the Wager of Hearts series! Many thanks for having me as your guest here.
You are more than welcome.
Purchase The All-Star Antes Up from:
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Nancy Herkness is the author of the award-winning Whisper Horse series, published by Montlake Romance, as well as several other contemporary romance novels. She is a two-time nominee for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. Her new series, Wager of Hearts, follows the romantic adventures of three very wealthy men who make a life-changing bet.
Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America, New Jersey Romance Writers, and Novelists, Inc. She has received many honors for her work, including the Book Buyers Best Top Pick, the Maggie Award for Excellence in Contemporary Romance, and the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award. She graduated from Princeton University with a degree in English literature and creative writing.
A native of West Virginia, Nancy now lives in suburban New Jersey with her husband, two mismatched dogs, and an elderly cat.
Places to find Nancy Herkness:
Nancy has graciously agreed to offer up a print copy of The CEO Buys In to one winner. Follow the Giveaway Tools widget to enter.