by: Jody Holford
Series: Kendrick Place
Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Release Date: December 5, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Publishing ~ Bliss
Owen Burnett planned on a quiet, easygoing Christmas, hanging out with his best friend and neighbor, Gabby Michaelson. So when his mom pressures him to come home for the holidays, he tells a little white lie…that he’s spending the holidays with his new girlfriend. But when his family shows up unexpectedly, Owen pulls the best friend card and asks Gabby to play his fake girlfriend.
Gabby’s been hopelessly in love with her best friend Owen for what feels like forever, but playing his "fake" girlfriend when the entire boisterous Burnett clan visits is easier said than done. The more she tries to deny the attraction between them, the more obvious their chemistry becomes. But even though she's not the only one feeling it, putting their friendship on the line is a risk she can’t take.
Hi Jody. Welcome to Read Your Writes Book Reviews. How are you?
I’m great, thank you. I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
You’re welcome. More Than Friends is the first book in your Kendrick Place series. What can readers expect from the book and the series itself?
For me, whether I’m reading or writing, a book is all about the characters. I want to feel like I know them or would want to know them and I want readers to feel that way too. They can expect to smile and laugh and maybe sigh in frustration. A good book makes you do all of those things. The series is one I’m very excited about and my hope is that readers will not only fall for Gabby and Owen, but the people around them. And of course, they can expect to fall into the holiday season.
Tell me about Gabby Michaelson and Owen Burnett.
They’re the kind of people you want as your neighbors or your friends. They’re different from each other: Gabby is artsy and wears her heart up and down both sleeves. She has an awareness of how precious life is and how quickly things can change, so she tends to grab hold and enjoy what she’s given.
Owen is more reserved and prefers to make decisions after carefully weighing pros and cons. He likes balance and order and gets flustered when emotions stomp all over his plans. Which is part of why he feels out of place in his boisterous, hands-on, theatre-loving family. He’s somewhat of an introvert but he comes out of his shell when he realizes that his best friend might just be the love of his life.
So tell me, what do you love about these two?
I love how comfortable they are with each other. They truly enjoy each other’s company and for a long time, for both of them, it was platonic. There’s something special about the way they accept both the good and bad in each other. He puts up with her somewhat messy ways and she puts up with his fussy need for order. They’re different but they fit into each other’s space and lives like perfect puzzle pieces.
What’s your favorite part of a romance book to write and why? (The beginning, the first meeting, first kiss, getting to know each other, first love scene, big fight, HEA or something else?)
Well, I do love a good meet-cute. But for Gabby and Owen, they already knew each other so I’d have to say, in this book, it was the first kiss. Because it’s everything Gabby wanted and not at all what she expected. I love writing first kisses, but they’re hard. They have to be unique and powerful and the reader has to be hanging on, wanting that kiss as much as the characters do. I also love writing that big moment; that line or paragraph that redeems the characters and makes you realize, yes, this is why they should be together…because they feel that.
Do you have a favorite scene from More Than Friends and if so, can you please tell me about it?
There’s a scene where Gabby gets her hands on Owen’s baby book and it really makes me smile. It’s a piece of Owen she didn’t have and one she takes great delight in. He feels mortified in a way only bare-bottomed baby photos can make someone feel. It shows the fun in their relationship, their ability to tease and play, but it also leads to a turning point and is another example of how fast life can change everything on you.
I’m going to assume you didn’t write More Than Friends during the Christmas season. How did you get into the Christmas frame of mind, in say Spring or Summer?
I wrote it last Fall, actually, so I wasn’t too far off from the Christmas season. However, I have a real fondness for holiday stories so getting into the festive spirit while the sun is shining and we’re heading out to the beach is not something new for me. The holidays are magical and they tie in perfectly with romance, so it’s really not too hard. Once I get lost in a book, I’m there, in that world, in that timeframe. Sometimes I think it’s easier to write about the holidays when they aren’t near because you don’t have the stress of them pressing in on you. I like thinking about all of the moments that make holidays and traditions special and unique and I can do that because I’m not worrying about planning dinner or wrapping gifts.
Do you already know who the next character to get their HEA in the Kendrick Place world is going to be? If so, can you tell us?
I can tell you! Unless I’m not allowed to, in which case, I’m guessing this statement will be removed. In book 2, readers will get to know Wyatt Daniels better as he reluctantly falls for his new neighbor, Shay Matthews.
Jody, thank you sooo much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.
The fire glowed and made the room comfortably warm. Gabby tried to latch on to each moment, to file it away. It was like this one morning had healed an aching part of her soul that had gone missing twelve years ago. Nothing could replace her family, but knowing she was no longer alone was a gift she couldn’t fathom.
Owen passed her a box with her name on it. “You doing all right?”
“I am. I’m wonderful,” she said.
He pressed a gentle kiss to her mouth, then leaned back. “I already knew that.”
Gabby just smirked at him and mouthed the word “dork.” He tugged a lock of her hair playfully, then nudged the present on her lap.
“Open it,” he said.
Peeling the wrap off without restraint, she found a gorgeous five-by-seven wooden frame nestled inside. The wood was purposely worn to make it look older, and the black and white picture of her and Owen smiling made Gabby’s heart burst open, like there was too much love and joy inside her to contain. She turned, wrapped her arms around Owen’s neck, and hugged him tight. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she couldn’t hold them back. Owen’s arms held her strong.
“Hey. You okay?”
She nodded into the crook of his neck, then pulled back. Everyone was eyeing her somewhat warily, like they didn’t want to further upset her. But she wasn’t upset.
“You are all the greatest people. This has been the best Christmas I can remember in so long. Thank you for making me feel so included.” She sniffed as she wiped at her tears.
Owen’s arm pulled her close and she leaned her head against him.
“You’ll always be included, Gabriella. You’re part of our family now, and if Owen does something to mess this up, you just leave him home and come spend next Christmas with us. He doesn’t even know the words to most of the carols, anyway,” Beth said.
Everyone laughed, including Owen. “Thanks, Mom. Way to sell me out.”
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Jody Holford is a multi-published author who has a soft spot for happily ever after. So much so, she tattooed the words on her arm. She’s a mom and a wife, a friend, sister, daughter, teacher, and book-lover. Her stories have a little bit of heat and a lot of heart. And maybe, some swoon-worthy moments that will make you smile.
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