My Small-Town Romance Debut!
At last! It's been a long time coming -- what a learning curve, diving into a whole new subgenre! -- but now that it's here, I'm thrilled to announce my first-ever contemporary small-town romance, co-written with Jaz Kennedy, entitled DREAM OF ME (Harmony Falls, Book 1). We're so proud of how this novel came out and excited to share the news with you today. Take a look!
Nestled in the lush green Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, Harmony Falls is a nature-lover’s paradise, the perfect place for friends, family, and falling in love.
When the dreams of two ambitious people clash, only one can win – unless! The unthinkable happens…
Love changes everything.
Sometimes dreams take an unexpected twist…
Beatrice Palmer has finally found her true calling – running her grandparents’ picturesque farm near Harmony Falls. But her long-cherished dream of making the farm her own comes under threat when a blue-eyed, silver-tongued charmer blazes into town on a mission to acquire the coveted property on behalf of his eccentric billionaire boss.
Ambition drives handsome corporate hotshot Harrison Riley. As heir apparent to run the company, fulfilling one last crazy whim for the boss who’s been like a father to him will seal the deal. A master of sweet-talking global corporate leaders, Harry rolls into town in his Porsche expecting this to be a cakewalk. The one thing he didn’t count on was the feisty farm girl with amber-flecked eyes, lean, tanned legs and…spectacular peaches. But there’s not a woman alive who can make a sucker out of Harry. Or is there?
“Sorry, babe, it’s either your dream or mine.”
On Trying Something New
Jaz and I loved getting to know these characters and the wonderful world of Harmony Falls. This is a feel-good story that we hope will put a smile on your face. Check out the excerpt below!
But first, just wanted to take a moment to ruminate with my historical romance pals -- and to assure you, I'm not going anywhere! It's funny, for many years since my debut book way back in 1998, I could never imagine writing anything other than historical romance. But a few years ago, while continuing to love those rich, sexy Regencies, I started getting a little itchy creatively to find out what OTHER sorts of stories I could tell.
I'll admit the prospect sounded a little scary, but I was inspired by great authors like Lisa Kleypas, Jayne Anne Krentz, and Catherine Coulter and many more, who handily do both. It's a "thing"! Their example helped me know there's nothing all that strange about a writer wanting to explore new creative ground after, what, fifteen years or so. The fact that I got to work on the Harmony Falls books with my sister was just an added bonus. :)
Anyway, just wanted to reassure my historical fans that despite some delays due to the contemporary learning curve I mentioned above, the next Moonlight Square regency is already in the pipeline. :)
Okay, now back to Harmony Falls! ::: Drumroll please ::: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Beatrice Palmer & Harrison Riley's first meet in Chapter 2 of DREAM OF ME. Enjoy! ~ GF
Excerpt from Chapter 2
Bea had done a booming business at the crowded farmers’ market this morning, and as usual, she had found the weekly event a lot of fun, but her workday wasn’t over yet.
Determined to take advantage of busy weekender traffic, she had opened up the small market stand on the country road that led out to the turnpike.
It was nothing more than a sturdy wooden shed she’d cobbled together out of two-by-fours one afternoon with the help of the few teen skater boys who worked for her during their summer break. They were good kids. Her grandparents knew their families from church. Her energetic crew of high schoolers, whom Gram had dubbed “the dudes,” had helped Bea paint the market stand white, decorate it with a few bright yellow sunshades, and haul it out to the roadside on a trailer.
Keeping the farm-stand open until evening through the summer had proved a lucrative way to finish out her Sundays. As Harmony Falls’ cabins, lodges, and B&Bs emptied for the week, Bea happily sold flats of blueberries and heads of lettuce to sunburned vacationers on their way out of town.
A steady trickle of visitors to the roadside stand this afternoon had further boosted revenue, and as she jotted down notes to herself for her endless to-do list, the flashy red sports car had gone speeding by, heading toward town.
Definitely not a local, she thought as it caught her eye. People from Harmony Falls drove Jeeps and pickups, not zippy little speed machines like that.
And it was odd, because by now, most weekend vacationers had already made their way out of town, trading in their kayaks and mountain bikes to return to their urban lives and office jobs.
There’d be nothing much happening in town for a visitor to do on a Sunday afternoon, except maybe play some jukebox roulette at the Knickpoint. In fact, she only planned on keeping the farm stand open for another hour or so before calling it a day.
“Whatevs,” she mumbled, feeling lazy after the five o’clock wakeup this morning. With the farmers’ market behind her and no customers needing service, she just wanted to close her eyes and steal a moment to relax.
She knew she really ought to be writing the next post for her farm blog, but this was the closest to a vacation she was likely to get before November, so she figured she might as well enjoy it. Setting her notebook and pen down atop the overturned lettuce crate she was using for an end table, she stretched her back under the hot midday sun.
As an afterthought, she gently tugged her ponytail free. Long tendrils of her sun-streaked brown hair tumbled over her shoulders. Massaging her scalp, Bea crossed her ankles in her dusty boots and let her head dip back to gaze up at the azure sky. A sigh of contentment escaped her.
It felt wonderful to relax, however briefly. Of course, she still owed her parents the weekly phone call. But thank God, that would have to wait. She couldn’t call them from this spot even if she wanted to.
There was no signal to be had in this valley. Just as well. They were probably schmoozing friends at the country club right now, Dad golfing with his partners from the law firm, Mom lounging in the sun with all the other ladies-who-lunch.
I’ll do it later. For now, she just wanted to enjoy a few minutes of downtime. It was a beautiful afternoon. Overhead, the sky was bright blue and filled with puffy clouds. It was hot but not obnoxious, the mountain air fresh and clear. The slight breeze wafting down Clover Highway made the branches of the old, tall trees tickle each other as they swayed. Above them, a red-tailed hawk screeched and swooped clear of the smaller bird taunting it, poking at it, trying to drive the predator away from its nest.
Things were more peaceful closer to the ground. Crickets sang away in the mid-July sun. Their chorus joined the lulling babble of the fast-flowing creek beneath the old historic covered bridge about a quarter mile to Bea’s right.
A cow mooed in the distance every now and then, punctuating the continuous soft hum of the turnpike several miles away.
She took a swig from her water bottle, her only company out here the slow, chubby groundhog that lived in the tall grass of the drainage ditch behind her farm stand. The little guy sat up on his haunches, chewing a piece of grass as he watched the world go by.
But when the rumble of the high-performance engine returned, roaring back in her direction, the groundhog got spooked by the noise and waddled back into the underbrush.
A heartbeat later, Bea saw the sleek red convertible from a moment ago come whipping back around the bend.
Geez, slow down, man, she thought with a frown. These people from the city were crazy. Then she snorted. Hard to believe I used to be one of ’em.
It had only been four years, but it felt like a lifetime ago since she’d showed up on her grandparents’ doorstep in her pencil skirt and heels, crying to Grandma, with her city life in shambles behind her.
Unpleasant memories from that phase of her life dissolved as the cherry-red convertible came cruising back her way again, much more slowly now.
Ha. Couldn’t resist, eh?
When the convertible pulled in next to her truck, out of sight on the other side of the farm stand, Bea rallied her energy again as best she could, letting her boots thwop down to the ground.
It seemed she’d have one last customer today, after all.
She figured they’d need a moment to browse her wares, so before getting up to assist the new arrival, she jotted down a few quick bullet points for the blog post. Clicking the pen’s tip in rapid fire a few times, she considered various topics. Another of Gram’s summer recipes? Maybe a few gardening tips for the urban homesteader set?
She heard a car door gently click shut. Footsteps on gravel.
“Hello?” the man called in a deep, smooth baritone. The voice was pleasant, but Bea thought she detected a hint of impatience.
“Coming!” She jumped to her feet to go wait on her customer, and put on a smile as she hurried back to her post behind the counter.
But when the man from the sports car came into view, she felt a catch in her chest and a jolt of immediate awareness slam through her.
Helloooo, she thought, taken aback by the tall, dark stranger’s striking good looks. It wasn’t often that GQ models stepped out of magazines and right up to her little roadside stand. Well! Best-looking customer of the day award, she thought, curiously skimming him with a glance. Oh, yeah. Hands down.
The black-haired man was tall and trim, a crisp blue dress shirt stretched across his muscled chest, the first few holes unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up. Slim-fitting gray trousers hugged his long legs, skimming the tops of his expensive wingtip shoes.
Clearly overdressed for this neck of the woods in his elegant weekend casuals, Bea mused, eyeing him, but…damn.
She instantly noticed, however, that he seemed pretty darn annoyed about something. His jaw was taut, and tension thrummed along the broad line of his shoulders.
He ran his fingers through thick, glossy hair so that it stood up just a little, but the breeze swept it charmingly to one side. Then he took off his sunglasses and gazed at her with dark blue eyes that made her heart skip a beat.
“Hi,” he said in a rueful tone.
“Hi,” Bea said slowly, hiding a silent gulp. She stuck her pen back behind her ear and pursed her lips, trying to keep the slight teen-girl giddiness out of her smile. “What can I get for you today?”
“Oh, uh…” He raised his dark, thick eyebrows and glanced around at her produce, almost as an afterthought. “Actually, I…wasn’t even sure if you were open. I didn’t see you there till after I drove past.”
“Surprise!” she said with a grin, splaying jazz hands and popping out from behind them like she and her friends had done two weeks ago at Chloe’s birthday party.
She instantly felt like a dork for the spontaneous joke, but to her relief, he cracked a half-smile, some of his obvious irritation dissolving. A glimmer of worldly amusement sparked in his blue eyes.
“Believe me,” he assured her, “I’m just really glad to see you.”
“You are? And why is that?” She leaned forward, propped her elbows on the counter, and rested her chin in her hands.
He turned to keep an eye on his car—which she now identified by its badge as a Porsche—because that sort of thing used to matter to her.
It was a Boxster—the Spyder, no less. Not the same old, same old 911, which real aficionados of fine automobiles sometimes jokingly called a dentist’s car.
The man leaned an elbow on the counter across from her, drumming his fingers for a moment, as though loath to speak his piece. Their closer proximity as he did so treated her to a fading trace of cologne that brought her right back to the sleek downtown nightclubs where she and her then-friends used to go dancing when she lived in the city.
It was the unmistakable scent of rich man, the likes of which she had not inhaled since she’d come out here to be a farmer.
Snapping back to the present, she noted the tension in the GQ model’s broad shoulders as he ran his knuckles restlessly along his clean-shaven jaw.
“Well,” he finally admitted, barely able to conceal his frustration, “my GPS seems to have gone haywire. I’m looking for Clover Highway and some town called Harmony Falls. I’m pretty sure I’m close, but there are no signs on the roads around here, and it seems my…internal compass is failing me right now.”
Bea grinned. “Ohhh.” That’s a new one.
She knew most men would rather have a tooth extracted than ask for directions, but she hadn’t heard the “failed internal compass” defense before.
“You mean you’re lost,” she clarified, mischievously wanting to hear him say it.
Because only a guy with a serious ego would drive a car like that.
He frowned at her. “I wouldn’t say lost, exactly. Temporarily misguided, perhaps,” was all he’d admit to, but those blue eyes took on a good-humored gleam, and Bea had to admit she was slightly enchanted.
“Well, don’t worry,” she told him. “It’s not your GPS. There’s no satellite service in this valley. Your cell phone won’t be working, either.”
“Yeah, I noticed that.”
“Reception can be spotty up here in the mountains. Plus, we have our very own resident tech-wizard super-nerd who allegedly likes to mess with the satellites somehow. Don’t ask me,” she added with a shrug. “Nerd-in-the-castle likes to experiment with keeping our town off the grid. You know, in case of societal meltdown and all.”
“Ahh, zombie apocalypse.”
“Exactly,” she said, smiling too much, she feared. She could feel her cheeks turning as pink as her strawberries giving off their sweet summer perfume nearby.
He studied her intently, smiling, and for a heartbeat, neither of them could seem to look away. Somehow Bea pulled herself out of staring at him, and pointed to the road. “Anyway, if you’re looking for Clover Highway, you found it.”
“You’re kidding me. That?”
He scrunched up his handsome nose, studying the two-lane road. “They consider that a highway?”
She laughed. “I have even better news for you. Just keep going about two more miles that way, and you’ll be in bustling downtown Harmony Falls.”
Relief made his wide shoulders slump briefly. “Seriously?”
He heaved a sigh, then flashed a heart-stopping smile full of warmth. “Thank you,” he said, enunciating both syllables emphatically.
“You are very welcome, sir. But surely you’re not going to leave empty-handed? How about a nice, healthy snack to finish your drive?” she teased, gliding her left arm over the nearby lettuce, then her right toward the honeydews, a la Vanna White.
He seemed entertained by her antics. “I am kinda hungry,” he said amiably, studying her produce.
But that wasn’t all he was looking at. He was slick about it, but she saw his glance dip lower just for a moment to her chest.
Oh my God, he is totally checking me out! Why she felt a thrill instead of good, sensible indignation in his case, Bea didn’t care to wonder.
“Guess I should probably pick up supplies here in case I manage to miss the town,” he said. “After all, I could be driving around all night. Wouldn’t want to starve to death if I somehow take another wrong turn.”
She laughed. “You’ll make it.”
“What’s good here?” Porsche Guy asked smoothly, leaning on the counter and looking way too sexy in the heat.
“It’s all good!” The slightly giddy feeling grew stronger. Bea tilted her head and propped a hand on her waist. “I grew it myself, you know.”
“Well—me and Mother Nature. Mostly her. What are you in the mood for?” She glanced around at her wares, but he was quiet for a moment.
“Hmm.” He looked around at the crates and bins of her overflowing bounty, taking it all in. “I gotta say, your peaches look spectacular,” he murmured, then he sent her a rather wicked glance, testing her.
“Excuse me?” Her eyebrows jumped up, nearly joining her hairline.
He lifted one of her perfectly summer-ripened peaches from the wooden bin and held it in a caressing grip. “Gorgeous, these.” He glanced innocently at her, then sniffed the fruit. “I’ll take half a dozen of these babies.”
Bea blinked and realized she’d misunderstood. “Oh. Sure,” she said with a distracted smile. As she turned away to get a brown bag for his purchase, she shook her head.
Clearly, she had spent too much time in the fields overhearing her crew of teen skater boyz chortling over the produce-related jokes and euphemisms they devised to entertain themselves out there while they worked.
She would never forget the howls of adolescent laughter coming, especially, from the cucumber patch.
“Anything else?” she asked, but when she turned back to him with a polite look, she detected a glimmer of mischief in the blue depths of his eyes.
Oh, he is messing with me, she realized, torn between humor and vexation. But two could play that game. She pretended to tidy up a display of zucchinis, running her fingertip idly up and down a big one as she waited for him to make up his mind. “Anything else you need, hmm?”
He watched her finger, licked his lips, then blinked, backing off. “Ahem. Right. I’ll take, er, four plums…and one of those honeydew melons.”
“Great,” she said. Ha.
“You’ve got some great-looking stuff here,” he said.
“Well, thank you.” Bea was now blushing fiercely but playing nonchalant. “It’s good for you, too.”
She could feel his gaze on her ass when she bent to pick out a good, ripe honeydew for him, since he showed no interest in choosing one himself.
Maybe she should’ve been offended, but in this case, oddly enough, she didn’t mind. Extreme hotness in a guy helped even an independent gal overlook all manner of misbehavior.
“You know,” Porsche Guy said, still palming the peach he had picked up, his long, strong-looking fingers wrapped about the pinkish orb, “I’m going to be in town for a couple of days.”
“Oh, really?” Bea asked, definitely warming in places.
“Maybe I’ll see you around,” he suggested.
“Small town. You might,” she said coyly, heart pounding. She hesitated, then abruptly volunteered, “I usually hang out at the Knickpoint Brewpub. It’s right on the edge of the town square. Right beside the river. Cool place.”
“Excellent,” he murmured, a flicker of even stronger male interest skimming his chiseled features as he gazed at her. “I’ll look for that.”
“Can’t miss it,” she said. Wow, what is going on here? Was it possible she might finally get to tell her girlfriends she had actually met a guy?
Would they even believe her?
She had been so buried in work for so long—and so done with relationships ever since Todd had proved to be a reptile—that she couldn’t remember how long it had been since she’d even been kissed. Her group of guy friends in town were just that—friends—and she intended to keep it that way, no matter how she and the girls joked about the guys’ tanned, chiseled, wild-man appeal.
The last thing she’d ever do was hook up with one of her buddies and end up ruining her whole social life. Besides, though there was a whole lotta warmth between them—love, even—it was the brotherly sort, at least for her. Chloe was the one that half of them were in love with.
At any rate, standing here across from this tall, dark stranger, Bea felt all kinds of sparks popping. A sharp, welcome zing of attraction...
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