Hi Michelle and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Always The Best Man!
Hi there! It’s great to be visiting HJ again.
Please summarize the book a la Twitter style for the readers here:
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Some women were meant to be a bride. Emily Whitaker had been one of those women. For years she’d fantasized her walk down the aisle, imagining the lacy gown, the scent of her bouquet and the admiring eyes of family and friends as she entered the church.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- Jase is the first ‘good guy’ hero I’ve written. I thought it would be difficult with a guy who was actually emotionally available and not all messed up – ha – but he was a ton of fun.
- Emily as a mother is based on a real-life high school friend of mine who has had to face so much as she learned to use her voice to advocate for her special-needs son.
- Jase’s adopted dog, Ruby, is one of my best friend’s dogs. In real life, she’s my Weimaraner Sam’s girlfriend. Ruby and Sam loooove each other.
- In one of the scenes, Emily attends her son’s back-to-school ‘ice cream social’. My kids’ school hosts that even every August and even after years and years of attending, I still get nervous walking in!
- My favorite part of researching this book was looking at tons of wedding dresses online to decide exactly what Emily’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, Katie, would wear on her wedding day.
What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Jase had a crush on Emily in high school, but she didn’t give him the time of day. When she comes back to Crimson a little humbler and kind of broken, he sees a vulnerability in her he can’t resist. For Emily, she never appreciated how important it was for a man to be honorable or even nice. Jase’s innate kindness is big pull for her now that she’s grown up a bit.
Using just 5 words, how would you describe Hero and Heroine’s love affair?
sweet, sexy, second-chance, sparks, silly (not sure why I went with ‘s’ but there you go!)
The First Kiss…
“I wanted to put my mouth on you, right there on the sidelines of the high school field with half of our friends watching.” She said the words calmly, although he could see her chest rising and falling. He wasn’t the only one having trouble breathing right now. “That’s something different than when we were young. You make me feel things I haven’t in a long time, and I don’t know what to do about it. But it doesn’t give me the right to be rude. I’m sorry, Jase. I can’t—”
He didn’t wait for her to finish. There was no way he was going to listen to the word can’t coming from her, not when she’d basically told him she wanted him. In one quick movement, he leaned down and brushed his lips over hers.
So this was where she hid her softness, he thought. The taste of her, the feel of her mouth against his. All of it was so achingly sweet.
Then she opened her mouth to him and he deepened the kiss, threading his fingers through her hair as their tongues glided together. It was every perfect kiss he’d imagined and like nothing he’d experienced before. He wanted to stay linked with her forever, letting all of his responsibilities and the rest of the damn world melt away.
The moment was cut short when a dog barked—the sound coming from his house, and Emily pulled back. Her fingers lifted to her mouth and he wasn’t sure whether it was to press his kiss closer or wipe it away. Right now it didn’t matter.
Without revealing too much, what is your favorite scene in the book?
Pretty much every scene that involves Emily’s son, Davey, is my favorite. But adding a cute puppy to the mix ups the ante. 🙂
Davey didn’t give any indication he’d heard the question other than picking up the ball gingerly between his fingers and tossing it down the steps. Ruby tumbled after it, and in her excitement to retrieve the ball, she lost her balance and did a somersault across the grass. With a small laugh, Davey made his way down the steps toward the grass.
Ruby returned the ball to him and the boy threw it again.
“She’ll go after the ball all night long,” he told the boy. “Let me know when you get tired of throwing it.”
Davey walked farther into the yard.
Jase turned for the patio to find Emily standing on the top step, tears shining in her blue eyes. “What’s wrong?” he asked, jogging up the stairs to her side.
She shook her head. “Davey laughed. Did you hear him laugh?”
“Puppies have that effect on people.”
“I can’t remember the last time he laughed out loud,” she whispered, swiping under her eyes. “It’s the most beautiful sound.”
“I’m glad I got to hear it.”
Ruby flipped over again as she dived for the ball and this time when Davey giggled, Emily let out her own quiet laugh. She clapped a hand over her mouth.
Jase wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “It’s been a while since I’ve heard his mother laugh, too.”
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would be absolutely crucial to include?
I think the scene where Jase agrees to hire Emily to work for him would be crucial to show both the emotion and chemistry between the characters.
She kept pushing the résumé toward him, the corners of the paper crumpling against his stomach, so he finally plucked it out of her fingers.
“Emily,” he said softly. “I need a legal secretary.”
“Right now,” she shot back, “you need a warm body that can do dishes.”
She had a point, but he wasn’t about to admit it.
“I can do this. I can help you.” She kept her hands fisted at her sides, her chin notched up. It must have cost her to come to him like this, but Emily still made it seem like she was doing him a favor by demanding he hire her.
“This isn’t a job you want.” He folded the resume and placed it on the desk. “You’re smart and talented—”
“Talented at what?” she asked, breathing out a sad laugh. “Shopping? Planning parties? Not exactly useful skills in Crimson. Or maybe I’m good enough to kiss but not to work for you.”
He pointed at the sheet of paper. “You just told me why you’re qualified. If you can work for me, you can find another job.”
“Don’t you think I’ve tried? I spent this entire morning knocking on doors. I’m a single mom with a son who has special needs, which is a hard sell even if someone did want to hire me.” She bit down on her lip. “By the way, they don’t. Because I wasn’t nice when I was younger and that’s what people remember. That’s what they see when they look at me.”
“You’re too nice for your own good,” she said, jabbing a finger at him. “That’s why I’m here begging.” A strangled sound escaped her when she said the word begging. He studied her for crying, but her eyes remained dry. Thank God. He couldn’t take it if she started crying. “I’m begging, Jase, because I need to know I can support my son. When I left Henry, I wanted out fast so I took nothing. Hell, I’m borrowing my mom’s car like I’m a teenager again. I have to start somewhere, but I’m scared I won’t be able to take care of Davey on my own. He’s about to start kindergarten, but what if something happens? What if he—”
“He’s going to be fine, Em.” He could see her knuckles turning white even as color rose to her cheeks.
“This was a horrible idea,” she muttered, turning her head to stare out onto Main Street as if she couldn’t stand to meet his gaze another second. “I’m sorry. I’m a mess.”
Jase took a step toward her. It was stupid and self-destructive and a bad idea for both of them, but the truth was he didn’t care if Emily was a mess. He wanted her to be his mess.
Readers should read this book …
If they want a sweet, heart warming story about two people learning to believe in themselves and each other to claim the happily ever after they both desperately want.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
I just finished edits on my January 2017 Fortunes of Texas book, A Fortune in Waiting. My hero is British and I had so much fun with his accent! In October of 2016, my next book for Montlake, Tell Me Again, releases and in December there’s Christmas on Crimson Mountain coming from Harlequin Special Edition.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I’d love to give away 3 copies of Always The Best Man, US only.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: What’s the best part of your summer so far? As strange as it sounds, mine is having kitchen countertops installed. We’ve been in the middle of a remodel and I’ve been without a kitchen since April. I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel!
Excerpt from Always The Best Man:
Emily looked up from the old rocker on her mother’s front porch at the sound of a car coming down the gravel driveway. It was almost nine at night, and Davey had been asleep close to an hour.
She hadn’t expected her mother to return from her date with Max Moore so soon. But when Emily recognized Jase’s Jeep, her first inclination was to run to the house and shut the door.
He’d hurt her today, and she hated that anyone—any man—had the power to do that. While she understood that Jase’s reaction had been about his own issues, a part of her still took the blame he’d placed on her. Her faults sometimes felt so obvious it was easy to hold herself accountable for any perceived slight. Flawed as she might be, Emily had never been a coward.
So she remained on the rocker, her legs curled under the thin blanket she’d brought out to ward off the evening chill of the high mountains. Although she couldn’t concentrate on the actual words, she kept her eyes trained on the e-reader in her lap as a door slammed shut and the heavy footfall of boots sounded on the steps.
“What are you reading?”
She ran one finger over the screen of the e-reader but didn’t answer.
“You can ignore me,” he said as he sank into the chair next to her, “but I won’t go away.”
“There’s always hope,” she quipped, her fingers gripping the leather cover of the e-reader tighter at his soft chuckle.
They sat in silence for a minute, and Emily’s grasp began to relax. As if sensing it he said, “I’m sorry, Em.”
“It’s fine,” she lied. “Point taken. I overstepped the bounds.” There she went, instinctively making his mistake her fault.
“My reaction wasn’t about you. What you did for my dad today was kind. It made him happier than I’ve seen him in a long time to have a beautiful woman caring for him.”
“No big deal.”
“Don’t do that.” His hand was around her wrist, warmth seeping through the fleece sweatshirt she’d pulled on when the sun disappeared behind the mountain. “It was special to him, and it should have been to me as well.” He stood, releasing her, and paced to the edge of the porch. “I love my father, but I hate the man he was when I was younger. He was mean and embarrassing. Everyone knew the problems he had, but that didn’t stop me from being humiliated when I’d have to get him home after a night at the bars.”
She could see the tension in his shoulders as he gazed out into the darkening night. “He showed up one year for a parent-teacher conference so drunk he ended up puking all over the first-floor bathroom. I never let him come to another school function.”
She flipped closed the cover of her e-reader, her heart already melting for this man’s pain. “Jase—”
He turned to her, folded his arms across his chest. “It killed me to live in that trailer growing up. The only saving grace was that no one but me had to see him at his worst. Even Noah, all the times he picked me up, has never been inside. That place represents my greatest shame, and my dad refuses to move. To see you there with all of the memories that seem to seep out of the walls to choke me…I couldn’t stand it. It felt like you’d be contaminated by it.”
Emily stood, placed the blanket and e-reader on the chair and walked toward him.
Jase shook his head. “You’re too good for that, Em. Too good for him. I’m sorry I lashed out, but I still hate that you—that anyone—has seen that piece of who I am.”
“No.” She stepped into his space until she could feel his breath whispering over the top of her head. “You’re too good to give in to that shame. Where you came from doesn’t change who you are now.”
“Are you kidding?” He didn’t move away from her but leaned back against the porch rail as if he needed space. “That trailer and what it represents made me who I am. The night in my front yard, you said I was perfect, and I know what my reputation is around town. Nice Jase. Sweet Jase. Perfect Jase. No one sees anything else because I don’t let them. Everyone thinks I work so damn hard despite my family’s reputation in Crimson. I work hard because of where I came from. Because I’m scared to death if I don’t, the poison that has crushed the self-respect of so many people in my family will take me down, too.”
Something dark and dangerous flashed in his eyes and she saw who he was under the Mr. Perfect veneer he’d spent years polishing to a bright shine. He was a man at the edge of his control and a part of her wanted him to shuck off his restraint. With her. Yes. She could handle it. She would welcome whatever he had to offer.
He blinked, and the moment was gone. His chest rose and fell like he’d sprinted up Crimson Mountain. She placed her hand on it, fingers splayed, and felt his heartbeat thrumming under her touch. “You aren’t your father.” She said the words softly and felt his breath hitch. “I know what it’s like to want to prove something so badly it makes you into someone you’re not. Someone fake and false. You’re real, Jase. Not perfect. Real.”
“I’m sorry,” he said again, lifting his palm to press it over her hand. “For what I said and how I treated you.”
She let a small smile curve her lips. “I think this makes us even.”
“You did good today. In my office and with my dad. Thank you.”
This is the part where she should step away. If they were even, it was a fresh start. But she couldn’t force herself to move. Emily might not believe in perfect, but she had learned to appreciate real. The knowledge that Jase was different than she’d assumed both humbled and excited her. Of all people, she should have known not to judge a person by who they were on the outside. She’d built an entire life on outward impressions only to watch it crumble around her.
The connection she felt with Jase, her awareness of him, suddenly flared to life stronger than it had before. She moved her hand up his chest and around to the back of his neck. At the same time she lifted onto her tiptoes so she could press her mouth to his. He tasted like night air and mint gum, and she loved how much he could communicate simply through the pressure of his mouth on hers.
He angled his head and ran his tongue across her bottom lip. His hands came to rest on her hips, pulling her closer until the front of her was plastered against him. Unlike other men she’d known, he didn’t rush the kiss. It was as if learning her bit by bit was enough for him. He savored every taste, trailing kisses along her jaw before nipping at her earlobe.
“You’re ears are sensitive,” he whispered when she moaned softly. His breath feathered against her skin. “You touch them when you’re nervous.”
“I don’t,” she started to argue then he bit down on the lobe again and she squirmed. “You’re observant,” she amended.
“I want more. I want to know everything about you,” he said and claimed her mouth again.
Her brain was fuzzy but the meaning of his words penetrated the fog of desire after a few moments. “No.” She lifted her head and tried to step away but he held her steady.
“Why?” A kiss against her jaw.
“I can’t think when you do that.”
“Then I’ll do it more.”
She opened her mouth to argue, and he took the opportunity to deepen the kiss. One thing she’d say for Jase Crenshaw—the man was persistent. Even though she knew she should stop it, she gave in to the need building inside her. Her body sang with desire, tremors skittering over her skin. Jase ran his fingers up under the hem of her sweatshirt and across her spine. Everywhere he touched her Emily burned. Her breasts were heavy and sensitive where they rubbed against his T-shirt and she wanted more.
So much more.
So much it scared her into action. As Jase’s hands moved to the front of her waist and brushed the swell of her breasts, she wrenched away from him. With unsteady hands, she grabbed on to the front porch rail to prevent herself from moving back to the warmth she already missed.
“We’ve determined I’m not perfect,” Jase said, his tone a mix of amusement and frustration. “So what’s the problem now?”
“I work for you.”
“Are you asking to be fired?”
She glanced at him and saw he was teasing. Her shoulders relaxed. “I don’t want to complicate things, Jase. I know you gave me the job because you felt sorry for me and this…” She pointed between the two of them. “Would only muddy the waters more.”
“I don’t feel sorry for you.” He came closer and she didn’t resist when he cupped her face in his hands. “I respect you, and I want you. But neither of those emotions involves pity.”
“Why are you running for mayor?”
His hands dropped to his sides. “I think I can help the town move forward. I’ve been on city council long enough to understand what needs to be done and—”
“You have a responsibility,” she finished for him.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“It’s not, but your life is filled with obligations. I don’t want to be another one.”
“I’d like to be your friend.”
He stared at her for several seconds then blew out a breath. “I’d like that too, but it doesn’t have to mean—”
“Yes, it does,” she interrupted, not bothering to hide her smile at the crushed puppy dog look of disappointment he gave her.
With a small nod, he moved around her. “Good night, Emily.”
“Good night, Jase.” She watched his taillights disappear into the darkness then turned for the house. For the first time in forever, she fell asleep within minutes of her head hitting the pillow.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Hometown golden girl Emily Whitaker couldn’t have left Crimson in her rearview mirror fast enough…until life threw her some curveballs and she’s back—divorced and with a young son. Her brother’s wedding should have been a welcome reprieve, but Jase Crenshaw is the best man to her maid of honor. She’d steered clear of him when they were kids, but now Jase has become one highly irresistible man.
Jase always harbored a crush on his best friend’s sister. Back then, she was too good for the kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Now she thinks the upstanding town lawyer and mayoral candidate is too good for her. Can Jase convince the girl of his dreams they’re both actually perfect…for each other?
Meet the Author:
Michelle Major grew up in Ohio but dreamed of living in the mountains. Soon after graduating with a degree in Journalism, she pointed her car west and settled in Colorado. Her life and house are filled with one great husband, two beautiful kids, a few furry pets and several well-behaved reptiles. She’s grateful to have found her passion writing stories with happy endings. Michelle loves to hear from her readers at www.michellemajor.com.
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