Hi Leah and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Billionaire From Her Past!
Hello! It’s lovely to be here.
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
The Billionaire From Her Past is a friends to lovers story – a trope I’ve always loved! Mila Molyneux (the sister of Ivy from my book Nine Month Countdown) is an billionaire heiress who refuses to use her family’s money and instead owns and runs a small pottery business. Growing up, she fell in love with Sebastian Fyfe – but he married her best friend. Now, Seb has returned home to Perth following the tragic death of his wife, desperate to reconnect with Mila, who he sees only as a close childhood friend. But Mila pushes him away – too much time has past between them, and her feelings of guilt and grief war with unwanted attraction. But Seb isn’t about to give up that easily – until he too realises that he and Mila are far more than just friends…
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
When Mila realises she’s fallen in love with Seb:
‘I wanted you with me in that moment more than anyone else in the world. I want you with me in most of my moments, actually. And I guess that’s love, isn’t it?’
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
Last time I wrote a friends to lovers story I told myself I’d never do it again… and yet – here I was! It’s challenging to make it believable that two people so suited for each other have been only friends for so long. So yes – that’s what I found hardest, making sure that the reader believed in Seb and Mila’s love, even though it took them more than twenty years to work it out! (they were neighbours as very small children).
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Mila is the first character I’ve written that’s appeared in another of my books. In her sister’s book, she came across as very tough and cynical, but in this book I was surprised by how sensitive she really was. She’s been rejected a lot in her life, and a lot of her cynicism is just armour.
What have you learned about your own writing process/you as an author while writing this book?
This is my first book since having my second child, so I had to relearn a lot! But I guess what I really learnt was that I can be a mother of a 3 year old and 1 year old, and still write. And write books that I’m very proud of. This was a real relief after a year off and not writing a word!
The First kiss…
Is on the beach. I live in Perth (where the book is set) and we have the best beaches in the world – so it was an easy choice! It’s emotional, and sexy, and it – as first kisses always do – changes everything!
Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?
His eyes slid open. ‘Hey,’ he said, all sleepily. ‘I could feel you looking at me.’
‘I was,’ Mila said, with a smile.
‘And what were you thinking?’
‘Whether you carried me to bed.’
Seb had turned onto his side now, to face her, the sheet falling way past his hips as he did so. ‘It would be more romantic if I had, right?’
‘Of course,’ Mila said.
‘Then,’ he said, leaning closer, ‘I did.’
He kissed her, and for long, long minutes Mila was lost in the miracle of his kiss.
When they finally broke apart he grinned. ‘Just for full disclosure, you also did not drool on my shoulder during episode seven.’
Mila shoved him. ‘I do not drool!’
‘Who said you did?’ said Seb, eyes twinkling, and then somehow Mila had rolled on top of him, and they were kissing each other hard, and soft, and thoroughly, until the remainder of their clothing also hit the floor.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?
Definitely the argument that Mila and Seb have on the beach before their first kiss. The air is crackling with tension, and anger – and they both know that things are about to change forever.
‘This was a mistake,’ she said abruptly.
‘Tonight?’ Seb sounded confused.
‘No,’ she said. ‘I mean, yes—of course tonight was always going to be a farce. But I mean…’ She faced him, gesturing towards Seb and then herself. ‘This. This is a mistake.’
‘Me coming tonight?’
‘No, you coming back into my life. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have agreed to it. If we really mattered to each other we would’ve tried harder to stay in touch. Tonight has just made it clear that some things are better left as memories.’
Memories always benefited from a glorious rose-coloured haze. Reality was complicated.
‘You sent me messages for almost a year, Mila. Why would you do that if you thought our friendship was a mistake?’
Mila shook her head. ‘Because that wasn’t about us—that was about Steph. That was about my concern for you.’ She paused, trying to organise her rioting thoughts. ‘And, besides, you were on the other side of the world. You weren’t supposed to go and buy the shop next door.’
‘That’s nice. So you were only there for me if it I remained at an acceptable distance?’
Yes. No. No.
They both knew that wasn’t true.
And Mila also knew that she’d never expected Seb to come home. Or that if he did she’d feel…
Feel what? She couldn’t even describe it.
And worse. Breathless, warm…tingly. Dammit. Tingly.
She didn’t want this. Not with Seb.
Readers should read this book….
because it’s emotional, it will make you laugh, and it will probably make you cry. Seb is all dark and tortured, and Mila is fragile but so very strong. Plus, it has one of favourite final few lines I’ve ever witten 🙂 It’ll make you happy sigh!
What are you currently working on? Do you have any are up-coming releases?
I’m currently working on April’s story – the final Molyneux sister (after Ivy and Mila). It should be out in the first half of 2017. Other than that I have two of my earlier books being re-released in print in Australia in January (Secrets & Speed Dating) and March (my RITA winning “Why Resist a Rebel?”).
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: A paperback copy of The Billionaire From Her Past
A bonus (if you are signed up for my mailing list (http://www.leah-ashton.com/newsletter/) paperback copy of my other friends-to-lovers story, A Girl Less Ordinary. I’ll post anywhere in the world.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: What is your favourite friends to lover story? (book, movie, or even your own real life story?).
Excerpt from The Billionaire From Her Past:
That was what Mila Molyneux remembered.
And bubblegum-pink. Crocodile-green. Little-boy-blue.
So many colours: primary and pastels, and in stripes and polka dots. Everywhere. On party dresses, balloons and pointed party hats. Or scrunched and forgotten in the mountains of desperately ripped and dismissed wrapping paper that wafted across the lawn.
A rainbow of happy, excited eight-year-olds beneath a perfect Perth sky.
But Stephanie had definitely worn purple to her birthday party all those years ago. Purple tights, purple dress and glittering purple cowboy boots.
Mila remembered how excited her best friend had been that day. She remembered how excited she’d been, too—what eight-year-old girl wasn’t excited by a birthday party? It had been years before their dreary Gothic black high school days, so Mila guessed she’d been wearing some shade of red—her favourite colour—but that detail of her memories had faded. As had the memory of what Seb had worn, but he’d been there, too. Three friends, neighbours all in a row, although back then Seb had most definitely still had ‘boy germs’.
But that had changed later.
As had Stephanie’s back yard.
Today there were no balloons in Mr and Mrs van Berlo’s garden. No patchwork of forgotten wrapping paper. No mountain of presents or shrieking of excited children.
And definitely no purple, nor even the tiniest hint of a rainbow.
Instead the guests wore black as they mingled amongst tall tables topped with elegant white flower arrangements. In this same garden, where Stephanie and Mila had played hide and seek hundreds of times, it just didn’t seem real. Didn’t seem possible.
But then—none of this did, did it?
‘If anyone else tells me how lucky we are to have such amazing weather today I’m going to—’
Sebastian Fyfe stood beside her, staring out at the monochrome guests beneath the unseasonably perfect winter sky. His voice was strong and deep, as it always was.
It had been years since they’d spoken face to face. Almost as long since their emails and social media messages had dribbled out into nothing.
‘If anyone else tells you how lucky we are to have such amazing weather today you’re going to nod politely—because you get how no one has a clue what to say to a man at his wife’s funeral,’ Mila finished for him.
Seb raised his untouched beer in Mila’s direction. ‘Correct,’ he conceded. His tone was as tired as his grey-blue eyes. ‘I don’t know what to say at my wife’s funeral either. Maybe I should steal their material and start the weather conversation myself.’
Mila managed a small smile. ‘Do whatever you have to do to get through this,’ she said. ‘Personally, I’m just not talking to anybody.’
Even her mother and two sisters were giving her the space she needed. But they stood nearby, in a neat half-circle, just in case she changed her mind.
‘Is Ben here?’ Seb asked, not really looking at her.
Mila shook her head. ‘No,’ she said. ‘We broke up.’
A few months ago now. Steph had known, but obviously she hadn’t passed on the news to Seb. Not that long ago Mila would’ve told Seb herself—but things had changed.
For a long while they just stood together silently, Seb was tall and stiff and stoic in his perfectly tailored suit, looking like the successful businessman he was—but it was impossible to ignore the flatness of his expression and the emptiness in his eyes. His dark hair was rumpled—it always was—but today it looked too long, as if he’d missed a haircut. Or two.
A waitress offered canapés, which they both refused. Mila swirled her remaining Shiraz in its glass, but didn’t drink.
She desperately wanted to say something. To ask how Seb was—how he really was. To wrap her arms around him and hold on tight. To cry tears for Stephanie that only Seb could understand. But it had been too long since their friendship had been like that.
It had been six years since Seb and Stephanie had moved to London, and maybe they should have expected things to change with so much distance between them.
‘Did Steph—?’ Seb began, then stopped.
‘Did she what?’
He turned to meet Mila’s gaze. ‘Did you know?’ he said. ‘What she was doing?’
Did you know about the drugs?
Mila shook her head. ‘No,’ she said.
Something shifted in his eyes. Relief?
‘Me either,’ he said. ‘I hate myself every day for not knowing. But it helps—in a way—that she hid it from you, too.’
Mila blinked, confused. ‘I wouldn’t say she hid it from me, Seb,’ she said gently, not really wanting to disagree with him on a day like today, but also knowing he deserved her honesty. ‘The last time I spoke to Steph was her birthday.’ Almost six months ago. ‘And we weren’t really talking regularly before that. Not for a long time.’
Seb’s expression hardened. ‘But you’re her best friend.’
Mila nodded. ‘Of course. It’s just…’
‘You should’ve been there for her.’
His words were clipped and brutal. His abrupt anger—evident in every line of his face and posture—shocked her.
‘Seb, Steph always knew I was there for her, but our lives were so different. We were both busy…’
It sounded as awful and lame an excuse as it was. Mila knew it. Seb knew it.
Maybe everything had changed when they’d moved to London. Maybe it had been earlier. Not that it really mattered. No matter how rarely they’d spoken recently, Stephanie had been her Best Friend. A proper noun, with capital letters. Always and for ever.
Until death do us part.
Tears prickled, threatened.
She looked at Seb through blurry eyes. The sunlight was still inappropriately glorious, dappling Seb’s shoulders through the trees. He was angry, but not with her. Or at least not just with her. She knew him well enough, even now, to know that he was simply angry. With everything.
So she wasn’t going to try to defend herself with words she didn’t even believe. Instead she could only attempt to turn back the clock—to be the type of friend none of them had been to each other for this past half decade and more.
She reached for him, laying her hand on his arm. ‘Seb—if I can do anything…’
He shrugged, dislodging her hand. His gaze remained unyielding. ‘Now you just sound like all the others. You’ve just skipped the bit about the weather.’
And as he walked away her tears trickled free.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The tycoon she never forgot…
Mila Molyneux had always harboured a secret crush on her childhood friend Sebastian Fyfe—until he married another woman. She buried her feelings and moved on, knowing it was best for everyone…
Meeting Seb years later—now widowed and still gorgeous—their long-lost connection is as deep as ever. Only now difficult emotions challenge not only Seb but Mila, as well. Dare she hope they can now find happiness—if she can confront the hold this brooding tycoon still has over her?
Meet the Author:
RITA Award-winning author Leah Ashton never expected to write books. She grew up reading everything she could lay her hands on – from pony books to the back of cereal boxes at breakfast. One day she discovered the page-turning, happy-sigh-inducing world of romance novels… and one day, much later, wondered if maybe she could write one too.
Leah now lives in Perth, Western Australia and writes happy ever afters for heroines who definitely don’t need saving. She has a gorgeous husband, two amazing daughters and the best intentions to meal plan and have an effortlessly tidy home. When she’s not writing, Leah loves all day breakfast, rambling conversations and laughing until she cries. She really hates cucumber. And scary movies.
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