Hi Susan and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Doctor’s Sleigh Bell Proposal!
Happy Holidays, Everyone!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Dr. Chance Freeman runs a mobile medical clinic in Honduras. He is jaded by life because he can’t do enough for the people around him and also because his ex-wife left him for his best friend. When the bright and shinny Doctor Ellen Cox arrives he is sure she won’t last but a few days. Ellen soon shows the handsome and talented Chance that she has no attention of going anywhere.
Chance slowly learns to trust Ellen. Finding her a caring and dedicated doctor who truly cares for the people. When they are on the run from drug dealers Ellen shows herself as helpful and resilient. When she becomes deathly ill Chance soon realizes that she has his heart. After getting her to safety, he knows he can’t put her through that again and gives her up. He soon learns he can’t live without Ellen. She is surprised to see Chance at a Christmas gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is even more amazed when he takes her on a snowy carriage ride in Central Park and asks her to be his wife!
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Screeching vehicle brakes caught Dr. Chance Freeman’s attention. That would be his three new staff members arriving. They should have been here last night but bad weather had delayed them. He’d needed them desperately.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
This book takes place in Honduras and I got the idea from some friends who do medical mission trips to that country. Also, much of the book takes place in the hot tropics but in a few pages the reader is transported to cold, snowy New York City at Christmas time for a very special proposal.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Chance Freeman has seen too much of the hard side of life. The people he cares for need more than he can give them. He sees life as dark and ugly. He surprised me with how deeply he could love when he allowed himself to do so.
Ellen Cox knows that life can be difficult but she also sees the possibilities. She wants to make a difference and is determined to do so. I was amazed at how fearless she was even in situations where she has no experience.
I really liked both of these characters and found them great fun to get to know.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
I would use the scene where Chance and Ellen go after drugs in the middle of the night. There’s a real sense of adventure in the scene. Chance and Ellen learn a great deal about each other.
Chance grinned. He found she had that effect on him more often than most. There was never a dull moment around Ellen. He was learning to like it. Putting the jeep in gear, he headed toward the road that would take them to the nearby airstrip.
Ellen yawned. “Why so early? It’s 3AM.”
“This is when a plane was available to bring supplies in. We use volunteers and have to work around their schedule. This plane was making another delivery and just added us as an extra stop.”
“Oh. You couldn’t have told me about this last night. I would have been ready.”
“I didn’t know for sure and I had other things on my mind.” Like kissing you, holding you, taking you to bed.
A soft sound of realization came from her side of the jeep.
“Uh, Ellen, about that kiss. Look I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done that. You didn’t come down here to have an affair and I certainly don’t make it a habit of taking advantage of young women. It won’t happen again.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw her shift towards him in the seat.
“For starters, I’m old enough to take care of myself and I make my own choices about who I kiss not you.”
“But I took advantage of the situation—”
He felt her glare. “Chance, just shout up and drive.”
Half an hour later they had reached the airfield. Marco and a couple of the others were helping set out lanterns along a dirt runway.
“This looks a little illegal to me,” Ellen said as they waited on the plane circling the field.
“It would be by American standards but by Honduran ones it’s the only way to get the drugs safety into our hands.” Chance pointed toward a car sitting near the tree line. “That’s one of the officials. We’ll give him the papers, a little cash and he’ll sign off on them.”
“So it is illegal?”
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
That people are not always who we think they are at first glance. Also that people can be tougher than they appear when put to the test.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
I have just finished a book about a doctor and his transcriptions who has a crush on him from listening to his beautiful voice. She soon learns that he is just as amazing as she has built him up to be. The only problem is that she believes that family is everything while he doesn’t understand that kind of loyalty.
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Excerpt from The Doctor’s Sleigh Bell Proposal:
Screeching vehicle brakes caught Dr. Chance Freeman’s attention. That would be his three new staff members arriving. They should have been here last night but bad weather had delayed them. He’d needed them desperately. His other team had left that morning and today’s clinic had been shorthanded and almost impossible to manage.
Chance glanced up from the Honduran baby boy he was examining and out the entrance of the canvas tent located in a clearing near a village. Beyond the long line of waiting patients, he saw a tall, twentyish woman jump down from the rear of the army surplus truck. She wore a tight green t-shirt, a bright yellow bandana round her neck and tan cargo pants that clung to her curves.
Great. High jungle fashion. He’d seen that before.
Shoulders hunched, he drew his lips into a tight line stopping a long suffering sound from escaping. Years ago he’d helped Alissa out of a jeep. She believed in being well dress in any environment as well. They had been newlyweds at the time. That had only lasted months.
Everything about this new staff member’s regal bearing screamed she didn’t belong in the stifling heat of a rainforest in Central American. He bet she wouldn’t last long. In his years of doing medical aide work he’d learned to recognize those who would stick out the tough conditions and long hours. His guess was that she wasn’t one of them. Everything about her screamed upper-crust, big city. Pampered.
When had he become so cynical? He hadn’t met her yet and he was already putting her in a slot. It wasn’t fair not to give her a chance just because she reminded him of his ex-wife. Still he didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to coddle anyone, even if he desperately needed the help.
From under her loose-brimmed hat she scanned the area, her gaze coming around to lock with his. She titled her head shielding her eyes with a hand against the noon day sun. One of her two companions said something and she turned away.
Shaking off the spell, Chance returned to the child. He’d hardly looked down when there was a commotion outside. People were screaming and running. What was going on?
He didn’t have to wait long to find out. Two men carried another man into the tent who was bleeding profusely around the face and neck area and down one arm. Quickly handing the baby to his mother, Chance cleared the exam table with his arm.
“Put him here. What happened?”
The men lifted the injured man to the table. Despite Chance’s excellent Spanish they were talking so fast he was having to work to understand them. Apparently, the man had been attacked by a Jaguar while trying to save one of his goats.
A feminine voice asked from the end of the table, “What can I do to help?”
A fragrant scent floated in the air. He was tempted to lean forward and inhale. There was a marked difference between the feminine whiff and the odor of the sweaty bodies around him. Unfortunately, he would need to warn her not to wear perfume in this part of the world because it attracted unwanted insects.
Chance looked up into clear blue eyes that made him think of the pool of water at the bottom of his favorite waterfall. The woman he’d just seen climbing off the truck waited. She’d removed her hat and now he could clearly see a long blond braid falling over a shoulder. With her fair coloring she would burn in no time in the hot Honduras sun.
“Start with cutting away the clothing.”
She stepped to the table. The paper on the table was soaked with blood. He glanced up to see her face blanch as she viewed the man who would be disfigured for life from the deep lacerations.
“Don’t faint on me,” he said through clenched teeth. “Michael, get over here.” He nodded toward the other table. “Go help there. Michael and I’ll handle this.”
She moved off to see about the case Michael was working on. Chance didn’t have time to ponder why someone in the medical profession couldn’t handle this type of injury.
He and Michael worked to piece the Honduran man back together. It may have been the largest number of stitches he’d ever put into a person. There would a long recovery time.
“We need some help here.” Michael called as he finished suturing an area.
The woman stepped to the table again.
Chance glared at her. “I thought I told you—”
She gave him a determined and unwavering look. “I’ve got this.” She turned to Michael. “What do you need?”
“Bandage this hand,” he said.
“I’ll take care of it.” The words were full of confidence as fingers tipped in hot pink picked up the saline and 4x4s sitting on the table and began cleaning around the area.
Chance had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. That manicure wouldn’t last long here and there wouldn’t be another forthcoming either. He moved on to the next laceration. As he looked at the man’s arm Chance kept a watchful eye on the new staff member. With the efficiency of few he’d seen, she’d wrapped and secured the dressing and move on the next spot.
At least she seemed to have recovered from whatever had been her earlier issue. He was used to temporary help, but he still wanted quality.
Many who came to help with the Traveling Clinic were filled with good intentions and the idealism of saving the world, but didn’t have the skills or common sense required to work in such primitive settings. The clinic served the medical issues in the small villages outside of LaCeiba. Making it even more difficult was that the locals were often hesitant about asking for help.
A jaguar attack wasn’t the clinic’s normal injury but they did see a number of severe wounds from accidents. He needed staff that could handle the unexpected and often gruesome. If Chance wasn’t such a sceptic he’d have given the new woman points for her recovery but he’d been doing this type of work for far too long. Seen staff come and go.
He was familiar with people who left. His mother had done it when he was a child. He’d been seven when she’d just not been there. His father had been a world renowned surgeon and been gone much of the time. With his mother’s absence Chance starting acting out in an effort to keep his father’s attention even to the point of stealing. That got him sent to boarding school. Even in that restrictive environment Chance pushed back.
In a stern voice the headmaster had said, “It’s time for you to decide if you’re going to amount to anything in your life. Right now I’d be surprised if you do.”
He was the one man in Chance’s life that had taken a real interest in a scared and angry boy. The grizzled and gruff headmaster had believed in him, had time to listen. Unlike his father. Chance wanted to make the headmaster proud and made a change after that conversation. He’d focused on his studies. Dedicated his life to helping others. But in the area of personal relationships he had failed miserably over and over to the point he had long ago given up. Those, apparently, he wasn’t capable of having.
Why were dark memories invading now? Maybe because the new woman reminded him so much of his ex-wife, Alissa whose defection always made him think of his mother. Two females who had rejected him. He’d moved passed all that long ago. His worry now was how to keep the clinic open. Pondering old history did nothing to help with the present problem.
He watched the new woman as he changed gloves. Her movements were confident now. Marco, a Honduran man who served as clerk, translator, and goffer for the clinic entered
the tent with a distressed look on his face. He hurried to her and said in his heavily accented voice, “I no not where you are. Please not do not leave again without telling. Much danger here. Not get lost.”
She looked at him. “I’m sorry. I saw the emergency and thought I should come help.”
“It’s okay, Marco. I’ll explain. See to the other two,” Chance said to the short but sturdy man.
“Si, Doctor Chance.” Marco nodded and hurried out of the clinic.
Chance gave her a pointed look. “Please don’t leave the clinic area until we’ve talked.”
Her chin went down and she nodded. “I understand. By the way my name is Cox. Dr. Ellen Cox. Like Bond. James Bond.” She flashed him a grin.
She was a cheeky little thing. He wasn’t certain he appreciated that.
He finished up with the attacked man and sent him off in a truck to the hospital in
LaCeiba. He would check in on him when they got back to town. Chance cleaned up and moved on to his next patient who was an older woman with an infected bug bite. It would be necessary to drain it.
Before starting the procedure, he stepped to the table next to his where a five-year-old girl sat. Digging into his pants’ pocket he pulled out a peppermint and handed the piece of candy to her. She removed the clear plastic cover and plopped it into her mouth, giving Chance a wide toothy grin. He’d given a child a second of happiness. He just wished he could make more of a difference. What he did wasn’t enough.
As Chance returned to his patient, Ellen joined him.
Since she was so enthusiastic he’d let her see to the woman as he watched. “We’re going to need a suture kit, a box of 4x4s and bandage. Supplies are in the van.” He gestured toward the beat-up vehicle that had been parked partially under the tent so that the backend was protected from the daily afternoon rain and could function as a portable storage room. Chance waited as she hurried after the supplies.
Returning to his side she placed the kit on the bed and a bottle of saline water as well. “I’ll get a pan.” She was gone again.
Chance spoke to his patient in Spanish, reassuring her that she would be fine and that what he was going to do wouldn’t take too long. A few moments later Ellen was back with the pan and plastic gloves for herself.
He helped the older woman lay back on the table.
Ellen gave the patient a reassuring pat on the shoulder and then turned her attention to opening the suture kit placing it where he could easily reach the contents. Taking the plastic gloves off the top, he pulled them on. She did the same with hers. Removing the blue sterile paper sheets, she placed them on her patient’s leg around and under the inflamed area.
Chance handed her the scalpel. She took it without question.
Michael called, “Chance, you got a second to look at this?”
“Go ahead. I can handle this,” Ellen said.
Chance hesitated then nodded. He liked to oversee the new staff for a week or so just to make sure they understood the locals and the type of work they were doing but she should be able to handle a simple case.
The patient eyes had grown wide went he left. Ellen moved to his side of the table and began speaking to her in an elementary mix that was more English than Spanish. As she distracting the woman by having her pay attention to what she was saying instead of what Ellen was doing the woman calmed down to the point of smiling a few times.
He glanced Ellen’s way a few times to see how she was doing. By the time he returned the patient was bandaged and ready to leave. Ellen had done a good job.
Chance moved on to the next person waiting. She assisted him with the next patient. They were just finishing when Marco returned with the two other new staff members. He introduced the man as Pete Ortiz and the woman as Karen Johnson. Both nurses. Ellen moved off across the short aisle of tables to help Chance’s colleague, Michael Lange. Because Pete spoke fluent Spanish, Chance sent him to do triage and Karen stayed to help him.
Working in Honduras on and off for eight years had only made Chance see the needs there grow. There was a time he thought he might really make a difference. The people needed real clinics. Brick and mortar buildings with dedicated doctors, not just a few coming in and out every few weeks.
He loved this country. The weather which he much preferred to the cold of the north, the coast. Scuba diving was one of his greatest day-off hobbies. Walking through a rainforest and being surprise by a waterfall was amazing. But most of all he like the open generous smiles of the people. In Honduras he had found home.
The Traveling Clinic had been his idea years ago and he’d worked long and hard to gain funding for the idea. The clinic was a successful concept but money was forever a problem. Again tomorrow the clinic would be stopping at different villages and the locals would line up. Some would wait all day for care. The day would start just as this one had. Never enough, and more left to do.
A couple of times during the afternoon hours the sound of laughter reached his ears. Michael and the new doctor seemed to enjoy working together. That was what he’d thought when his wife had spent so much time helping his clinic partner, Robert. They had gotten along so well she’d gone home with him.
The sun touched the top of the trees by the time Chance saw his last patient. Michael was finishing up with his as well. Now all that was left was to break down the clinic, load the trucks, and head for a hot shower. He leaned up against the nearest exam table finishing a note on his patient’s chart.
“Doctor, if you’ll excuse me I need to fold this exam table.” Ellen gave him a pointed look as she flipped her hair back implying he needed to move.
She reminded him of a teenager. Looked no older than a fresh out of high school girl even though she must be at least twenty-eight, to his tired forty-one-year-old eyes. Breaking down the clinic was Marco and the local men he’d hired to help him. As much as Chance was amazed by her zeal she needed to understand a few things about the culture and dangers here. “Marco and his men will take care of that.”
“I can get—”
He lowered his voice. “I’m sure you can but they take their jobs and positions seriously. I don’t want them insulted.”
“Oh. I didn’t realize.” She stopped what she was doing.
“Now you do. You need to tread more carefully, Doctor Cox. There are cultural and safety issues you should be aware of before you go off willy-nelly. Don’t reckless. This isn’t Los Angeles, New York or wherever you are from.”
A flash of something in her eyes he couldn’t put a name came and went before she said, “New York.”
He looked at her a second. “There’re not only animals in the jungle that could hurt you, as you saw today, but there’s a major issue with drug traders. Neither play around nor allow second chances. You should never go out alone. Even in the villages or clinic compound always have someone with you.”
“Are you trying to scare me?”
Did she think this was some exotic vacation spot? “No, I’m trying to keep you out of harm’s way.” He looked straight at her. “If you don’t follow the rules, you don’t stay around here long.”
Her lips tightened as she glanced toward the men working to breakdown the clinic. “I’m sorry I upset Marco. I saw the amount of people waiting and thought I should get to work.”
“You would be no good to them if you get hurt.”
“Your point is taken.”
“Chance.” Michael called.
“Just remember what I said.” He walked away to join Michael beside the supply van.
Half an hour later the tent was down and everything stowed in the vehicles. Now their party was bumping along the narrow dirt road toward the coast. Chance rode in the supply van with one of the locals driving while Michael was a passenger in the truck. The others rode in the rear of it. The hour trip to the resort might be the toughest part of the day. As the bird flew the distance wasn’t far however the roads were so rough and winding it seemed to take forever to make the return drive. Chance usually tried to sleep.
For some reason his thoughts went to the young doctor traveling in the truck behind him. She’d worked hard, doing her share and some more. There was no way she was napping while sitting on that hard metal bench. If she complained, he would point out that the ride was just part of doing this type of medical work. Anyone who stayed with it learned to accept the hardship.
Ellen’s head bumped against one of the support frames running around the bed of the truck. Taking a nap was almost impossible. She pulled a jacket out of her duffle bag and folded it up before stuffing it between her head and the unforgiving metal.
Looking out the slats, she watched the fascinating countryside go by. The vegetation grew rich and huge. Some of the leaves were the size of an umbrella. And so green. It looked impossible to walk through. She’d never seen anything like it. The flowers were such vivid colors. A pink hibiscus always caught her attention.
As the plane was coming in that morning she’d looked down on the coastline of the county. The pristine white sand against the blue-green of the water made her want to experience it for herself. It was a beautiful country. She already love it.
Completely different from New York. The land of buildings and lights. She’d worked at an inner city clinic that saw pregnant teenagers and babies with colds. It was nothing compared to the type of patients and conditions she’d experienced today. It had been exhilarating. Except for that one moment when she looked at that man and all the memories of her mother caught in the car had come flooding back.
The Traveling Clinic cared for people who truly need it. These people had no other way of getting medical care. They hadn’t made poor life choices like the drug addicts and drunks in the city. Here they had nothing, and the clinic offered them something they desperately needed. Still they had a bright smile to share.
The type of work she’d done today was why she’d become a doctor. As a child a car accident had killed her mother and left Ellen in the hospital for weeks. There she’d learned the importance of good medical care. The staff had loved and given special attention to the little girl who had lost so much. Ellen had determined then that she wanted to work in the medical field. Do for people what had been done for her.
The only sticking point had been her father. As a Manhattan socialite, and the only child of an over-protective father she’d worked at being taken seriously when she announced she was going to medical school. Ellen wanted to do more than chair committees and plan fancy fundraisers. She wanted to personally make a difference, get to know the people she was helping.
When Ellen had started working at the intercity clinic her father had pitched a fit. It was too risky. He didn’t want her to work there.
“You’re acting like your mother. She all went in head first and then thought,” he said more than once to her growing up.
Ellen told him he had no choice. A number of times she’d noticed a man watching when she came and went from the clinic. Some days later she found out he had been hired by her father to watch over her because he was concerned about her safety.
A few weeks later she heard Dr. Freeman speak with such passion about his work in Honduras and she was hooked. She wanted to make that kind of difference, offer that kind of care. The next day she’d applied to join his staff. It had taken her six months, but she was finally here.
After her decision to come to Honduras, she’d thought of not telling her father but she loved him too much to just disappear. Instead, she told him she was going to Honduras not specifically where she would be fearing he’d send someone to watch over her again. Again he accused her of not thinking it through. She assured him she had. For once she wanted to do something on her own, free from her father’s influence.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
His surprise Christmas promise
Dr. Ellen Cox goes to South America to break the shackles of her confined life. But she never imagined replacing them with bonds of desire for her new hotshot boss—Chance Freeman!
Guarded Chance, although sorely tempted, tries to keep Ellen at a distance—and when the dangers of their jobs are ramped up, he sends her home to safety. Then he realizes his mistake and heads for snowy New York, determined to win Ellen with a very special Christmas proposal!
Meet the Author:
Susan Carlisle’s love affair with books began when she made a bad grade in math in the sixth grade. Not allowed to watch TV until she brought the grade up, Susan filled her time with books. She turned her love of reading into a love of writing romance. If the hero is a smart, sexy alpha male, he can be found in her books along with a strong heroine that captures the his heart.
She leads workshops on a number of writing subjects. In her past life she has been a full time mother to four children, a high school substitute teacher and now when Susan isn’t writing she is busy being a fun grandmother. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband of over thirty years. Susan loves castles, traveling, cross-stitching and reads voraciously. Visit her at www.SusanCarlisle.com
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