Hi Catherine & Joanne, welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Wedding Audition!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
A reluctant reality TV star runs from her televised wedding, only to arrive on the doorstep of a cop whose survival depends on anonymity. The Wedding Audition is a fun and sexy romance about opposites attracting.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
“What’s so wrong with asking my guy for a threesome?”
The question blared from the radio sex talk show and fired into Annamae Jessup’s mind faster than the chemicals refreshing her highlights before her rehearsal dinner tonight. Her hands clenched the armrests on the hair salon chair, the scent of the developing solution stinging her nose.
Please share a few Random facts about this book…
- This is the first book co-authored by long time critique partners Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock.
- The apple orchard setting is inspired by the place Joanne grew up… next door to an old orchard.
- The puppy –in the cover and in the story– is a nod to Catherine Mann’s work in animal rescue. You can learn more about her efforts at the Sunshine State Animal Rescue!
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Annamae Jessup is a go-with-the-flow kind of woman, never wanting to raise a fuss, so she’s gone along with having her life televised for her wealthy family’s reality show. But something about her scripted wedding makes her rebel, sending her straight into Wynn Rafferty’s very remote world in rural Alabama. We loved writing a surly cop trying his hand at apple farming in the tiny southern town of Beulah.
As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
We were surprised and pleased to see how Annamae was able to connect more with her family once she started standing up for herself and drawing boundaries with them. That was an unexpected bonus of her relationship with the hero.
The First kiss…
“I am having an affair, tonight,” she told the black and white kitten she found curled on a crisply made bed.
The kitten sat up at this news, folding her tail neatly around her feet as she seemed to listen.
“I know,” Annamae replied like they were old friends. “Phone the press, right? But could you use a throwaway phone so they don’t show up and climb those apple trees with a telephoto lens?” She ran a hand over the gray quilt folded at the end of the California king-sized mattress propped on a simple platform. The only other furniture in the room was a nightstand, bare of anything save a lamp and a book about grafting heirloom fruit trees.
“Mew?” The kitten’s conversational skills were better than most of her stepsisters’ who’d never been terribly concerned with Annamae’s life.
In their defense, she’d never told them she was about to have a torrid affair, so maybe that was an unfair comparison.
“How many cats does the man have?” she wondered, peering under the bed to see if there were any more felines hidden away.
Maybe the kitten was incensed, because she jumped down from the bed and skittered out the door in a hurry, her paws slipping a little on the hardwood floor as she left.
She settled in to read about tree grafting, a topic sure to settle her nerves, if not put her to sleep. But it was actually more interesting than she’d imagined. Wynn had flagged pages about disease-resistant varieties, in keeping with his organic approach to farming. Maybe he could use some pecan mulch…
She wasn’t sure how much time had passed when the stairs creaked in the hallway.
“Wynn?” She bolted upright.
The creaking on the stairs stopped.
Panic gripped her.
“What if it wasn’t?” a familiar voice asked, as the creaking continued. He stood in the threshold of the bedroom then, studying her as he leaned a shoulder into the doorjamb. “What if I was a hired gun sent to take out anyone in the house?”
“Then I’d be very disappointed in my watch dog who never barked when the door opened downstairs.” She set aside the book. “Welcome home, by the way.”
His eyes flared with heat. “It is a hell of a welcome, I have to say. When I didn’t see you downstairs I thought…”
Her pulse fluttered with nerves. Or maybe it was just anticipation.
“You thought I’d chickened out.” She felt brave that she hadn’t. She also liked that she’d surprised him. In a good way.
“Before I left, you asked me what we were doing,” he reminded her. “You looked a little spooked.”
She wondered why he still stood in the doorway. Why he hadn’t come closer. Touched her.
By now, she was really, really ready for him to touch her.
“I’m not now.” She remembered that he’d wanted her to think this through. To be sure. “And you’re right… I’m not nearly as beige as I thought.”
One second he stood in the doorway. The next he loomed over her, inches from the bed. He tipped her chin up to see her eyes, studying her.
“You’re sure about this happening between us. Now. Tonight.” It wasn’t a question. That crooked grin of his tipped his lips in a half-smile.
“Didn’t I say as much?” Her heart pounded harder at his touch. His nearness. She tipped her cheek so that he touched more of her.
Then, wanting even more, she rose up on her knees so she was almost eye-to-eye with him where he stood beside the bed. The warmth of his hard body beckoned.
“I think country living is turning you sassy, Ms. Jessup.” He stroked a finger down the length of her neck, pausing in the hollow at the base of her throat where her pulse did a crazy dance.
“It’s not easy holding my own with a surly landlord looking for any excuse to toss me out on my ear.” She had to steady herself with a palm against his chest.
She was gratified to feel that his heart slugged a fast pace too.
“Yet you have the power to put an end to all the surliness.” He leaned closer, the heat and earthy smell of him reaching out to her.
Her breasts grazed his chest with delectable friction.
“Do tell,” she urged, her voice whispered now that their lips were mere inches apart.
“It’ll be better if I show you.” His hand slid around the back of her neck, pulling her to him.
She had a brief impression of his hungry eyes and then his mouth claimed hers.
And Annamae spontaneously combusted. In a good way…
Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?
We laughed at Annamae climbing out a bathroom window to escape the press, especially when she almost landed on a stray dog. The lovable Bagel stole our hearts.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?
How fun! We’d chose a more subtle scene between the hero and heroine since it’s always easier to play “big” emotions—laughter, tears. It’s a real test of acting ability to see how someone embodies a character in the more subtle exchanges like when a character is hiding something. Here’s the audition scene we’d use…
The setting sun cast a mellow haze over her as her loosely gathered hair slid to the side every time she picked up another darkened nut.
He leaned back against a tree and waited for her to notice he’d joined her. Except she just kept right on tossing half-rotted nuts into the basket. Her preoccupation and lack of awareness of her surroundings was damned dangerous.
Wynn cleared his throat and said, “Penny for your thoughts.”
Annamae bolted upright and dropped the basket on the ground, pecans spilling over into a pile. “Good Lord, Heath. You scared me to pieces.”
She glanced down at Bagel who wagged his tail in response. “Some watch dog you are.”
“You really should be more careful. If I’d been the press, your photo would be all over the Internet by now.” He knelt beside her to help scoop the pecans back into the basket. “You know these nuts are a year old, right?”
She nodded. “I’m collecting shells for mulch and you’re right about the need to be more careful. My head’s just full with so much going on.” Annamae’s gaze seemed to turn inward again.
“From coming to Beulah and your visit with your grandmother?” Wynn said gently, trying to bring her back to reality. To the present.
She glanced up quickly, her throat moving in a quick swallow. “Uhm, yes.”
He narrowed his eyes. That didn’t seem entirely truthful. Was it her ex-fiancé? He couldn’t imagine not coming after a beautiful woman like her. “You’ve been holed up so long in the carriage house, I wasn’t sure how it went. Did she have the answers you were looking for?”
She chewed her bottom lip and looked away. “Some.”
“What do you plan to do next? Other than be my hide-out tenant.”
“Make slug repellant.” She smoothed her hair back over her face, and smiled at him.
“Pardon me?” he asked, not following her train of thought, but then that could have something to do with the scent of her soap carrying on the breeze.
Shrugging her shoulders, she gestured to the ground. “Well, all of these pecans on the ground are going to waste and I picked up some literature about all-natural farming at the community garden.”
“And you decided you need slug repellant.”
“It won’t keep the paparazzi away, but it will deter other slimy things. I’m going to plant some flowers around the carriage house. If I have extra mulch, I’ll donate it to the community garden.” A small smile teased the corners of her mouth upwards. He surveyed her, eyes trailing up and down.
“You don’t strike me as the DIY type. You seem too… pampered.”
“Now I am insulted. I like being self-sufficient.” She stood, basket over her arm. Little Red Riding Hood indeed. “I might even do some baking today. All the apple blossoms put me in the mood for pie. I noticed you have a small patch of strawberries near your house?”
He was feeling hungry himself. But not just for dessert. If they were stuck here together… “I worked hard to grow those. Any pie resulting from my berries should probably be half mine.”
Something shifted in her eyes, uncertainty – and awareness. Finally she nodded. “Okay. But if you want pie, you have to help me.” She thrust the basket at him. “So let’s get picking.”
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be and why?
Trust your instincts!! Annamae second guesses herself a lot. But if it’s not right when you’re getting ready to walk down the aisle… it’s not right.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2015?
Together, Cathy and Joanne are excited about the rest of the books in the Runaway Brides series—THERE GOES THE BRIDE is out in May and BRIDE ON THE RUN will be available in June. Individually, Catherine Mann releases PURSUED BY THE RICH RANCHER, a Harlequin Desire in June while Joanne Rock looks forward to the release of DANCES UNDER THE HARVEST MOON, a Harlequin Superromance in October.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Digital Copy of THE WEDDING AUDITION
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Excerpt from The Wedding Audition:
….Holy shitake mushrooms, he was hotter than she remembered. Damn it. Her memory of their last meeting had been defined by his efforts to judge her, to pigeonhole her as a brainless TV personality and a liar. She’d come away with a vague impression of hard, unforgiving eyes and rough, angular features.
Apparently her brain had edited out the memories of broad, tanned hands and muscular arms. And she’d been denied the view of six-pack abs last time, a sight she saw for all of two seconds as he pulled a shirt over his head on his way toward her car.
“No one was at the gate when you pulled in, right?” He covered the ground between them in long, purposeful strides, his focus narrowing to just her in a way she found disconcerting.
“Right. Just me and my dog.” She didn’t bother rolling up the window since the top was down anyway. She left her keys in the ignition and unfolded out of the driver’s seat while Bagel ran a few circles around her feet until he spotted a cat to chase.
Or, as it happened, a cat to bark at.
The black and white tomcat perched on a forgotten old brick well merely glared down at Bagel with a haughty feline stare.
Annamae smoothed a hand over her scarf, tucking a stray lock of brittle, over processed hair back under the silk, and then regretted it as Heath’s eyes followed the movement. Instinct told her this guy expected flirtation and feminine wiles from her and those same instincts said he didn’t respect those kinds of games.
Too bad her need to smooth the wrinkles from the skirt of her dress didn’t have anything to do with a desire to flirt and everything to do with feeling rumpled, tired and out of sorts. She wished she could turn off the internal voices that second-guessed what everyone around her was thinking, a habit engrained growing up in a household that had been watched constantly. But like it or not, she cared what other people thought of her.
“Did you notice anything in particular about the car following you, or the person driving the vehicle?” Dark concern transformed his eyes and his whole face as the sun dropped lower in the sky behind him, casting purple light around them.
Feminine awareness fluttered even though she told it to damn well shut up. Now was not the time to take a sudden shine to bad boys. She had enough trouble on her heels.
“I’m always being followed. I stopped taking notes a long time ago.” She would not capitalize on his worry for her since she’d weathered plenty of unwanted attention in Atlanta. “It comes with the territory when you’re on TV. I just didn’t want to upset the people at the retirement community with a lot of cameras. Besides, it was your guy this time, right?”
Was she missing something here?
His expression went even more ominous.
“Why would you think that?” His jaw flexed forbiddingly, as if she’d somehow lied or cheated or otherwise deceived him.
“Because I saw him just outside the back fence earlier,” she clarified, hoping she wasn’t getting his farm help in too much trouble. “It was the same person you had trimming trees along the fence when I arrived earlier today to see the carriage house.”
He reached into her car, pulled out her keys and passed them over.
From anyone else, that gesture might have seemed presumptuous. But Annamae had the feeling he would have done the same thing for anyone. Heath wasn’t a man to open a woman’s door, but he made sure nothing dangerous lurked on the other side.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The tabloids call her the Hit and Run Bride after reality show star Annamae Jessup walked out on Atlanta’s favorite baseball player on cable television. Eager to escape her notoriety, Annamae takes a road trip to find the grandmother she’s never met and winds up discovering a whole lot more than a band of back woods relatives. There’s no escape from reality TV, even in Beulah, Alabama, population 3000.
The last thing Wynn Rafferty needs in his new life is a spoiled television princess who can’t even know his real name. He’s in temporary witness protection as an apple farmer after his undercover work put his life in danger. He needs to lay low until the heat dies down from his last case— even if he sucks at growing apples as badly as he sucks at relationships. But Annamae turns his new town into a media circus, unwittingly threatening the lives of him, her and most of Beulah. Wynn is an expert at keeping the world at arm’s length, but when it comes to Annamae, the only way he can keep her safe is too keep her very, very close.
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Meet the Author:
Three-time RITA nominee Joanne Rock has never met a romance sub-genre she didn’t like. The author of over seventy novels enjoys writing contemporary romance and medieval historicals alike, recently exploring Young Adult romance under a pseudonym. An optimist by nature and perpetual seeker of silver linings, Joanne finds romance–in all its forms– fits her life outlook perfectly. When she’s not writing, Joanne enjoys travel, especially to see her favorite sports teams play with her former sports editor husband and three athletic-minded sons.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
USA Today bestseller and RITA Award winning author Catherine Mann writes contemporary romance for Berkley, Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Tule. With over sixty books released in more than twenty countries, she has also celebrated six RITA finals, an RT Reviewer’s Award finalist, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals and a Bookseller’s Best win. Catherine and her flyboy husband live on the Florida coast where they brought up their 4 children – and still have 5 four-legged, furry “children” (aka pets). Catherine is an active volunteer with an animal rescue, serving on their Board of Directors and fostering over 200 puppies, ill dogs, and dogs with service/working potential.