Please join me in welcoming Harlequin Medical author Connie Cox to HarlequinJunkie…
Connie Welcome, would you please introduce yourself to the readers here?
Connie: Hi! I’m Connie Cox. I’m a fulltime author—I still get happy chills every time I say that! I’d been writing for years before my first book, Taking Flight, was published with Avalon Books. But Harlequin has always had a special place in my heart. So when my friend and fellow author Cora Zane told me about a contest Harlequin Medical Romance was sponsoring, the story ideas crowded into my head and wouldn’t let go until I entered. My entries were noticed by a very discerning editor and now I’m working on my 5th medical romance for Harlequin! (I kind of glossed over all the hard work in between, but you know that part, right? The early mornings and late nights writing when the words are flowing or when you’re squeezing them out of your muse one syllable at a time.)
What inspired you to write your first book?
Connie: It’s the little things, the chance statements thrown out be friends and strangers that make the biggest differences in our lives, isn’t it? I was at my favorite book store one day and the owner said, “Connie, as much as you read, have you ever thought about writing?” At the time, I was in college getting my degree in Electrical Engineering while working part time and raising a toddler with my husband. In my ‘free’ time, doing anything beyond studying, with my weekend Harlequin binges thrown in for sanity, was beyond my time budget.
But years later, when that toddler became a teenager and I was waiting up for her curfew and I had just gotten my first home computer, I asked my husband if he thought maybe I could some day write a book. He doesn’t even remember the moment—but I will forever. He said, “Connie, you’re a really good writer. I’m sure you could.”
So then I found an online writing group which led me to a local writing group that was part of the national organization Romance Writers of America. After a decade of learning my craft, I finalled in the Golden Heart, a hugely prestigious international contest for unpublished writers, and sold that contest entry the same week! That book became Taking Flight. I declared myself a professional writer and there was no turning back—although I did juggle my writing career and my engineering career simultaneously for several years after that first sale.
You are an Electrical Engineer, WOW!…. Why Harlequin Medicals?
Connie: My first job as an electrical engineer was with General Electric Medical Systems were I worked on nuclear scanners, x-ray machines, CAT scanners and MRI scanners and ultrasound machines. So the medical environment, especially inside major hospitals, is a familiar one to me. I’ve had the opportunity to be a ‘fly on the wall’ to a lot of the inner workings of hospitals, and –believe me—I’ll never run out of stories to tell!
Which of your characters would you most/least like to invite to dinner?
Connie: That’s an easy one. I’d invite both Jason and Cole. They both can cook! (I didn’t realize that until just now. One of those qualities I admire in a man, I guess.)
What’s your all-time favorite movie or book? All time favorite movie?
Connie: Star Wars, the first one to come out (which was really the third one in the series.) Trusting in yourself enough to let a higher force guide you is a biggie for me. Books? Jonathon Livingston Seagull—my all time favorite bar none. Hmmmm. I think I’m seeing a Jungian pattern in here.
Let’s talk about your newest releases ‘Return of the Rebel Surgeon’.
Connie: I LOVED writing this book. It’s about second chances, and who doesn’t wish for those? Bella is the single mother of an autistic teen boy entering that difficult age. Her whole life is devoted to her son, leaving her with no life of her own. But she is so determined to do it all, she is caught up in the cycle of self-sacrifice to the point there is no self.
Her high school sweetheart, the one that got away, comes back to town. But she and Cole parted on painful terms. No matter how hard they both tried to move on in their lives, unresolved hurt and anger have colored all their relationships since those tumultuous days.
Cole is a man who has devoted his life to achieving his goals to prove to the world he has worth. He has achieved that goal and is one of the best surgeons in his field. But he has found that success doesn’t equal contentedness. He needs to give and receive love. Sadly, he doesn’t know that what he needs has always been just barely out of reach. But then, that’s what second chances are for, right?
The book is about growing past old wounds to find healing and happiness, not just physically, but soulfully.
3 words that best describe Cole and Bella’s characters
Connie: Bella—Stubborn. Devoted. Suppressed passion. (Okay, there’s an extra word in there, but Bella’s not complete without it.)
Cole—Stubborn. (Now we know what they have in common!) Driven. Alone.
Any challenges writing this book?
Connie: Yes! I’ve never written a book with an angry hero and heroine before. But then, my story people come into my head fully formed and I don’t get much choice in who they are. There was so much that had gone wrong between these two, I wasn’t sure how things were going to work out. So this story was intense and edgy from beginning to end. Thankfully, true love prevailed and they now have the lives they were meant to have together.
What’s Next? Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Connie: Next book out is His Hidden American Beauty, set on a cruise ship. You would think this would be a light, fluffy read on a cruise ship, wouldn’t you? Nope. It’s an emotional ride from beginning to end. Of all the cruise ships in all the world, how did Niko and Annalise end up on the same one at the same time? Fate has a way of putting people together who need each other so they can become the persons they are born to be, and in His Hidden American Beauty, that is no exception.
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Would you please share an Excerpt …
I’d love to!
Excerpt: Return of the Rebel Surgeon
Cole had sworn he would never come back, but here he was, on the edge of his seat, watching the boy on the track who had never broken stride the whole five kilometers. He glanced at the second hand on his watch. The boy was doing a consistent six-minute mile.The boy sprinted for the finish line, his ground-eating stride putting him ahead of the pack. Athletic grace like that could be honed by training but began in the womb.
Despite the New Orleans heat and humidity, Dr. Cole Lassiter kept his attention on the competitions as a way of keeping the painful memories at bay.
Today and tomorrow were track-and-field competitions at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park . Thursday was the swim meet at the hosting hospital’s full-size facilities and Friday was back at the track for the soccer matches. Then home to New York for the weekend if he could get loose ends tied up—or at least keep things from unraveling.
The wise thing to do would be to stay in New Orleans over the weekend to wine and dine the doctors and their families, and make sure everyone was comfortable with the merger of the two medical clinics.
If he could only keep his own personal unease from showing. His hometown of New Orleans held nothing but nightmares for him—and a lucrative possible partnership between Lassiter Hand and Wrist Institute and the equally renowned New Orleans Sports Clinic. But negotiations were fragile.
A cheer from the bleachers had him turning his attention back to the field and the final lap of the race.
A modest but enthusiastic crowd encouraged the athletes as they competed for a sense of accomplishment as much as for a victory. These regional “special games” were hosted by a leading New Orleans hospital and run by scores of volunteers. It was certainly a different experience from the professional events he usually attended.
These games, free to all who wanted to watch, were every bit as exciting as the big-ticket events Cole usually went to. Maybe even more so, considering what these athletes were up against. All had mental challenges, and many of them had physical challenges, as well. But they had the same heart and courage as any other athlete.
From the sidelines, a distracted girl wandered onto the track right into the boy’s path.
Cole winced as the boy jerked and hurdled to keep from running into her and ended up on his knees.
Without a word, the boy climbed back to his feet and took off running, trying to catch the two runners who had passed him.
He closed the gap to inches. If he’d had three more strides, he would have caught the front runner. Instead, the boy took second place.
An official leaned down to check the boy’s knee, then pointed toward the medical tent. Without needing a prod from the intercom system, Cole headed in that direction.
From the moment she’d entered the stadium that morning, Bella Allante’s attention had been drawn to him as if he had some preternatural power over her.
Why now? Why, when her world spun on the tip of a needle, did Cole Lassiter have to show up now?
Distracted, she tried to focus on the one-sided conversation her teenage helper was carrying on.
“So my mom says to tell you thanks. Working with our family photo album has really helped my sister understand age appropriateness much better.”
“You’re welcome.” Isabella had stumbled upon her son’s fascination with family photographs a few years back. “I’ve used them to teach everything from facial recognition to table manners.”
“My sister is obsessed with photos of our grandmother. Didn’t you tell us that happened with Adrian , too?”
“Yes, it did.” Obsession wasn’t an unusual trait for someone on the autistic spectrum. Isabella just wished Adrian ‘s obsession had been with anyone other than Cole Lassiter.
The day her son had asked about the tall, dark-haired boy in many of her high-school photos, displaying curiosity but also being able to recognize him in photos at different ages, Isabella had been overjoyed at Adrian’s breakthrough in development but torn about using the image of the man she despised above all others to teach her son.
Although she’d been mightily tempted to tell him a half-truth that day, she had never lied to Adrian . So she had confessed that the boy in the photos was Adrian ‘s father, now a grown man and a renowned surgeon.
Instantly, she’d had to page through copies of her father’s medical journals to show Adrian photos of Cole as an adult.
Since then, Adrian had elevated Cole to the status of superhero, insisting on having a dark-haired plastic doctor doll along with his superhero action figures and adding Cole’s photo to the collection of pictures of family and friends on his bedside table.
She had been so thrilled she had found a way to reach her emotionally locked-away son she had decided to encourage and embrace his fascination with Cole, in the certain belief that she would never have to deal with the man in person.
Was that Adrian in the lead? He never wanted her to watch him compete, so she had only seen him run from afar.
Once more she scanned the crowd, intently watching the athletes take their final lap.
What was Cole doing here—beyond watching the son he had never acknowledged? That small part of her that needed closure nagged at her now like it had so many dark nights in the past. Had she tried hard enough, done enough?
Isabella lifted her chin. An Allante didn’t beg—and she would never stoop that low again. If only he had acknowledged her pregnancy in some way, she could have put her doubts behind her, along with those tarnished memories of first love.
Excerpt: His Hidden American Beauty
Dr. Annalise Walcott adjusted the two huge cases of medicines on her cart before she made the steep climb up the gangplank of the luxury cruise liner, Neptune ’s Fantasy. While she had most of the supplies delivered straight to her onboard facilities, she liked to bring along the ones that needed refrigeration herself, just to make sure they stayed on temperature. Not that she’d ever had a problem. But Annalise avoided problems as often as she could.
Call her a control freak and she wouldn’t deny it. She’d learned a long time ago that the only person she could consistently rely on was herself….
Annalise knew the value of escaping the real world. That’s why being the Fantasy’s onboard physician was her dream job.
A squeal of tires from the parking lot down below caught her attention.
A sporty black convertible with the top down slid into an empty parking slot and careened to a stop. Annalise squinted to see the dark-haired man behind the sunglasses pop his trunk, grab a suit-sized carry-on, a serious backpack and a large rolling suitcase and make a sprint for the entrance of the cruise ship’s land-based check-in facility.
She glanced at her watch. A quarter ‘til five.
When the cruise line said to embark before four o’clock, they had their reasons—security checks being one of the most important ones.
Brandy shook her head. “There’s always one who thinks the rules don’t apply to him, isn’t there?”
Annalise agreed. “He’ll have to do some real sweet-talking to get aboard this ship.”
Brandy gazed absently at the head of the line. “Some men are worth breaking the rules for.”
Not any man she’d ever met.
Storm clouds moved into position overhead, blocking the sun’s intensity but adding a couple of points to the humidity scale making the moist air heavy to drag into her lungs.
The sooner she was out at sea, the better.
“Next,” came the call from the front of the line.
As she moved forward, Annalise looked back at the dark-haired latecomer juggling his luggage to open the door to the check-in office.
She had to admit, he had a face and body that could entice a saint to at least bend the rules a little.
He flashed a dimpled smile at her as he caught her staring.
She could feel a blush heating her face as she looked away.
She was no saint, but the man didn’t existed who could tempt her. Sadly, she wished there was.