Hi Shelli and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Her Fake Boyfriend!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
This story has the taboo romance of dating your friend’s ex. You’re just really not supposed to do it! But my hero, Eric, has been in love with the heroine, Hannah, for just about as long as he’s known her. And when someone starts stalking her, pretending to be in a fake relationship to protect her seems like the right thing to do. Also, it gives him the opportunity to get to know her better.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
Where my heroine shows her cluelessness at some modern euphemisms.
She sighed. “I have to admit I’ve missed getting to see the usual group since James and I broke up. Anyway, it’ll be fun to hang out with you again. Netflix and chill, right?”
He shot her a quick look, not sure if she’d realized what she just said or not. His dick had heard the suggestion and twitched under his jeans.
But Hannah’s expression was pure innocence as she smiled at him.
“Nothing.” He jerked his attention back to the road.
“It’s not nothing, you just gave me a weird look.”
He tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “It’s just . . . Not sure if you’re aware, but uh, ‘Netflix and chill’ can have a dirty meaning.”
“Dirty? What?” She shook her head, her brows drawing together. “It just means chilling out and watching some TV. People say it all the time.”
He cleared his throat. “Yeah, they do say it. And I guess if you take the words literally, it can mean that. But it’s also slang for, um, having sex.”
Her eyes widened and her lips parted. “No.”
Her cheeks held a bit of pink now. “Yeah, um, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“It’s cool. I knew you meant just watch shows or something.”
“Of course.” She clenched her hands in her lap. “Oh, how embarrassing. You must’ve thought I was hitting on you.”
“Nah.” Even if it was a fantasy of his. Forbidden as fuck, but still it was there.
“I would never do that.”
“Yup, I got it.” He gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white.
Good lord, his self-esteem was really taking a number tonight.
She couldn’t make it any clearer that she held zero interest in him as anything other than a friend.
What inspired this book?
I love the forbidden tropes. So falling for your friend’s ex is a fun and tricky one to dive into. I also have the characters involved in Taekwondo, which I did for many years (I had a second-degree purple belt). And I love writing interracial romances, because that’s a reality in the world. My friend Rachel, who is Korean, inspired me with her interracial relationship and gave me lots of advice on this book and was my sensitivity reader. And I usually love to throw a bit of suspense at least in one book in a series I write, which is where the stalker came from.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
I think as I wrote, I discovered my heroine was over her long-term relationship that ended in the last book. And that she likely had been for a while. She was ready to have fun and experience seeing other men. My characters always reveal themselves to me as I write. I’m a pantser.
What was your favorite scene to write?
I really enjoyed writing this sparring scene in Taekwondo, where she’s re-learning the martial art. The hero and heroine really start to realize the chemistry between them.
“You want to block my attack.” Eric did a lightning-fast front kick that grazed her uniform.
Her eyes rounded. “I thought this was no contact!”
“To the body. Contact with the uniform is a point.” He lifted his hands into a protective blocking position. “Block me. Like this.”
This time when he came at her with a front kick, it was slow, giving her enough time to understand the way to block him.
“Yes, good job. Try and get a point on me.”
Yeah, like that was even remotely possible. She hid a snort and glanced around at what others were doing. Seeing something that looked within her ability, she aimed a punch at his chest.
He deflected with his wrist, sending her arm careening harmlessly to the side. Which kind of just pissed her off.
With a growl, she attempted to land one of those front kicks near his stomach, like he’d done to her.
But—of course—he stopped it. Not just deflecting it, but catching her ankle in a strong grasp.
Hot and cold washed through her at the touch of his calloused fingers on her skin. The air rushed from her head, and she told herself it was simply because she was trying to maintain her balance.
She hopped on her one foot, trying to pull her other foot free from his strong fingers.
Oh, please tell me I shaved my legs this morning.
While she was distracted by the internal debate of how hairy her legs may or may not be, he scored a point with a kick to her side.
“Ooh,” she gasped and finally pulled her foot free. Then immediately fell. The hard studio floor rushed up to meet her back and she braced for it.
Before she could hit, his arm swung out to catch her, snapping her upright with enough force that she fell into his arms.
It felt like minutes that they were locked together, uniform to uniform, staring into each other’s eyes. But in reality, it was only seconds before he released her, steady on her feet again.
But that one interaction had rocked her to the core.
The way Eric watched her, with a mouth in a grim slash and a serious gaze, made her think she wasn’t alone in feeling that electricity between them.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
Pushing the hero and heroine apart when they’re starting to connect is always a bit hard. Here’s the scene where that happens.
“And if I’m honest, I’m not surprised by any of this.” Blake took a bite of his burger and gave him a considering look. “I could tell there was something brewing between you two for the last year or so.”
Eric jerked his gaze up, his blood quickening. “What do you mean?”
“You guys were always hanging out at the barbecues. You made her laugh in a way I never saw James make her laugh. She spent more time with you than she did with James.”
“James was always busy doing other shit,” he argued defensively. “I didn’t want her to feel abandoned when she was over.”
“Look, I’m not defending him on that part. He definitely dropped the ball on his relationship with Hannah while going through law school. I’m just saying, I noticed there was some chemistry between you guys.” Blake lifted a shoulder and laughed. “I just didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to act on it.”
“I kind of want to punch that cocky smile off your face.”
“Yeah, I don’t blame you.” Blake’s grin widened. “Truth’s a bitch, ain’t it?”
It sure as hell was.
“Look, you haven’t slept with her yet. Not much damage done. Just keep it in your pants.”
“She only has one bedroom.”
“So, crash on her couch. It’s a no-brainer.”
He thought back to that moment when she’d made it clear what she wanted from him. Somewhat shy, but wonderfully confident, as she’d stared at him from beneath her lashes.
Let’s not even pretend you’re going to sleep on the couch. You’re going to sleep with me. In my bed.
God, could he even roll this all back? Sleep on the couch and keep his hands off her? Would she hate him for it?
“Anyway, that’s my advice. Keep her safe, but keep your hands off.” Blake sighed.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
This very much showcases my writing style. The steamy contemporary romances, sometimes with a hint of suspense.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I hope they have fun and enjoy it, fall in love with love. And maybe learn some things about other cultures, that I wasn’t totally aware of either until talking to my Korean friend. It’s a diverse world and I like to bring that into my books.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m working on book 4 of the Bro Code series, one I decided to add on that won’t be out until next spring. I introduced a firefighter in book 1 and he really just needed his own story.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
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Excerpt from Her Fake Boyfriend:
Hannah Jeong was halfway through a glass of Cabernet when her ex-boyfriend’s best friend strode into the bar.
“Damn.” She dipped her head, letting her curtain of black hair shield her face as she prayed fervently that he hadn’t spotted her.
Good lord, this was the last thing she needed. Her pulse quickened as she set her glass down on the table.
“What is it?”
Please don’t be so obvious, Kristen.
Even as she silently willed her friend to be chill, the other woman’s gaze swung around the bar.
Just the potential for a super uncomfortable small-talk session. Which was about as fun as getting a cavity filled.
If it was possible to slink farther down in the chair, Hannah would’ve, but then she’d be under the table.
“Oh hey, isn’t that my brother’s friend? Derrick?”
“Eric. And shush.” Hannah grimaced and searched her friend’s eyes. “Did he see us?”
“Um, yeah, he saw us.” Kristen gave a small wave and sighed. “Sorry, but he’s heading over here.”
“God, I’ll take the filling instead,” she muttered under her breath.
“What was that?”
“Oh just pondering gravity.”
Kristen gave her a what the hell look.
As if this night could be any more awkward. She was already hanging out with the younger sister of her ex, and now she was going to have to face his best friend-slash-roomie?
“Hannah. Kristen. How’s it going?” The deep voice rumbled from above them.
Well, no avoiding it now.
Hannah bit back a sigh before lifting her head and flashing a smile. “Eric. How funny seeing you here.”
“Yeah. I’m a branch auditor at a bank just down the street.” He glanced behind him and nodded at another guy who was waiting near the bar. “A coworker and I come over for happy hour now and then.”
Seattle wasn’t exactly a small town, so that was a pretty unlucky coincidence for her.
“We’re out for Hannah’s birthday,” Kristen informed him brightly.
“It’s your birthday?” Eric’s blue gaze swung to hers with an intensity that had her shifting in her chair.
“Tomorrow’s my birthday. Friday night just worked better to meet up.”
How bad would it look if she tossed back a half a glass of wine in seconds? This conversation would have been so much easier with the entire glass in her.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Eric. He was a sweet, genuine guy she used to love to hang out with at parties.
So why was she being so freaking awkward with him right now?
Actually, she knew why. He was James’s friend and seeing him brought up a slew of emotions she still wasn’t ready to deal with.
In her mind, there was yellow “caution” tape all around Eric.
“Really? Well, happy early birthday.” His tone was warm. Sincere.
With how genuine and just overall nice he was, it was easy to forget who he was. Some of the tension eased from her body.
“Thanks. Twenty-seven, heading toward thirty at light speed.”
“Sorry, but I’m going to beat you to thirty by a couple months. September birthday and all.”
“Oh, so the competitiveness goes beyond the yard games.” The teasing comment was out before she could stop it.
For a moment, she’d slipped back into her old comfort level with him. Back in the days when she’d visit the guys’ house and spend weekends barbecuing and playing games outside.
“Embarrassingly competitive,” he admitted with a grin. “Hey, I like the new hair by the way.”
She touched a strand, forgetting he hadn’t seen it recently. Her hair had been down to her waist before she’d chopped off about six inches.
“Thanks. I had some layers put in and decided to go shorter just before summer.”
After the breakup.
She didn’t add that part. The need for change had hit her hard and in more than one way.
And why had she given Eric the detailed breakdown on her hair like he was ‘fashion dude’? She probably should’ve stopped after thanks.
“Well, I like it. It suits you.” He glanced at Kristen now. “And, hey, I hear you’re back in Seattle?”
“Yeah. I left Vegas over the summer and moved in with Blake.”
“That’s great. I’m glad the two of you worked out. You’re really good for him.”
Hannah glanced toward Kristen, silently agreeing. Blake was another one of James’s and Eric’s friends who’d initially lived in the house. The three were tight as brothers. Always had been.
They’d been in the same fraternity early in college and then had moved into a rental house. Or ‘the bachelor pad,’ as she’d called it. A bunch of grown, unmarried men sharing a house.
While the other two caught up and chatted, Hannah took a moment to observe Eric a bit stealthily.
Despite initially dreading this small talk, it was actually pretty nice seeing him again.
He really was a good guy. He’d always taken the time to talk with her whenever she’d been over at James’s. Especially when James had been distracted with school stuff.
As far as she knew, Eric had never had a super serious relationship. At least, she’d never seen him bring a girl over.
Which was weird. He was attractive enough with his sandy-blond hair and blue eyes. He was definitely the shortest of the guys, probably coming in a couple inches under six feet, but to her five-foot frame, that was still super tall.
Hmm. Maybe he was gay?
The thought crossed her mind, but she shrugged it off. While she hadn’t seen women hanging around him, she hadn’t seen any men either. He was probably one of those guys who kept his love life private.
“Well, it’s good to have you back,” Eric was saying to Kristen. “You and Blake should come over for a barbecue soon.”
Oof. That invite is clearly not extended to me.
Hannah tossed back the rest of her wine before she could stop herself. Heat stole up the back of her neck and she shifted in her seat, wishing she were invisible.
Those weekly barbecues had been a huge part of her life back when she’d been together with James.
Eric seemed to realize what he’d said, because he cursed lightly under his breath. “Sorry.” He swung his gaze back to Hannah. “I mean, you’re welcome anytime too. If that’s not too weird.”
“It’s totally weird.”
That was the wine talking now, but hey, where was the lie?
Eric’s lips twitched. “We miss seeing you.”
We? She knew James missed her. He still sent her a text at least once every couple of weeks telling her he wanted her back. She had yet to reply to one.
It’d been almost six months since she’d ended things with James. Six months since she’d gone to the guys’ weekly barbecue, something that was as routine as shaving her legs.
“Well, I mean, no pressure or anything, but I kind of miss kicking your butt at cornhole.”
That drew an honest laugh and she shook her head. “Actually, I’m pretty sure I kicked your butt.”
“You could be right on that, but I’m going to stick with denial.”
Eric shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans, making the button-up shirt tighten across his chest. Her gaze locked on that area of his body, noting the broad shoulders.
She made the somewhat detached observation, because it was easier than making eye contact with him. She’d already seen the flash of sympathy in his eyes at one point.
“Anyway, I guess I should get back to my friend. Good seeing you both.” Eric nodded. “Tell Blake we need to meet up soon, will ya, Kris?”
Once he’d disappeared, Hannah let out a slow breath.
“I’m sorry. Was that totally uncomfortable?” Kristen asked softly. “I should’ve realized it might be.”
“It was a little at first. But Eric’s such a nice guy, I got over it.”
“Yeah, he is.” Kristen paused. “So, answer this. Was it more or less uncomfortable than having dinner with me?”
Hannah lifted her head and met her friend’s questioning eyes and grimaced.
“Hey, you’re not the one who sucked face with another girl while being in a relationship with me, Kristen. That was your brother.”
“I know. And it was a total dick thing to do.” Kristen cupped her beer and sighed.
A thought pricked, leaving Hannah unsettled. “You didn’t invite me out tonight to convince me to take your brother back, did you?”
“What? No. Just for the record, I am totally, hashtag, Team Hannah.” With a slight shrug, Kristen lowered her gaze. “Look, you’re more than just a friend. You’re like a big sister to me. Always have been. And I don’t want to lose that friendship. It’s part of the reason I made you join me tonight. I need you to know that.”
A small smile tugged at Hannah’s lips and the emotional wall she put up crumbled a bit.
Kristen had been as much of a part of her life as James had. When they’d first become a couple in middle school, Kristen had been a cute eight-year-old who’d tagged along with them whenever she could.
Hannah gave a small nod. “You’re like a sister to me too. Maybe I’m kind of terrible at showing it, but I really am glad you invited me out.”
“Here you are, ladies.” The waitress arrived with their food. “Your dinners, and one cotton candy martini for the birthday girl.”
“Oh.” Slightly confused, Hannah accepted the bright, festive drink. “Thanks.”
“Don’t thank me.” The waitress gestured to the bar area. “Thank that gentleman over there.”
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Thou shalt not sleep with thy friend’s ex…
Eric Nordland has been in love with his best friend’s girl since he met her. And now that she’s single, the temptation to make a move is killing him. Especially since their paths keep crossing. Dating your friend’s ex is a big bro code violation, but when Hannah comes to him in trouble, there’s no way he’ll leave her to fend for herself.
Coming out of the only romantic relationship she’s ever known, Hannah Jeong isn’t really looking for a rebound. But when the creepy parent of one of her students starts to stalk her, she jumps at Eric’s offer to pose as her fake boyfriend. What she didn’t expect was to start having feelings for a man she’d always seen as just a friend.
The line between right and wrong becomes fuzzier by the day as the attraction between them grows. Keeping Hannah safe from an obsessive man is just as much Eric’s mission as not giving his heart to a woman he can never have.
Meet the Author:
Shelli is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author who read her first romance novel when she snatched it off her mother’s bookshelf at the age of eleven. One taste and she was forever hooked. It wasn’t until many years later that she decided to pursue writing stories of her own. By then she acknowledged the voices in her head didn’t make her crazy, they made her a writer.
Shelli is a true pluviophile (lover of rain) who currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. She loves Disney, taking sunset pics (follow her on Instagram), baking, nature walking, and spontaneously bursting into song. She’s written various genres of romance, but is most known for her contemporary series such as Marshall Ranch, The McLaughlins, and A is for Alpha.
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