Hi Charlotte and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, His Cinderella Houseguest!
Hi Harlequin Junkies, it’s so lovely to be here!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Although pilot Piper is new to Dr Linc’s (short for Lincoln) helimed crew, the pair have worked together years before on tours of duty in war zones – and they’ve been fighting their crazy, mutual attraction for the better part of a decade!
I love how Piper is so fierce, so proud, and so sassy, even though she has spent decades carrying around the most tragic secret.
Meanwhile Linc – ex-army doc, and now superstar helimed doc – took quite a while to trust me enough to tell me his own secrets about being a Lord!
I usually have a blast writing each of my heroines and heroes, but I must admit that I particularly loved writing Piper and Linc’s story.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
Oh gosh…what to choose?! How about the moment Linc sees her again, after years apart…?
“Abruptly, something followed the attraction; something that was far more potent – and unwelcome – than mere chemistry. It punched through Linc in the split second before he quashed it, and it was all he could do to stay standing in the doorway – affecting a casual air – as he folded his arms across his chest. As though that could somehow protect him from the emotions charging through him.
Attraction. History. But worst of all, guilt. For leaving at the end of that last tour without even a word. Because he didn’t let people get close and he didn’t get attached.
And Piper had threatened to do both.”
What inspired this book?
- I have such absolute respect for military HEMS crews, and civilian helimed crews, so I love writing stories with such a setting. Whilst I have never been a HEMS helicopter pilot like Piper, I have flown a heli – so those scenes were fun to write.
- With His Cinderella Houseguest, the first scene that crept into my head was of a leather-pilot’s-jacket clad Piper (nicknamed Legs, btw) riding to work on a motorbike.
In the end, Linc got the motorbike, but Piper got to keep her heli and her leather jacket.
- I loved the idea of a helimed doctor hero who was also – unbeknown even to those who thought they were closest to him – a Lord.
- Imposter syndrome – the idea of Piper being outwardly so sassy and fierce, and fighting tooth and nail to become a helicopter pilot, all the while waiting for someone to say she didn’t belong there because of her past.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
I think it’s fair to say that my main characters always surprise me – some much more than others!
That first kernel of a story can unfurl in many different ways. Sometimes it’s the basic plot, or maybe just a single scene; other times I have an idea of who my heroine is, or perhaps my hero. Then it’s a matter of writing the first skeleton draft of the story. By the time I reach about twenty thousand words, my H/h have finally begun to trust me enough to reveal their true selves to me – their most closely guarded secrets, their true motivations, their deepest desires.
That’s when I like to restart their story – this time really having ‘got to know’ who my characters are!
What was your favorite scene to write?
I really enjoyed writing what I call the ‘packet-noodles scene’. Piper has been temporarily crashing at the helimed base when Linc comes across her. Finding her boiling the kettle for her packet-noodle dinner, he is instantly suspicious even though she denies being quasi-homeless:-
Hastily, she began stuffing all her belongings back into her rucksack. Maybe she could sleep in her car instead. At least that way, she wouldn’t have to let her family down. Shrugging her leather jacket on and throwing her bag over her shoulder, Piper headed out to look for Linc.
‘Okay, I’m going.’ She ducked her head around the door to the office, but he wasn’t there.
He probably didn’t want to hear anything more from her tonight anyway. She’d be better slipping out quietly, and in the morning they didn’t have to discuss it at all.
She was halfway along the corridor when Linc appeared at the door of the kitchen, her noodles dinner in his hand and a distinctly unimpressed expression tugging at his features.
‘Are you forgetting something? This was what you were going to eat?’
‘Oh, thanks,’ she muttered, not bothering to answer the question itself—what would be the point?
She stretched out her hand to take it, but he dropped it unceremoniously in the bin beside him.
‘You aren’t serious? You can’t live on that.’
‘Don’t…’ Piper gaped at the bin in dismay. ‘That’s all I’ve got. And I don’t live on it. You made a full breakfast this morning, for a start.’
She hesitated, torn between needing the unopened pot, and not wanted to let him see her take it out of the bin. He skewered her with a look.
‘You aren’t honestly debating whether or not to go dumpster-diving, are you?’
Heat bloomed in her cheeks anew.
‘Of course not.’
‘And you’re still a bad liar.
‘Fine.’ She snorted. ‘But it’s hardly a dumpster. It’s the kitchen bin, and I know for a fact that it was cleaned out at the end of the shift so there’ll be nothing in there but my unopened pot.’
‘Stop.’ He shook his head, slamming the light off and stepping out in the hall so decisively that she almost stumbled in her effort to back up. ‘I don’t need to hear any more. You can come home with me.’
‘What?’ It felt as if all the air had been sucked out of her lungs in a single instant. ‘No. That’s ridiculous.’
‘No more ridiculous than what I’ve heard tonight,’ Linc growled. ‘You’re camping on the couch and living off packet noodles, meanwhile I have a two-bed apartment, and a fridge full of fresh food.’
‘I’m not staying with you.’ She shook her head, horrified. ‘I can’t.’
Though whether at the idea of it, or at the way her body was reacting so entirely inappropriately, she couldn’t be sure.
‘Don’t be a martyr, Piper,’ he rasped. ‘You can’t stay here, and you clearly don’t have much money if you’re trying to support your mother and brother. The bedrooms at my place are opposite ends of the apartment, and we’ll be here much of the time. You can stay just until the landlord has sorted your own place.’
She wanted to object, to politely decline. The idea of being in such close proximity to Linc seemed like a terrible one. Not to mention the wound it inflicted on her pride, having to rely on him like this.
But pride was no match for the crushing weight of responsibility. There was no doubt that even if she paid Linc something towards her stay, a week with him would be a lot cheaper than a week in a hotel. Especially around here.
Without doubt, her mother could use that money a handful of times over.
‘Okay.’ She nodded at last, stuffing back her unwanted sense of pride. ‘Thank you. It would really help my family.’
And she pretended to herself that there wasn’t a single part of her that was being tempted by entirely un-practical motives.
Not one single part of her, at all.
What was the most difficult scene to write?
Because I write Harlequin Medicals, sometimes the medical scenes can be the hardest part to write – not least because we have to ensure we’re being so accurate.
In this scene, as well as the medical element, it’s the first time in five years – ever since they were a team in a war-zone – that Linc and Piper have had to work together. The close-knit team (including paramedics Tom and Probie) loved and trusted their previous skilled-pilot, Albert – but with a life on the line, Piper has less than eight minutes to get them to trust her enough to land the helimed in a location Albert had, in the past, deemed too risky:-
‘Helimed hotel one-niner, this is hotel zero seven, we have an update on the casualty, over.’
‘Go ahead, hotel zero seven,’ Piper automatically flipped her comms to respond, her years of training kicking in despite the unsettling feeling of having Linc back on the scene.
‘Seems the patient was taking part in some unofficial dirt-bike races in the woods to the north side of the lake when a collision occurred. They’re quite deep in and the land crew are having trouble reaching them. The patient was propelled approximately six feet up into the air, along with his bike, and when he landed the handlebars of the bike fell onto him. He was bleeding profusely, but the other racers have allegedly managed to staunch it.’
Without even realising what she was doing, Piper cast Linc a look. They both knew that the injury was serious. The patient could bleed out in a matter of minutes, so it was up to them to find a way to get to them. Fast.
‘Message received, hotel zero seven,’ Linc acknowledged. ‘We’re about two minutes out but the area to the north is quite densely wooded, can you get someone to step into a clearing and try to signal to us, over?’
‘Roger that, Helimed hotel one-niner. Will ask now. Out.’
‘Best landing area?’ Piper asked over her headset as the air desk clicked out.
‘There are only a couple of possibilities.’ Linc’s voice was tight, but it was the expression on his face that told her a fuller story.
Evidently, if she wanted to land close then she was going to have to do some pretty nifty flying.
Sure enough, Tom’s voice crackled over the headset from his seat in the rear, next to a probationary paramedic lad who had only been introduced to her as Probie.
‘No, you can’t land on the north side. We’ve been here before and the main race humps are deep into the woods. It’s too dense to land so Albert had to ground us close to the lake and we had to trek in. It takes about ten minutes.’
‘The lad likely doesn’t have ten minutes,’ Linc noted grimly. ‘Can you get us any closer, Piper?’
Focussing on the woods, she looked for anything that might work.
‘Look for a track or a clearing,’ Piper urged, nosing her helicopter forward.
‘Like I said, it’s too dense and—’
‘There’s a track at nine o’clock position,’ Linc interrupted Tom’s caution as Piper brought the heli around.
‘I have visual,’ she confirmed, dropping slightly to get a better look. ‘It’s narrow, and the ground is bumpy.’
‘But you can land it?’ Linc urged.
Piper took another look. There looked to be a marginally wider section about fifty metres further up. The pylons were still there, but they dipped a little further into the tree line. It wouldn’t be the easiest landing…but then again, it wouldn’t be the hardest she’d ever managed either.
‘I can land it,’ she agreed. ‘Probie, you’re going to have to watch my tail. Tom, check the rotors on the right side. Linc…’
‘I’ve got the left,’ he said immediately, reading her thoughts. ‘You just focus on the wires and the landing.’
Edging forward, angling her heli as they went, Piper dropped lower. Lower.
‘Tail might be a bit low,’ Probie’s nervous voice suddenly piped up. ‘I’m not sure…I can’t…’
‘Can you go forward another metre?’ Linc asked, his calm voice taking over.
Piper eyed the track ahead of her. Another metre forward could be too close on the nose. But perhaps she could land on the hump a little further again, clearing both the nose and tail. She cast a critical eye over the power lines. Further forward would be moving out of the widest part, but she was fairly sure there could be enough room if she angled the heli a little more.
‘How are the rotors looking on the left if I move forward about ten metres, Linc?’
He craned his neck for a better view. Tom and Probie were silent, clearly out of their depths. But she could deal with that. She absolutely trusted Linc’s assessment anyway.
How unexpectedly easy it was to fall back into being a team with him. As it once was.
‘Yeah,’ he answered after a moment. ‘It’ll be tight but there’s room.’
Carefully, she edged forward, constantly reassessing the wires, the rotors, the tail, confident that Linc was doing the same on the left side. And then, finally, they were down safely. Less than eight minutes since the emergency call had first come in.
And it was ridiculous how good the compliment—however gruffly uttered—made her feel. But Linc was straight back onto the task.
‘Okay, Probie.’ He leapt out of the aircraft and grabbed his bags, with Tom following suit. ‘Stay with Piper to help shut the heli down, then bring bloods and additional kit as fast as you can.’
And the next moment he was gone, racing along the track towards the waiting rider. Disappearing over a ridge exactly the way he’d done the last time she’d seen him, five years ago almost to the week.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
I do have my ‘voice’, yet I feel, like many authors, that I’m evolving – and honing those writing skills – all the time. I’m rapidly coming up on writing my twenty-fifth book, and I’d like to think that they each offer something a little different for a reader.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I think I just like the idea of being able to offer someone a few hours of pure escapism. It’s incredibly touching when I receive emails/messages from readers telling me that they’ve been having a stressful day/week but that they picked up one of my books and lost themselves in the HEA-story.
One of the secondary characters (in the second book I ever wrote) had self-harmed in the past but had turned her life around and become a councillor, helping other children find coping mechanisms.
I vividly remember receiving my first ever message from a reader telling me how much that character had touched them, and asking if I had plans to give her a story of her own. (I do!)
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
My next book, Neurosurgeon, Dad…Husband? is due out February 2023, and is Andrea and Seth’s story.
When Neurosurgeon Seth suddenly finds himself surrogate dad to his recently orphaned nephew, who has developed Traumatic Selective Mutism, it’s Scrub Nurse Andrea who teaches him how to communicate with the little six-year old.
I am currently working on book 23 – Willow and Nate’s story, which will also be out in 2023.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I have three sets of giveaways. Each winner will receive a copy of His Cinderella Houseguest, plus a random two-in-one of one of my other books with another author.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Piper loves the thrill of being a helicopter pilot. Are there any daredevil hobbies that you enjoy, or would love to try? (Or do you get your kicks from something less thrill-seeking?!)
Excerpt from His Cinderella Houseguest:
Piper was perfection. She tasted of longing, and need, and all manner of sinful things that he’d spent the better part of a decade telling himself he didn’t imagine every time he’d looked at this woman. From the swell of her breasts pressing against his chest, to the scrape of her tongue against his.
As if they’d both been waiting for this moment for a lifetime. Even two. Linc forgot that this was all meant to be a show, pretend. He only knew that he didn’t want to stop. Didn’t think he could stop.
He poured himself into the kiss. Confessing a thousand truths to her that he couldn’t say with words—not even in the privacy of his own head.
But they were in that kiss, and he couldn’t seem to stem them.
This was the excuse he’d been looking for. The moment to allow them both to cross that invisible line they’d drawn between them in the desert sand, all those years ago. And her presence at this dinner no longer felt pretend, or staged, perhaps it never really had done. It felt right, as though she belonged here, by his side, every bit as much as he did.
The kiss stretched on for ever, glorious and exultant. But when they finally pulled apart, coming up for air and remembering where they were, he knew he wasn’t ready to let the evening end with just that.
By the glazed expression in Piper’s stunning eyes, and her telltale rapid pulse at her throat—the one that begged him to cover it with his mouth—she felt exactly the same way.
Suddenly the ballroom felt too crowded. Too suffocating. Abruptly, he dropped his arms from around his fake fiancée’s luscious body while keeping hold of her hand, then turned her round and ushered them both off the dance floor.
‘Where are we going?’ she asked breathlessly as they weaved their way through the crowd.
Linc couldn’t bring himself to answer. He couldn’t bring himself to do anything to break the moment; to give him pause to rethink what he was about to do. What he’d wanted to do with this one woman from the first time he’d ever laid eyes on her, before they’d thrown up obstacles such as professional behaviour, and duty.
But now none of those obstacles existed any more and finally, finally, they could be honest with each other about who they really were. And what they wanted from the other.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
When midnight strikes…
Will his Cinderella stay in his arms?
Helicopter Pilot, Piper Green is supposed to be Dr Lincoln Oakes’ new air ambulance colleague—not his houseguest! Yet discovering she’s practically homeless, he offers her his spare room. In such close quarters, sparks soon start to fly, but they agree to keep things strictly professional. Until a dazzling kiss makes their chemistry impossible to ignore… But Piper has a secret and when Linc learns the truth, could their chance at happy-ever-after disappear?
Meet the Author:
Born and raised on the Wirral Peninsula, England, Charlotte Hawkes is mum to two intrepid boys who love her to play building block games with them and who object loudly to the amount of time she spends on the computer. When she isn’t writing-or building with blocks-she is company director for a small Anglo/French construction company.
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