Hi Joanne and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Heir!
Hello! So excited to be here for a visit!
Tell us about the book with this fun little challenge using the title of the book:
This is the series finale for Mesa Falls, and readers find out the paternity of the missing heir!
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
I liked the spirited first exchange between the characters when the heroine arrives in Mesa Falls without the promised “heir” of the title beside her –
“We had an agreement,” Desmond reminded her tightly, unaccustomed to his directives not being followed.
Her full lips compressed into a flat line before she spoke. “As I recall, we had a disagreement since I wasn’t keen on being followed by your private detective. I told you Matthew didn’t do well with change, and that he needed to return to a known environment where he thrives. You insisted I bring him against my better judgment.”
“Those were the terms,” Desmond reminded Nicole.
“Your terms, not mine.” Her brown eyes flashed with a fire that didn’t come through her cool words, revealing a passion that might have intrigued him if she hadn’t just upended all his plans.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
I think we see the hero’s first attraction (beyond physical awareness) to the heroine in the lines above when they meet at the airport. He admires her fierce defense of her nephew that shows a side of her character he hadn’t expected. The heroine is first attracted to Desmond’s clear interest in her nephew and his concern for the boy that matches her own.
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
The biggest challenge in a series finale with a twisty plot is to bring all the threads together while still keeping the focus on the primary romance. I won’t say I was daunted, but it was something I was very aware of throughout the book. Still, that’s what I was most excited about too. As the conclusion to a six-book series I couldn’t wait to see all the characters living their HEAs.
What, in your mind, makes this book stand out?
I hope the Mesa Falls series stands out for its deep backstory and connected characters. The books reveal, bit by bit, a traumatic past between the heroes of the books, and I think that friendship at the core of Mesa Falls makes it appealing.
The First Kiss…
“That must have been a difficult time for you.”
The empathy in his gaze seemed to tug her toward him. Blinking, she told herself it was an illusion. She didn’t have any reason to trust Desmond. And she sure wasn’t trusting her own instincts right now when her every atom was pulling her toward the man in front of her. She wanted to kiss him, she realized with total clarity and more than a little surprise.
She wanted to fist her fingers in his shirtfront and drag him the rest of the way to her before rising up on her toes and brushing her lips over his for a long, thorough taste.
“Desmond.” His name escaped her on a sigh so needy-sounding she wished she could call it back. Appalled at herself, she covered her mouth with her fingers for a moment while his eyes darkened. Her hand fell away from her lips to try and steer the conversation away from the awkward moment. “That is—I could use some fresh air.”
Oh, that was smooth, she chastised herself. Her heart pounded harder, and she imagined her face growing redder with each beat.
“That’s probably a good idea,” he agreed in a reasonable tone even as he reached for her. “But I need to do something first.”
When his fingers landed on her shoulders, she knew she wasn’t alone in feeling the electric connection between them. He must feel it, too, or he wouldn’t look at her this way right now. Like he was a starving man, and she was a gourmet meal he needed to devour. Yesterday.
So she didn’t question what he needed to do, because whatever it was, she wanted him to do it. Immediately.
Preferably with his hands, his mouth and his delectable hard body, too.
But then his lips crashed down on hers and she couldn’t think at all. She could only sink into the most sinfully hot kiss she’d ever known.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
I would choose one of the scenes that pits them at odds a bit– her trying to pry loose his secrets, and him trying to find out hers:
“I wish I had answers for you, Nicole. But we’re trying to reconstruct the past with a patchwork of guesses. We’ve lost all of the people with the power to confirm or deny our suppositions.”
She frowned, edging back to consider him. “You don’t think this is your friend’s sketchbook?”
“Actually, I do.” The memories of Zach drawing returned to his brain. Clear. Crisp. Like they’d just been back at Dowdon the day before. “Not just because Chiara recalled the things he drew. But because of the sketches inside. The similarity to the horse in the tree house. The similarity to the images Alec used.”
There were too many things that tied Zach to the book, including when it came into Lana Allen’s possession.
“Then why did you hesitate?” She retrieved her phone, returning it to her purse.
Inserting space between them.
He knew he needed to let her go. They weren’t going to end up in each other’s arms again any time soon, no matter how much he wanted that. Wanted her. But he couldn’t help wishing he could rewind things, and…hell. He didn’t know. He couldn’t give her the answers she needed.
“Because even though I think this book belonged to Zach, it still doesn’t seem like enough proof that Zach is Mattie’s Matthew’s father. And bottom line, that’s what you want to know.”
She went very still. Then, stiffly, began to slide the sketchbook back into the packaging.
“Let me,” he offered, taking over the task.
He tucked the corners of the paper cover around the book and then stood it on end beside the love seat.
“Has anyone reached out to Alec Jacobsen to ask him about the images he used in his game?” As she rose to her feet, her skirt brushed his leg briefly.
The need to pull her back to him was so strong that he jammed his hands in the front pockets of his pants as he stood.
“We’ve tried.” He hated to be the one to deliver the news, but she had a right to know. “He was supposed to be watching over things at the casino for me this week, but he hasn’t been seen on-site since last night.”
“What?” Tension radiated from her stiff shoulders. Her clenched fists at her sides. “Meaning he took off as soon as one of your friends tipped him off that we know he stole more of Zach’s artwork than he gave him credit for.”
She whirled away from him, skirt flaring.
“No.” He hastened to place himself between her and the door. “There’s no way that happened. I’m positive.”
“Oh, really?” She halted just inches from him. Close enough to touch. “Last night was Miles’s dinner party. Last night eight of us stood around a billiard table and saw evidence that suggests Alec Jacobsen is a thief. The timing is damning.” Her breathing was hard. Fast.
He wished it was because they were almost touching. But anger sizzled off her words.
“No one tipped him off,” he repeated, staring directly into her furious brown eyes.
“How do you know?” Her gaze narrowed.
She didn’t back down.
And it was a good thing he’d kept his hands in his pockets, because the need to touch her still rode him.
“Because I employed the same private investigator that followed you to Prince Edward Island to keep an eye on Alec for us.”
If your hero had a sexy-times play list, what song(s) would have to be on it?
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer — even if you haven’t heard that one, the title says a lot, doesn’t it?
At Last by Etta James
Teach Me Tonight by Dinah Washington
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
A happy sigh of satisfaction and the smile that goes with it! But also, a sense that love can solve problems. That when we work hard at relationships with good people, we can create loving security for ourselves and the people in our lives. That’s my favorite part of romance.
What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?
I just finished writing my Brooklyn Nights series that begins in July with
A Nine Month Temptation, continues in September with Ways to Tempt the Boss, and finishes in November with Temporary Temptation. I’m really excited about the trilogy and having the books released close together. I also have a Texas Cattleman’s Club story out in August called Trapped with the Texan in the Heir Apparent series. The cover is gorgeous!
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: A special 2-in-1 print release of my book The Rancher and Sophia Singh Sasson’s Running Away with the Bride, plus book swag. (open to US readers).
A digital copy of my books Heartbreaker and The Rancher (open INTL)
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: I shared some of the sexy-times songs on the hero’s playlist. What love song makes you swoon?
Excerpt from The Heir:
Desmond’s fingers flexed on the steering wheel as the sun dipped out of sight behind the snow-capped mountains, leaving the sky painted with streaks of purple tinged with gold.
“We’ll come up with a new plan.” His glance slid sideways. “We have no choice.”
The undertone of blame nettled.
“I hope you’re not expecting me to feel guilty about doing what’s best for Matthew.” She’d expected better from Desmond based on the two phone calls she’d had with him. He’d eased her concerns about returning to Montana, and—she’d thought—done what he could to make the trip easier. “I won’t apologize for taking care of him to the best of my ability. I owe my sister that much.”
She was horrified to hear the crack in her voice as the last words left her mouth. She would not show weakness now. Except thoughts of never seeing Lana again still had the power to take her legs right out from under her.
Blinking fast, she glanced out the window again as the darkness deepened. Near the road, a tractor tilled the ground with the help of headlights.
If Desmond heard the emotions in her voice, he didn’t acknowledge them. But he continued, more gently, “What’s Matthew like?”
“Brilliant,” she said without hesitation, grateful for the conversational about-face. “The more time I spend with him, the more I admire my sister for recognizing his unique abilities early on and finding a program to help him thrive. He’s great in math, with an uncanny memory for facts. He also draws really well, which has given us some common ground, since I work in graphic design.”
She’d been fascinated by her nephew’s detailed ink sketches of skyscrapers and cityscapes he drew while in Prince Edward Island. The last-minute trip had been an attempt to keep him out of the spotlight in case the news of how he’d benefited from the Salazar book became public, but Desmond had assured her that information—for now—remained private.
He steered off the county route and onto a private road, the movement hitching at his coat sleeve enough to expose a sleek silver Patek Philippe watch that cost more than she made in a year.
“How are you adjusting to life as the guardian of a thirteen-year-old boy?” he asked with surprising insight. Caring, even.
“Honestly?” She thought about how much her life had changed in the months since her sister died. Her world had been flipped on its ear. “It’s been a little overwhelming.”
“I think any parent of a thirteen-year-old would agree it’s a lot of work.” He gave a nod to the operator of a tractor with a snowplow attachment traveling in the opposite direction.
“It’s not because of Mattie, though,” she assured him, unwilling to give a false impression of her smart sweetheart of a nephew. “He’s great. I just worry I’m not doing things the right way. I’ll wake up at night in a panic that I messed up his health insurance or somehow compromised the educational services he receives any time I go into the school’s website to file a form.”
Desmond’s phone chimed through the dashboard Bluetooth, but he hit a button to silence the screen, giving her his undivided attention.
“From what I hear, that’s effective parenting. If you’re worried whether or not you’re doing a good job, you probably are.”
For a moment, she thought his tone sounded almost wistful. But one glance over at his inscrutable expression told her she must be imagining it. Everything about Desmond Pierce suggested he’d been born to wealth and privilege, a background underscored by his attendance at the exclusive Dowdon School on the West Coast. All of the Mesa Falls owners had attended the expensive private institution that educated so many of America’s elite.
“I hope that’s true.” She kept an eye on the road ahead for her first glimpse of the ranch after weeks away from Montana. “Has there been any progress from your private investigator about who was responsible for terminating me during my brief time working here?”
A muscle flicked in Desmond’s jaw, a brief sign of displeasure despite his impassive visage.
“Yes. And I can assure you it wasn’t any of my partners. But I’d like to save the debriefing until after you’re settled.” He glanced her way, his expression thoughtful. “I realize trust won’t come easily for either of us, but I want answers about your nephew as much as you do.”
The sincerity in his voice was hard to miss. From their phone calls arranging this meeting, she’d had a glimpse of how much Desmond trusted his business partners. She understood he wanted to clear their names of all scandal having to do with the book their mentor had written that profited off real people’s misfortunes. But she didn’t share his faith in the men of Mesa Falls. Someone powerful had made sure she lost her job here.
And maybe there was a reason Lana hadn’t identified the father of her child. Maybe he wasn’t a good person.
“That’s fine,” she agreed as the impressive main lodge came into view. Built in the style of the National Parks lodges, the split-log structure combined woodsy appeal with elegance, the landscape lighting drawing attention to deep second-story balconies and huge glass windows overlooking the Bitterroot River. “But keep in mind I’m not some kind of diva guest who needs to unpack twelve suitcases’ worth of clothes for every occasion. I’ll be ready to go in an hour at most.”
Desmond was silent for a moment as he pulled the SUV around the horseshoe driveway, stopping under a sheltered portico in front of the lodge. A liveried attendant approached the vehicle, but Desmond halted him with a gesture.
“Would you like to have an early dinner?” Desmond turned toward her, his thigh shifting against the leather seat now that the vehicle was parked.
His gray eyes met hers, the invitation she saw in them tickling her insides in a way that felt all wrong for a man she needed to be wary around. If any one of the Mesa Falls partners turned out to be Mattie’s father—Desmond included—they would have cause to take the boy away from her. Certainly any one of them would have the financial ability to hire the best attorneys to make that happen. Her stomach knotted.
“I had something on the plane.” It wasn’t technically a lie, because she’d eaten the protein bar she’d packed from home. She had questions she wanted answered about her sister, and the sooner she got started on the quest, the sooner she could leave Montana for good. “I can meet with any of your partners who are free this evening—”
“Me. I’m free this evening.” He looked at her with a singular focus, like she was the only thing he had on his agenda for the rest of the week. Or—a wicked part of her brain amended—like she was the only item on his personal menu. “I’ll meet you in the lobby in an hour, and we’ll get started.”
Her pulse kicked up in answer, as if he’d suggested something more intimate than a business meeting. Her reactions were all off around him, distracting her from something important. She needed to put her nephew first no matter how confusing the sensual undercurrent between her and Desmond Pierceher host.
“Good.” She gave a nod of confirmation, hating that her voice had sounded breathless. Hungry. And not just because she’d only eaten a protein bar. Grinding her teeth against the surge of unfamiliar feelings, Nicole shoved them to the back of her mind. “See you then.”
She must have missed a sign between Desmond and the valet, because no sooner were the words out of her mouth than the passenger side door was opened by an attendant.
“Welcome to Mesa Falls, miss,” the young man said with a smile while another plucked her suitcase from the back. “I hope you enjoy your stay.”
Off balance but unwilling to show it, Nicole wrapped her coat tighter around her waist and turned to step outside.
But not before Desmond’s parting words to her stroked along her senses.
“I’m looking forward to it, Nicole.”
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Will he give her answers… or tempt her to his bed?
Helping Nicole Cruz discover who fathered her orphaned nephew draws ranch and casino owner Desmond Pierce into the cruel legacy of secrets he’d rather avoid. Also unavoidable: the red-hot attraction sizzling between them. But the faster Nicole gets the answers she came for, the sooner she’ll leave Mesa Falls. And that’s suddenly a prospect more daunting than any scandals they may uncover…
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Meet the Author:
Joanne Rock is a USA Today bestselling author. She’s written over one hundred books, most recently focusing on sexy contemporaries and small-town family sagas. She enjoys romance for prioritizing relationships and encouraging readers to follow their dreams. A frequent speaker at regional and national writing conferences she enjoys giving back to the writing community that nurtured and inspired her early career. She has a Masters degree in Literature from the University of Louisville. When she’s not writing, Joanne enjoys travel to gather new ideas.
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