My latest book, “A Catered Romance,” was released February 23 and is available exclusively at Amazon Kindle. It’s actually a revised, re-titled, sensuous version of my first published book from Avalon Books.
Here’s the blurb:
There's more than business brewing between two old high school flames...Stubbornly self-reliant Mary Beth Kendrick needs financial backing to keep her catering business cooking. A looming corporate buyout forces her to accept help from Tom Sackett, the man who broke her heart and left her distrustful of men. Unable to forget Mary Beth, Tom sets out to win her forgiveness. As he gets to know her again through their shared business interests, he realizes he wants more than forgiveness from her. He wants her in his life.Grateful for Tom's support but unwilling to trust him, Mary Beth vows to keep their relationship strictly business. But his attentiveness, culminating in a night of passion, starts to melt her icy resolve and shows her the caring, sensitive man Tom has become. Can Mary Beth learn to love and trust again? Will she and Tom open their hearts to a second chance at love?
You may be wondering what the title of this blog has to do with my book. I want to tell you about my long, tough journey to publication and why I had to come home to find success.
I’ve loved to read since I learned how and I’ve always been a sucker for a good love story. Since I was a young teen I’d dreamed of being a published author but life got in the way. Some years back when a friend and I were sharing Harlequin romances, we looked at each other one day and said, “We could write these.” Hah! Were we in for a rude awakening. Writing a romance filled with emotion is a lot harder than it looks when you’re reading one of the wonderful, seamless romance novels out there.
It took me ten long, hard years to sell my first book. That book was the second book I’d written. The very first book I ever wrote (never published) was a sensuous contemporary romance set on a ranch in Wyoming. You know the old adage to write what you know. I didn’t pay attention to those words of wisdom when I wrote that book. I’m an East Coast girl, born and bred. I love the West, and I’ve spent lots of time in the Southwest, but I’d only gone through Wyoming once by train when I was thirteen. I did my research on Wyoming, but I’ve never been on a ranch. I didn’t have a clue what I was writing about. I love my hero in that book. Still do. His name is Alec and he’s half Cherokee, tall, with long black hair tied in a ponytail. Yum. That book went nowhere. One editor liked my writing but hated Alec. Said he was self-serving and arrogant. Contest judges were even meaner. Seems everyone but me hated Alec.
So after crying over yet another rejection, I took a deep breath and decided to write what I know. What I know is my home state of Delaware, a really boring place except for the beach (more about that later). I escaped Delaware twice (once to live in Toronto, Canada, and once to live in Pennsylvania) but they found me and brought me back. The original title of my first published book was “A Catered Affair,” set in my home city of Wilmington. A little tidbit - the heroine and her friend are named after my two best friends growing up, Mary Beth and Gail. The hero, Tom, is named after a boy I was crazy about through grade school and high school. The real Tom once said something very hurtful about me in seventh grade, something that stayed with me for years. I took my hurtful feelings and used them for my heroine Mary Beth. Writing “A Catered Affair” was cathartic. That book flowed. It was so much easier to write about a place I had intimate knowledge of. I wrote the book sensual and targeted Silhouette Desire. Imagine my joy when a Sil editor asked for the full after I’d sent her a partial. I was sure Sil would buy my book. Imagine my depression when I got the rejection from them.
Someone suggested I query Avalon Books. Avalon publishes hardcovers and they’ve been in business over sixty years. Their romances are sweet - no sex, not much sensuality, no cursing, very little, if any, alcohol consumption. I didn’t think I could write “sweet,” but I was willing to give it a shot. I pitched Catered to the Avalon editor at a conference. By this time I’d felt as if I’d been through a war with all my rejections. I wasn’t about to change my book to sweet unless the editor asked to see a full of the book. She asked, and I changed it - took out the sex, the cursing and the alcohol. I was shocked at how many curse words I’d used. Changing this book from sensuous to sweet taught me two valuable lessons: one, you really should write what you know; and two, when I couldn’t rely on the sex to bring the couple together, I had to increase the emotion between them. I ended up with a stronger story.
I have the digital rights to my book and have published it on Amazon under the new title, “A Catered Romance.” I added back a few curse words, added some wine drinking and one love scene, but I kept the book close to the Avalon version. I like my new cover better though.
Most of my books and all of my short stories (I’ve published a dozen short romance stories in women’s magazines) are set in places I know: Delaware, Philadelphia, the Delaware beaches, the New Jersey shore. My paranormal, “Cursed Mates,” from Noble Romance Publishing, is set in Maine. I visited Maine once and loved it. The Maine coast lends itself to scary stories. We all know Stephen King lives there. My romantic suspense, “Murder, Mi Amore,” from The Wild Rose Press, is set almost entirely in Italy. I’ve visited Italy twice and have relatives there. Every location in “Murder, Mi Amore” is authentic. The story ends in Las Vegas, where my son lives. I’ve been to Vegas many times. I’ve had success when I’ve written about places I know so maybe the old adage is correct.
I’m not saying authors should write only about places they have intimate knowledge of. Most authors do an excellent job of adding veracity to places they’ve never been. When I wrote that first book set in Wyoming, I didn’t have the skill to pull it off. The setting felt forced.
I don’t know if I’ll set another story in a place I’ve never visited. I’ve been writing long enough now that I believe I could make a Wyoming setting real. I want to rewrite that first book because I love Alec and my heroine Sabrina so much. They deserve a story. I’ll be sure Alec’s not so arrogant this time. Maybe I’ll set the story in the mean streets of Philadelphia where Alec can be a fish out of water, so to speak, rather than Sabrina, a New York decorator, being a fish out of water in Wyoming.
Here’s a fun fact. We refer to the beach area of Delaware as “the beach.” If you’re in northern Delaware, where I live, eighty miles from “the beach,” you’ll say, “I’m going to the beach.” But if you’re going to the New Jersey shore, no matter where you are, you say, “I’m going down the shore.” In New Jersey you only use the word beach when you are actually at the beach looking at the sand and ocean. A very clear distinction that we who live in the Philadelphia-Delaware region know.
I hope you enjoyed my little writing journey from Wyoming to Delaware. Please visit my website for information on my other books.
I’m on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/carolynmatkowsky
On Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/CaraMarsi
“A Catered Romance” is sold exclusively at Amazon Kindle:
Below is an excerpt. Enjoy!
“Nice place you have here.”
Mary Beth jumped at the sound of the deep male voice behind her. Water from the pot she was filling sloshed onto the floor. She dropped the pot into the sink and jerked the faucet shut, then gripped the counter edge.
His voice. Richer, mellowed, smooth as the finest wine. Warming her with old memories, old yearnings. She was eighteen again. In love. Dreaming of a life by his side. Until he betrayed her.
Anger, like boiling water spilled on her lap, jolted her. Biting on her lip, she turned slowly to face Tom Sackett.
He filled the doorway, his masculine power reaching out, drawing her in as it always had. Despite his aristocratic breeding and elegantly tailored suit, he still had the look of the renegade about him. His thick black hair curled around his ears and trailed down his neck, a trifle too long. The hot, deep blue of his eyes scorched her.
Lifting her chin, she willed starch into her spine. “You're early,” she said, glancing at the clock. “The meeting isn't for another half hour. My partner's not here yet.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Hello to you too. That's not much of a greeting after twelve years.”
She placed a hand on her hip. “As I recall, our last meeting was less than cordial.”
His jaw tightened. “People change, Mary Beth.”
“Believe it.” The determined set of his rugged features stopped any further argument. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.” She tugged on her braid, trying to gain control of her emotions. For the sake of her company, she wouldn't let her feelings interfere. “We have a business deal to negotiate. Nothing more.”
Tom's harsh features softened. He scanned her face, making her wonder if her tension showed. “You're more beautiful than I remember.”
Awareness and a flash of anger shot through her. She dug her nails into her palms. “Saving my company is my primary concern.”
“Mine too,” he said. “A businessman expects a return on his investment.” He strode into the kitchen with the confidence born of inherited wealth and family standing.
Squaring her shoulders, Mary Beth fought the onslaught of old hurts. She'd grown up in the years since he'd humiliated her. Her family might not have his social connections, but her poverty-stricken upbringing had made her strong. Strong enough to fight for her professional life and keep her pride -- and her heart - - intact.
“Coffee smells good. May I have a cup?” Tom straddled one of the high stools surrounding the white-tiled center counter.
Glad to do something to distract her from past memories and Tom's disturbing presence, she grabbed a heavy white mug from the cabinet and poured a steaming cup of vanilla almond coffee. “Just cream, right?”
“You remembered,” he said.
“A lucky guess.” She handed him the mug. His fingers grazed hers as he took it, sending heat racing up her arm.
She escaped to the opposite side of the kitchen and leaned against the counter edge. The citrus scent of his cologne lingered in her nostrils, stirring up the unwanted memory of their kiss at the formal. But the sweet kiss that had promised love and dreams fulfilled had been tainted with betrayal.