New Year, New Books
Happy New Year! I hope you got to spend some time during the holidays curled up with a book. I know I did…I was finishing two that will be out in 2019!
That’s right! I have a new full length novel coming out later this year (as well as Black Canary: Ignite, of course), and a cute little novella – both for adult readers. The stories are about completely different characters, but both take place in Little Bridge Island, Florida — a fictional town that’s SLIGHTLY based on the island on which I currently live, Key West.
Bridal Boot Camp is a novella that will be released in e-format in May of 2019. The story behind it was inspired by the time I joined this workout class and started realizing that almost everybody there (except for me and the trainer) was a bride, bridesmaid, or mother-of-the bride. It was Bridal Boot Camp!
It was pretty funny. But as a writer, of course I started imagining ways it could be even funnier….
In Bridal Boot Camp, a sheriff’s deputy named Ryan Martinez mistakenly enrolls in a Bridal Boot Camp class after being ordered to take yoga following an on-duty “incident.” Ryan’s plight is loosely based on something that happened to my brother who is a police officer, and whose chief ordered members of his squad to take yoga to combat stress.
Ryan doesn’t drop the class, however, even after finding out he’s in the wrong one. Why would he? He thinks it’s going to be a breeze–how hard can a bridal workout be, anyway? And of course, there are a lot of cute ladies in there!
Let’s just say that Ryan is in for the workout of his life…in more ways than one!
Looking for a tropical escape?
Welcome to Little Bridge, one of the smallest—and most beautiful—islands in the Florida Keys, home to sandy white beaches, salt-rimmed margaritas, stunning sunsets, and some of the quirkiest—but also kindest and most resourceful—people you’ll ever meet.
Physical trainer Roberta “Rob” James moved to Little Bridge hoping she’d found paradise, but things haven’t turned out quite as she’d hoped. The closest Rob has come to her “happily ever after” is happy hour at the Mermaid Café with her buddy Bree, the bartender slash waitress who’s got romance problems of her own.
But Rob’s situation suddenly changes when sheriff’s deputy Ryan Martinez accidentally enrolls in her bridal boot camp class. Turning mush into metal in time for the big day is Rob’s passion (because even the happiest bride could use a little toning).
But what happens when a guy who’s all mush meets a girl who’s all metal?
They discover they have a lot to learn . . . about each other, themselves, and the island paradise they’ve come to call home.
But let’s not forget No Judgments, the star of the show–the full length novel I just turned in about life on Little Bridge Island that will be out in September 2019!
The storm of the century is about to hit Little Bridge Island, Florida—and it’s sending waves crashing through Sabrina “Bree” Beckham’s love life…
When a massive hurricane severs all power and cell service to Little Bridge Island—as well as its connection to the mainland—twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham isn’t worried . . . at first. She’s already escaped one storm—her emotionally abusive ex—so a hurricane seems like it will be a piece of cake.
But animal-loving Bree does become alarmed when she realizes how many islanders have been cut off from their beloved pets. Now it’s up to her to save as many of Little Bridge’s cats and dogs as she can . . . but to do so, she’s going to need help—help she has no choice but to accept from her boss’s sexy nephew, Drew Hartwell, the Mermaid Café’s most notorious heartbreaker.
But when Bree starts falling for Drew, just as Little Bridge’s power is restored and her penitent ex shows up, she has to ask herself if her island fling was only a result of the stormy weather, or if it could last during clear skies too.
As regular readers of this blog know, I made the (in hind sight possibly not so great) decision not to evacuate during Hurricane Irma in 2017. Many of my friends and neighbors in Key West also chose to stay. I don’t advocate ignoring evacuation warnings!
But there are lots of reasons families might not be able to evacuate a storm. Most of them are complicated, and as the title of the book above says, we shouldn’t judge others. We don’t always know exactly what’s going on in their world.
Some people who evacuated during Irma were forced to leave their pets behind, thinking they’d be right back to get them (many shelters do not accept animals – although this is getting better!).
Of course, Irma ended up temporarily blocking the road back to Key West, and those who evacuated were cut off from their pets.
The heroine of No Judgements was inspired by a real woman in Key West who organized a rescue hotline for evacuees. They were able to call and tell her how to break into their homes and care for their pets! She was amazing.
Of course, since my story is only partly based on reality (even the hurricane has been renamed), there’s a romance involved, too.
Read an excerpt from No Judgments below!
The hurricane was a thousand miles away off shore when my ex-boyfriend called to offer me a ride to safety in his private jet.
“No, thanks,” I said, cradling my phone against my shoulder as I re-filled jelly packets into the dispensers on the formica counter of the Mermaid Café. “That’s really nice of you. But I’m not going anywhere.”
“Bree,” Caleb said. “There’s a Category Five hurricane headed straight for you.”
“It’s not headed straight for me. It’s headed for Miami.”
“Little Bridge Island is only a hundred and fifty miles south of Miami.” Caleb sounded exasperated. “The storm could change course at any time. That’s why they call the hurricane track the cone of uncertainty.”
He wasn’t telling me anything about the weather I didn’t already know. But it was typical of Caleb to feel it necessary to mansplain.
“Thanks for your concern,” I said coolly. “But I’ll take my chances.”
“Take your chances of dying? Do you really hate me that much?”
This was a good question. Caleb Foley had had his good points: like me, he’d loved a good painting. His family owned one of the largest private collections of nineteenth century Impressionist works in North America.
He’d also been great in bed, always waiting politely to orgasm until after I did.
But when I’d needed him most—which was definitely not now—what had he done?
And now he thought he could make it up to me with a free ride in his Gulfstream just because a hurricane might sideswipe the little island to which I’d fled in order to recover from my heartbreak?
Sorry. Too little, too late.
“It’s nice of you to offer.” I ignored his question. “But like I said, I’m not going anywhere.”
I thought of telling him the real reason why—not about hating his guts so much I wouldn’t get into an Uber with him, let alone a private plane—but about Gary, with whom my life had become inextricably tied since I’d moved to Little Bridge, but who was in no shape to travel at the moment.
But what would be the point? I knew what Caleb would say about Gary. He wouldn’t understand.
It felt a little weird keeping something that meant so much to me from this person with whom I’d once shared every little thing in my life.
But it also felt right.
“Besides,” I added, instead. “No one here is evacuating.”
It was true. Instead of panicking and running around, throwing all of their stuff into the backs of their cars the way I always imagined people would when a hurricane was in the vicinity, the residents of Little Bridge Island, population 4,700, seemed to be taking the news in stride. The Mermaid was packed with the usual breakfast crowd, and though a lot of people were talking about the storm, no one seemed alarmed, only vaguely irritated . . . .
Like Drew Hartwell, whom I could hear next to me informing someone over the phone that he wouldn’t be replacing the hundred year old window sash they’d hired him to restore anytime soon.
“Because there’s a storm on the way,” Drew said, sounding a little testy as he dabbed more hot sauce onto his Spanish omelet, “and there’s no way the glazing’s going to dry before it gets here. That’s why. If you want an inch of rainwater all over your bathroom floor, that’s your business, but personally, I’d wait until it passes.”
Normally I don’t make a habit of eavesdropping on my customers’ conversations, but then normally Drew Hartwell doesn’t use his cell phone in the café. He’s good about following the rules that Ed, the Mermaid’s manager slash owner, has listed by the cash register:
No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem.
Use Your Cell Phone? Get Out.
One person who’s not so good at following the rules? Me. The last one, anyway.
“Beckham!” Ed bellowed at me from behind the counter. I whipped around and saw him glaring at me. He stabbed a thumb at my cell phone, then the glass side door. “Take it outside if it’s that important.” His irritated gaze fell on Drew, who happened to be his nephew, but whom he still treated like any other customer. “You, too.”
Drew held up a callused palm, nodding as he slid off his orange vinyl counter stool and headed towards the door, his phone still clutched to his chin. “Look,” he said to whoever was on the other end of his call. “I get it. But you’re going to have the window boarded up anyway. So it’s not going to make any—”
The rest of his conversation was lost as he stepped outside.
Sorry, I mouthed to Ed. Then, to Caleb, I said quickly, “Listen, I’m at work. I never should have picked up in the first place. I only did because . . . because . . . ”
Why had I picked up, especially since Caleb and I hadn’t spoken in months? What had I been expecting, an apology? Was I ever going to learn?
“I’ll talk to you later, okay?” As in, never.
“No, Bree. I’ve got to talk to you now. The thing is, your mother—”
I felt my shoulders tensing up, the way they always did when it came to my mother these days. “What about her? Is she all right?”
“She’s fine. But she’s the one who’s been bugging me to call.”
Of course. I should have known. Caleb would never have called, let alone volunteered to fly fifteen hundred miles to get me of his own accord . . . not after the way we’d ended things. Or not we, exactly, considering the fact that I’m the one who’d packed up my things while he’d been at work, handed my keys to his doorman, then left.
Maybe I’d been the one who’d ghosted.
What else could I have done, though? He’d believed his best friend’s word over mine when I’d told him that Kyle had made a pass at me—not just a pass, but a full on sexual assault—so what kind of relationship had the two of us even had?
Not one I wanted anything to do with, especially with Kyle still coming over for “brews” every day after work.
Now I was heading for the door again—the Mermaid’s side door. A rush of humid, saltwater-scented air greeted me as I stepped out onto the sidewalk, ignoring the hostile glare from Ed as well as the curious looks my fellow servers, Angela and Nevaeh, threw me. Neither of them could imagine what was so important that I’d dare take a call during the morning rush. I hardly ever got calls anyway, so this was a first.
A first that was probably going to get me fired.
“She’s really worried about you, Bree. We all are.”
It was all I could do to keep from busting out laughing. A little late for that.
“You know your mom pals around with all those meteorologists from the station,” he went on. “She says they tell her this one is a real monster. If there were such a thing as a Category Six, this would be it. She says—”
“Tell my mom I’m fine,” I interrupted, aware that Drew Hartwell was standing only a few feet away from me, his own cell clutched to his ear, having a not dissimilar conversation. I could hear him telling whoever was on the other end of the phone, “Well, for one thing, because I have other things to do right now than restore a century old window you waited until the last minute to notice needed repairing. And for another, because I’m going to have to special order the replacement glass and there’s no way it’s going to get here before the rain does.”
Except that Drew Hartwell didn’t look particularly worried. He never did. Even now his free hand—the one not holding his phone—had crept beneath his well-worn, sun faded Little Bridge Island Bocce League T-shirt to scratch lazily at his flat stomach, unconsciously revealing a trail of dark, downy hair that disappeared into the waistband of his cargo shorts . . . the sight of which caused my stomach to give a pleasant lurch, like I’d just taken a spin on the tilt-a-whirl.
What was wrong with me?
Realizing I was staring, I glanced hastily away, remembering the whispered warning my co-worker Angela Fairweather had given me on my first day of work: “Stay away from that one. ”
Because apparently Drew Hartwell—with his lean six foot frame, tussled dark hair, permanent deep sea tan, and summer sky blue eyes—was as much of a player as Caleb and his friends, just of a different variety: Drew was the homegrown style, having been born on Little Bridge Island, and—with the exception of a few years spent on the mainland—had never lived anywhere else.
Whereas Caleb and his best friend Kyle—who’d turned my entire life upside down in a single moment—had been born in New York City, and had traveled all over the world, thanks to their trust funds and wealthy parents.
And yet Caleb, at least, still didn’t know a thing about women. Or at least the one he was currently speaking to.
“I can tell her you’re fine all you want, Bree,” Caleb was saying into my ear. “But she isn’t going to stop calling. She said to tell you that she thinks it’s time you gave up on this little solo adventure to find yourself, or whatever it is, and come home. And that it shouldn’t take a Category Five hurricane for you to realize it.”
“Is that what she says?” I smiled wryly. It sounded exactly like something my mom would say. “Well, do me a favor and let her know that I haven’t quite finished finding myself, but when I do, she’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I don’t need help from her, or anybody else—especially you.”
“Well, that’s just great, Bree.” Now Caleb sounded offended. “Excuse me for caring. You know, last time I talked to you, you were mad at me for not caring enough—”
I felt a different kind of spurt from my gut, far less pleasant than the one I’d experienced at the sight of Drew’s naked stomach. “That’s not what I said, and you know it. There’s a difference between not caring and calling me a liar.”
“I never called you a liar, Bree. I just said that maybe it was all just a bad dream—”
“A bad dream? Really, Caleb?”
I was so mad, I had to force myself to gaze past the harbor, out where the turquoise blue sky met the aquamarine sea, in order to steady myself. Something about that calm, azure blue water always seemed to help me find my equilibrium.
“I don’t want to get into it again, Caleb,” I said. “I need to go back to my job, or I’ll lose it.”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be a tragedy,” Caleb sneered. “Your waitressing job that you don’t even need.”
I glanced hastily in Drew Hartwell’s direction, fearful that he might have overheard—Caleb could be as overbearingly loud on the phone as he was in person.
But fortunately, Drew still seemed preoccupied with his own call.
This was my first opportunity to try to make it on my own, with no help from Mom or Dad, and up until this moment, I’d been doing well, living solely off what I earned at the Mermaid and only dipping into my savings for emergencies, like Gary’s surgery.
“At least,” I hissed at Caleb through gritted teeth, “I have a job.”
“Oh, was that supposed to be a blow to my feelings, Bree?” Caleb asked. “Look, if you won’t come with me,” Caleb went on, “at least let me send you a ticket for a commercial flight, since you can’t seem to be bothered to buy one on your own.”
“Don’t even try it,” I snarled into the phone, “because I’m not leaving Little Bridge Island.”
Then I hung up on him.
I hope you enjoy visiting Little Bridge Island and meeting Rob, Bree, Ryan and Drew!
Bridal Boot Camp debuts May 28 and No Judgments releases Sept. 24.
To celebrate the release of both books, I’m giving away free books! Click here to sign up to win!
And if you’d like to come see me in person, I’ll be at the Key West Literary Seminar next week! Some of the sessions are free and open to the public. Please come! Click here for info.