New release from Jennifer Wilck! An excerpt from: A Reckless Heart

I’m so excited to welcome fellow Wild Rose Press Author, Jennifer Wilck. Her latest release, A Reckless Heart, published on March 29th and is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, and Kobo.

Meg Thurgood, former society girl, took the blame for her friend and paid a steep price. Now all she wants is solitude and a chance to rebuild her life. She thinks she’s found that in an isolated house she rents from a mysterious stranger.

Simon McAlter has hidden in his house on the coast of Maine since a fire left him scarred. A successful landscape architect who conducts his business and teaches his classes remotely, he’s lost his inspiration and is trying to pretend he’s not lonely. 

Simon’s new neighbor is more than he bargained for. When he learns Meg’s secret, will he retreat into the shadows or will he learn to see past the surface and trust in Meg’s love? 

And now, a scene that I hope you’ll love as much as I do. To give you a little bit of the setup, Meg is renting a house from Simon. The house has been damaged in a storm, and he’s trying to fix it. But his scarred hands make that difficult:

She watched him for ten minutes as he stood on the ladder, cursing and hammering in about equal measure as he struggled to cover the hole. But she didn’t pay attention to the curses or the hammer or the lack of progress. No, she paid attention to his ass. Another five minutes, and he shucked his jacket, allowing her a better view to admire how his denim jeans hugged his backside in all the right ways. The worn denim emphasized his thigh muscles. Her mouth went dry, and she looked away.

In the past, she’d always been a sucker for a guy in a well-cut tux. Now she knew what she’d missed.

Granted, she’d never done manual labor before, but if this was how it was to be, she’d turn into Lumberjack Jane. As she waited at the base of the ladder, Simon’s arm muscles flexed. She needed to stop staring. He wasn’t her type. Of course, she didn’t have a type anymore, not since she turned over a new leaf, but still. Moody, broody, and silent didn’t seem what she should switch to. No matter how attractive she might find him, she had to stop.

Except…
His muscles were taut, his Henley stretched across them. When he bent his head, his hair swung to the side. He clenched his jaw. For every nail he pounded, he dropped three. Why did he insist on doing this work, when it was difficult? Was it pride? Fear of being seen? Something else? Her chest squeezed at his persistence and how hard he worked to overcome his difficulty. Other men might rail at the world for what happened, and what he could no longer do. Yet he never yelled at her or demanded she retrieve his dropped nails. He never asked her for help. He cursed in general and continued.

She snuck glances his way as he continued to attempt to fasten the tarp. Maybe it was time to worry less and take control of the situation.

She climbed the ladder. When he didn’t stop or acknowledge her presence despite the rattle of the metal against the side of the house, she held out her hand. It hovered in midair until, with a deep breath, she lowered it onto his shoulder. He froze, and she forgot to breathe. Bone, muscle, and sinew flexed beneath her fingers. The soft material separating skin from skin contrasted with the hardness of his shoulder and overwhelmed her.

She wanted him. More than she’d ever wanted any other man, she wanted Simon. Her mind carried her to the day when he’d protected her from the storm. His spicy scent, mixed with the scent of the cut tree, filled her nostrils and warmth pooled in her belly.

“What are you doing?” His question sounded strangled.

What was she doing? Physical contact eliminated all thoughts other than a desire to be with him. She tried to remember why she’d come here in the first place.

He dropped another nail. Oh, right. “Give me the nails.”

“What?”

“Give me the nails. I’ll hold them. You can hammer.”

“I don’t need your help.”

“Please?” She kept her tone matter-of-fact, so as not to offend him.

His tension left him and without a word he clumsily dumped the nails he held into her hand. She cupped her hands together and held them out to Simon, waiting for him to pick a nail to use. He grabbed for one, but with his bent, stiff fingers, all he did was mix them around and scrape her skin. The contact tickled, but the sight of his scars made her pause. This was why it took him such a long time. She glanced at him and caught his expression a split second before he covered his face with his hair and looked away.

Pride.

His hands, with their scars, didn’t have the fine motor skills to hold an individual nail in place, which meant if she were to help him, she’d have to do it while he hammered.

She blanched as she looked at his hammer. Could she trust him not to miss? Desire and compassion for this man combined. He’d gone out of his way to help her.

She trusted him.

The last time she’d helped a friend she’d lost everything. Maybe the consequences this time weren’t as severe—worst case, she got bruised fingers. If it happened too often, she could tell him to stop. But did she want to sacrifice her own well-being for someone else again? There used to be a time when she’d never have given the question any thought. The answer would have been clear. But now?

With shaking hands, she held the nail in place and raised her shoulders to her ears as she waited in fear. Nothing happened. Movement to her left made her hold her breath. His large hand on hers made her jump. She might have squeaked, but she would never admit it. Pressure on her palm was firm but gentle. Her lips were pressed together, and she swallowed.

He moved her hand into the correct position.
“I won’t hurt you.” His voice was low and hoarse. She stared at his thumb as he tilted her wrist and positioned her hand in the exact spot he wanted the nail. His touch sent tingles along her arm, and goose bumps formed. She wanted to twist her hand and hold onto his, but she’d drop the nail, and he’d probably curse at them again. She let him maneuver her fingers into their proper position. When he was satisfied, he placed his own hand over hers, so only the nail head showed. His scarred skin was warm against hers. With a quick set of taps, he hammered it into the wood before her goose bumps faded.

He’d protected her.

Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.

In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. When she’s not writing, she loves to laugh with her family and friends, is a pro at finding whatever her kids lost in plain sight, and spends way too much time closing doors that should never have been left open in the first place. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.

She writes contemporary romance, some of which are mainstream and some of which involve Jewish characters. She’s published with The Wild Rose Press and all her books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Want to learn more? Connect with Jennifer:

Website: https://www.jenniferwilck.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jennifer-Wilck-201342863240160/

Newsletter: https://www.jenniferwilck.com/contact.html#newsletter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JWilck

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorjenniferwilck/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jennifer-wilck

#TeaserTuesday Deleted Scenes Holidays, Inc.

The original drafts, Holidays, Inc. and Hope for the Holidays featured three main character points of view. During edits, I decided to cut the third character perspective to simplify the narrative.

In Holidays, Inc. Jill offers additional insight into her brother’s return and Dani’s renovation.

Want to download the exclusive ebook with the complete collection of eight scenes from Holidays, Inc. and Hope for the Holidays? Sign up for my newsletter for the FREE gift. Click here.

(c) 2021

Chapter Four

Fluffing her bangs for the third time, Jill sat in her car in the deserted parking lot of the Higginbotham’s motel. The show had been a success. After a few missteps, she helped Dani get everything under control. Her brother had finally seen reason and decided to take up the only legitimate job opportunity in town. With Holidays, Inc. on track, she could return to her three-part plan. Buy out the Higginbotham’s, transform the lodging into a charming resort, and do her part in the campaign to getting New Hope on the map. After months of questioning her next move, the opportunity appeared fully formed.

She lowered the visor once more to check her teeth for any stray poppy seeds from her muffin. Why hadn’t she confessed her plan for the money to Paul? Because if he needs me to buy him out, I will. Studying her reflection in the visor mirror, she pressed her lips together. She hated sharing any idea before she was sure of the results. Her dream still had too many unknowns to include other people. First, she needed answers and a plan.

Satisfied with her lip-gloss, she raised the visor and hopped out of her car. She stepped over the widening cracks in the asphalt and carefully picked her way over to the front door. The Higginbotham’s two-story motel was neat, but the tiny details—the cracks in the parking lot, faded awnings, and worn doorknobs—exposed their situation.

Like many people in town, the family enterprise wouldn’t survive to be inherited by the next generation. She opened the door a crack and paused. A sudden sharp pain pierced her side, and she sucked in a quick breath. She pressed her hands to her waist and breathed until the ache subsided. Every so often the loss of her family’s business hit her. She was happy to see Dani’s vision transform all of their lives. Losing the theater so change could happen, however, had been the hardest choice she ever made.

She plastered on a smile, fluffed up her bangs, and opened the door wide. She was greeted with a setting out of a sixties catalogue. Mod furniture, the kind that had fallen out of favor and been restored to popularity too many times to count, in bright colors grouped in a small seating area near a fireplace set off the shaggy cream throw rugs over the green linoleum tile floor. Along the back paneled wall, a walnut veneer front desk stood in front of bookshelves stuffed with knick-knacks.

Mr. Higginbotham stood at the desk.

Mrs. Higginbotham held a feather duster in hand and attended to the collectibles.

“Good morning, welcome to the New Hope Motel.” Mr. Higginbotham greeted like a cheery animatronic from a theme park.

With his shock of white hair and thick mustache, he looked like a friendly mall Santa.

Jill tugged the hem of her blazer. The professional garment was supposed to add a layer of professionalism. Instead, she wore her clothes like a costume. After listening to Shirley’s gossip and Rob’s encouragement, she decided to take an unsolicited chance. In the moment, she realized a presumption encouraged her to barge in, but she couldn’t leave without an explanation.

Mr. Higginbotham continued to smile in her direction.

Mrs. Higginbotham, her jet-black hair contrasting the deep wrinkles in her face, dropped her feather duster and joined her husband. “Jill Howell, is that you?”

Jill gulped.

The Higginbothams hustled from behind the desk and approached her.

“It is Jill, dear, you’re right.” Mr. Higginbotham nodded. When the pair stopped only a few feet away, he motioned toward the low back couch and two club chairs.

Jill crossed the room and sank onto the couch.

“I’m surprised to see you here with your busy theater schedule.” Mrs. Higginbotham settled on one of the chairs.

Jill opened her mouth.

“Dear, that was over a week ago.” Mr. Higginbotham waved off the comment. “But it is a long time since we’ve seen you here. Well, I don’t think it was since Larry took you to the prom.”

“Oh, yes, my dear.” Mrs. Higginbotham settled a hand over her heart. “Larry looked so dashing. How nice of you two to go together to prom. You were always such nice friends.”

Until he threatened to tell everyone we slept together. Jill swallowed and plastered a smile on her face.

“And now you’re here for a visit. This is so nice. We’ll have to be sure to tell Larry when we call him tonight,” Mrs. Higginbotham said.

It hadn’t occurred to Jill before how little she’d have to talk. She stalled her visit until Rob’s badgering became unbearable. Despite growing up together and being the last members of their high school class left in town, they hadn’t sought each other’s company since graduation. She’d known him forever, and yet he remained a stranger.

“When we move, dear,” Mr. Higginbotham said.

The deep cadence cut through Jill’s thoughts. She lifted her gaze to the couple.

Mr. Higginbotham wiggled his eyebrows at his wife.

Jill frowned and pressed together her lips, refreshing her glass. She missed several exchanges in her reverie and couldn’t squander another second. She was here on a mission. “You’re moving?” She jumped into the conversation with both feet and widened the tiny gap in their nonstop talk.

“We are thinking about it.” Mrs. Higginbotham said. “Nothing has been decided on yet. Even with the shows coming to town, we don’t see many guests.”

“It is still early days.” Mr. Higginbotham nodded his head and smiled.

The gesture didn’t quite reach his eyes. He was paying lip service and not buying into Dani’s vision. If they didn’t see the value in what Dani brought to town, Jill could get the motel at a cut-rate price.

Mrs. Higginbotham reached for her husband’s hand. “We are ready to retire, finally.”

“Are you selling the motel?” Jill swiveled her head between the pair.

They clamped their mouths shut.

They exchanged the kind of significant glance she’d seen hundreds of different couples make thousands of times before. Their secret body language left her on the outside. She’d been on the fringe of deeper conversations her whole life. She refused to lose confidence and raised her chin. Thirteen years ago in this very room on prom night, she shoved their son, Larry, to the ground and explained consent in simple terms. If she found strength to stick up for herself then, she could dig deep now. She cleared her throat. “What I mean to ask. Will you be considering bids to purchase the motel?”

“You mean, locally?” Mr. Higginbotham frowned.

“Yes. Locally. Specifically me.” Jill poked a finger into the center of her chest. “I’d like the chance to make an offer to buy the motel.”

Mr. Higginbotham rubbed his chin. “We’d be open to hearing your bid.”

“We’ll need more than that.” Mrs. Higginbotham crossed her arms. “I like you, Jill. I like the idea of keeping this motel going after we’ve left town to live closer to Larry. But I don’t want to see what happened to your Dad’s place, rest his soul.” She paused to make the sign of the cross over herself.

Jill winced. Her father was the least religious person she’d known. Dad’s exposure to organized religion was restricted to the funerary rites executed at his request. A priest oversaw his service and buried him next to her mother. If he was watching this conversation from somewhere above, she knew he was chuckling.

“I know Ms. Winter has big plans over in town with the theater. If we sell this property, I want to see it remain a motel.” Mrs. Higginbotham leaned back in her chair.

“I would, of course, keep it as lodging.” Jill nodded but kept her words vague. She didn’t want to commit to anything, especially not without chatting with Rob. She clasped her hands tightly in her lap. He encouraged her idea but wasn’t business partner. The sooner she remembered the enterprise was hers alone the easier his inevitable backing away would be. Without a big project needing supplies, they’d never cross paths. After she bought and overhauled the motel, she’d probably never see him. Their lives would return to normal. She’d go back to being the sister of his high school best friend who tutored him junior year.

“We’ll tell you what.” Mr. Higginbotham stroked his chin. “Larry is coming to visit over Labor Day weekend to discuss this with us. If you can get a business plan together, we’d love to have you present your proposal to all of us then.”

Jill stood and dusted her hands on her jacket. Seeing Larry again? She fought a shiver.

The Higginbothams stood.

Crossing the carpet, Jill shook hands first with Mr. Higginbotham then Mrs. Higginbotham. If she focused on her plan, she could ignore the looming specter of their slimy son. “That’s a deal. Thank you for the opportunity.”

“Absolutely.” Mrs. Higginbotham clasped her hands around Jill’s. “Larry will be so happy to see you.”

Shuddering, Jill kept her smile in place. She wasn’t the scared teenager their son tried to shame into acquiescence and then silence. Forced to make hard choices, she was a person on the rise. She pulled back her shoulders and studied Mrs. Higginbotham with an unwavering gaze. “I’ll be prepared.”

What’s in a trope?

Romance readers expect every story to end in either a happily ever after or a happily for now. This is the promise authors make by writing the genre. (Psst: if a book doesn’t? It’s not a romance but might be fiction with romantic elements)

Tropes are the beloved set-ups used in romance novels. Utilizing tropes is how we can appeal to specific readers. While “some” people outside of the genre find this to be predictable, they miss the whole point. Romance novels are about growth and how love changes someone from the inside out. Finding a favorite set-up doesn’t make the discovery of the story any less satisfying.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the tropes I used in my 2020 releases. I don’t always literally interpret each trope. It’s fun to twist and change the expectation. If you read these books, you’ll know what I did 🙂

Here’s what you can expect from the next installment in the Finding New Hope trilogy, Hope for the Holidays