This is the second in a steamy contemporary romance series set in Eugene, Oregon. Why Eugene? I’ll admit I sort of pulled the location out of a hat, having heard what a great college town it is. Since then, I’ve made several visits to this fascinating small city with its lively arts scene and a funky vibe dating back to the hippie era.
Known as Track Town, U.S.A., Eugene is the perfect setting for a story featuring two runners. Alas, knee injuries mean no more running for me, but I had such fun running vicariously through Doug and Laurel along the lovely green banks of the Willamette River.
Laurel comes to Eugene to help her 90-year-old Great Aunt Maxie (my favorite character) move into assisted living. She takes a temporary job at Book Nirvana, a fictional indie bookshop featured in the first book in the series, Through the Red Door. I came to love the shop and the characters working there (including Lulu the shop cat) so much that I couldn’t bear to leave them behind.
Eugene’s colorful, quirky Whiteaker District inspires lots of artistic characters for this series. Funky cottages and graceful Victorian houses, breweries and food trucks, mature trees and eclectic shops, it’s the perfect place to wander and dream.
(note from Jean: I love this story idea! And especially bringing those secondary characters — whom seem to grab a hold of our hearts! — into the picture again!)
Photo inspiration (from L to R): DeFazio Pedestrian bridge, leading to Alton Baker Park (in Eugene, Oregon), mural from Eugene, Oregon’s Whiteaker neighborhood, ,and a running path alongside the Willamette River
Tell us a bit about your other work and what lies on the horizon.
Book One in the series, Through the Red Door, features Clara, widowed owner of Book Nirvana, as she struggles to save her indie bookshop from rising rents and corporate competition. Her best chance: the shop’s historical erotica collection, curated by her late husband and kept behind a locked red door. A year after Jared’s death in a cycling accident, she faces pressure from concerned friends to move past her self-imposed isolation and dip her toes into the dating pool. Two men enter her life: a suave, seductive professor looking for research materials, and a gentle, athletic teacher who reminds her of Jared. Through dreams and signs, Jared tells Clara it’s time to move forward, but with which man?
I’m currently writing Book Three in the series, which features Margot, Clara’s young shop assistant, and Elmer, a character introduced in Runaway Love Story. Great-Aunt Maxie calls Margot “Tinkerbell on a Harley.” A petite, determined, spiky-haired, tattooed spitfire whose intolerant family try to squash her spirit, this aspiring graphic artist finds herself competing—with a flirtatious, buff, ginger-bearded potter—for an arts grant that could launch her career. When she surrenders to their magnetic attraction, things get complicated.
Now for the BLURB:
Oxford comma, yes or no? Yes
Coffee or tea or wine? Yes, please. No wine while writing, though.
What does your desk look like? I have an adjustable sit-stand topper on my big, messy desk, and one of those squishy floor mats beneath it. Heaven for my feet!
Describe a perfect writing day. I roll out of bed at 7:30 (such a luxury after years of pre-dawn wake-ups for my teaching career), pull on yoga pants and a T-shirt, pour coffee, and dive in. With only short breaks to eat and refill my mug, I work straight through until early afternoon. Then I hit the gym, take a walk, or pull some weeds. If my afternoon is free, I take care of writing-adjacent chores.
In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job (besides author)? I’m torn between running a bookshop or a dance studio. Perhaps I could combine them?
Where is your favorite place you've visited (or wish to visit)? For 17 years I lived in Wuerzburg, Germany, a lovely city on the Main River surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards. There’s a Baroque palace in town and a medieval castle on the hill. I miss it every day.
What do you like to do when not writing? play darts, play guitar and ukulele, belly dance, and read lots of romance, mystery, and memoir
Last but not least, an excerpt…
“I’m sorry she called you the S word.”
She laughed. “Yeah. That’s a curse word, as far as I’m concerned.” She leaned her head on his shoulder.
“I’ll strike it from my vocabulary. Your S word is sparkle.” He traced her jawline with a feather-light touch. “Look at you, Laurel. You’re blinding.” His twilight-blue gaze made her heart dance—a steamy tango with swirls and dangerous dips. He kissed her, and, for a moment, she forgot all about caution, about cutting things off before they became too serious, about San Francisco. Her focus narrowed to his lips on hers, his nearness heating her whole body, opening her like a blossom, soft and willing. Ripe for the plucking.
“God, I’ve missed you.” He scooped her legs across his lap. One hand cradling her nape, the other gripping her thigh, he kissed her senseless. His velvet tongue teased her lips apart. He tasted of sugary coffee. The world around them faded—just two bodies, calling and answering, breathing in sync, their pulses beating the same rhythm.