Blinded by Grace
In 1858 New York City, Halwyn Fitzpatrick thinks he's off the hook for attendance at the annual Cotillion Ball. He has no sister to shepherd down the grand staircase this year and no real desire to go through the rituals of courtship and betrothal himself. Besides, he'll know the right girl when he sees her, especially now that he has new spectacles. But his mother has other plans for him. At 27 years of age, her son is in dire need of a wife.
Grace Wagner needs a husband by July, in order to inherit the trust her father has left for her. Her stepfather, though, has plans for the money that don’t include Grace, and the last thing he wants is for her to find a husband before she turns 21, thereby fulfilling the terms of the trust. She's been in love with Halwyn since she was thirteen, but he hasn't noticed her at any of the balls they've attended over the years. With the aid of his new eyeglasses, he spies Grace from across the room and they share a dance. Grace decides to present him with a business proposition that will satisfy them both. But, can a clueless knight in shining armor and a desperate damsel in distress find a way to turn a marriage of convenience into something more?
The Road to Comfort
Juliette St.James has only done two impetuous things in her life, and the first resulted in her becoming a single parent at age 18. Now, she’s embarking on a cross-country trip to celebrate becoming an empty-nester. Not sure of what she will do now that she’s flying solo, she comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare—a cowboy.
Cyclone Kelley is a former rodeo cowboy who has broken one too many body parts to continue on the rodeo circuit. But the one body part that can’t be fixed by putting it into a cast is his heart, which was broken when his wife died. He wasn’t home to save her, and feels he’s unworthy for any kind of lasting relationship with a woman, so his life has been a meaningless string of one-nighters.
One broken car and an equally broken cowboy later, they are forced to decide if love is worth gambling on what could be. Or if tornadoes, and Cyclones, are better left alone.
Interview with Becky Lower
Hi, Becky. Welcome to Authors to Watch. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve never married and have no children, which I realize is an oddity, especially for someone who writes romances for a living. But my unfettered state has allowed me to spend my life going wherever I please. So, I’ve lived in various places, seen most of America at one time or another, met and enjoyed the company of a variety of people. My life experiences have been my training for a writing career.
When did you begin writing?
Like most authors, I’ve always enjoyed writing. I worked on the school papers in high school and college, but never really cared for reporting. My mind always seemed to be in the clouds, and each time a situation went one way, I would always wonder “what if…?” But, I thought a job had to be a job. It wasn’t until the economy failed in 2008, and I found myself without employment that I began to take a writing career seriously. I moved from expensive Virginia to a small home in Ohio, pared back my expenses to the bone, and dug in for the long haul.
I understand you recently released two books. Can you tell me about them?
My historical romance, Blinded By Grace, is the fifth book in a nine-book series about the Fitzpatricks, a well-to-do large and lively family in New York City in the decade leading up to the Civil War. Each of the nine children will get their moment in the spotlight. Blinded By Grace features the eldest brother, Halwyn, who was just diagnosed with nearsightedness and is wearing glasses for the first time. That’s how he can see across the ballroom, and find his soulmate waiting for him there. My contemporary, The Road To Comfort, also features a strong male lead, but of a much different variety. Where Halwyn is quiet and dignified, Cyclone is a brash and bruised former rodeo bull rider.
How much research did your historical novel require?
I’d already done a lot of research on the decade leading to the Civil War, but each book I write has its own peculiar traits. For this one, I had to do research on eyeglasses. Most people associate eyeglasses with Ben Franklin, but they were invented 700 years ago. Ben merely improved upon them, by creating bifocals.
Your books are very different. What audience will each of your books appeal to, and why?
While it’s true my books are written in different sub-genres, the story lines don’t change that much. It’s still about two people meeting and falling in love. My male characters tend to be Beta men. Even when, as in The Road To Comfort, they start out as Alpha types, it doesn’t take long for their softer sides to show up. The women start off struggling, either against the forces of society, or their own bad decisions. But in the end, they find their strength and become women who deserve to be loved.
Of all your characters, which was the most difficult to write?
Without a doubt, Simon Huffman, in Blinded By Grace was the one who gave me the most trouble. I had never written a truly evil man before, and I kept inserting into the book my reasons why he was so bad. My editor told me to trust the reader, and that they would understand his motivation. So, I had to take out the multiple repetitions that I had put in to make myself feel better about this man.
What was the most challenging aspect of releasing two books in one month?
It is definitely the promotional aspect. Since one is a historical and one contemporary, I needed to find blogs and review sites that appealed to their sub-genres. It has been time consuming, but fortunately, my background is in marketing, and I truly enjoy doing guest blogs such as this, and other forms of promotion.
What is your primary goal as an author?
To write the best stories that I can, and to find readers who enjoy them.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m more than halfway through the second draft of my next historical. The Duplicitous Debutante is due to my publisher in June. After that, I’d like to get started on the next contemporary, which is going to be a trilogy about three generations of women in the same family.
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?
I have a friend who is a wonderful writer, but she’s paralyzed with fear that if she shows her work to anyone, that person will steal the work and claim it as their own. Maybe that particular scene will be stolen, but give two different writers the same picture or the same facts, and they’ll write two entirely different stories. So my advice is this: Find a critique group and don’t be afraid to share your work. No one is able to write your story but you.
Connect with Becky Lower:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/becky-lower
Excerpt for Blinded By Grace
New York City, April 1858
A pair of eyeglasses. Who would have guessed?
Halwyn’s vision had never been this focused before. He tweaked his new spectacles to a more comfortable spot on the bridge of his nose as the current crop of debutantes prepared to make their grand entrance into the ballroom.
His mother and father flanked him as all eyes turned to the staircase where each young lady would descend after the announcement of her name. Halwyn’s mother, Charlotte Fitzpatrick, pressed her hand into his back. Even though her touch was gentle, Halwyn did not mistake her meaning, especially when she reinforced it with her statement.
“This is your year, Halwyn, to find a bride. Take your time perusing this year’s group of lovelies and let me know to which ones you want an introduction. I can arrange it.”
“Mother, please. I have no intention of selecting a bride in this manner. I’m too busy for such foolishness. There is too much to do as is, what with the job at the bank and helping you and Father ride herd on the little ones.”
His mother smiled, her eyes aglow as the ladies assembled at the top of the stairs, surrounded by their fathers, brothers, and assorted other young men. “You are twentyseven, Halwyn, high time to be married and producing grandchildren for me to spoil.”
“You have four already to spoil, with two more on the way this year. My contribution can wait.”
His father tried to hide his grin, but was unsuccessful. “I’m giving you fair warning, Halwyn. Your mother has decided this will be your year to wed. So, it’s up to you to find a suitable mate, one who won’t bore your mother to death with every last detail of the wedding ceremony. If you don’t put forth an effort, believe me, your mother will for you.”
Halwyn groaned and raked his hand through his hair. His thumb and forefinger brushed back the stray locks that always seemed to fall over his forehead.
“Why do I feel that I’m about to be fed to the lions?”
George slapped his son on his shoulder and laughed. “Because you are. It’s called courting. And here are this year’s entries into the marriage pool.” As a unit, the Fitzpatrick family turned to observe each lovely young lady, dressed in virginal white, as
they were announced to the fawning masses below, took a curtsy, and then descended the staircase on the arms of their male escorts. Halwyn realized he was able, for the first time in all his years of attending the Cotillion, to actually see the women as they descended the stairs. He admitted each created a vision as they bowed to the audience and gracefully floated down the stairs, and was amazed at how much he had missed in years past simply because of faulty eyesight. The ladies were prettier, the ballroom was ablaze with candles, the gowns were lovely, and the gems around the ladies’ necks glimmered in the
reflected glow of the candles. He had no problem adding rows of sums close up, but the other side of a crowded ballroom, or the ladies at the top of the staircase, had been a blur to him before.
Excerpt for The Road To Comfort
Juliette St. James had only done two impetuous things in her life. And, from the billowing cloud of black smoke belching out from under the hood of her car, the second one was no wiser than the first.
The first occurred twenty-three years earlier when she shared one night with a handsome stranger, which resulted in becoming a single parent at the age of eighteen. The second, taking a cross-country road trip on her own to celebrate becoming an empty-nester, was turning out to be every bit as ill planned.
She nudged the car to the side of the road and cut the motor, thinking maybe she should get out of the car before it caught on fire. Or before the noxious fumes the fire was causing made her pass out, in which case she’d literally be toast. Fighting against the uneasiness beginning to nibble at the corner of her brain, she quickly stepped out of the car and glanced at the surrounding landscape. Row after unrelenting row of corn surrounded her. Not a landmark in sight. Hadn't Stephen King written something about monsters coming out of the cornfields? Not the image she should be putting into her already overactive imagination. What she needed to do was call for a tow truck. What state was she in, anyway? Nebraska? Oklahoma? Kansas? They had all blurred together over the past day and a half.
Having a plan of action in her mind, finally, she leaned in through the open window and reached for her enormous purse lying on the passenger seat. She rummaged through it, pulled out her cell phone, and turned it on. No signal. Oh, great. Even if she did know where she was, she couldn't call for help. Wonderful.
What to do? She couldn't get back in her car and huddle there forever, even though the smoke was beginning to taper off. She'd just have to start walking, children of the corn notwithstanding. Grasping the door handle, she hesitated as a fat drop of rain fell onto the car’s windshield. Very dark clouds were quickly moving in from the direction she had been headed when her car finally gave up. If it had been a dog, her car would now have rolled over alongside the road, wheels spinning in the air. She glanced at the sky. It remained sunny behind her. If her car had still been working, she'd turn around and head back the way she came, maybe outrun the rain. What kind of storms did they have in this part of the country, anyway? Tornadoes? Cyclones? She drew in a breath.
Maybe she should get back in the car. At least, with the rain, the immediate threat of a car fire was obliterated. The clouds on the horizon outmatched the one still billowing slightly from under the hood. They did mirror her thoughts though, as she mentally kicked herself, locked in a state of indecision. Why had she taken off on a whim anyway? On a trip to nowhere? By herself?
It was so unlike her normal controlled world. She wanted to shake herself for being so impulsive. But then, it wasn't every day that her son got married and left home. Leaving her alone. She was all by herself, for the first time since she was eighteen. She obviously didn't know how to act, making decisions based solely on what she wanted. It was a luxury she hadn’t ever before experienced. And she botched the very first one she’d made. What had she been thinking?
Sure, she’d had a grand time of things so far. She’d let her hair stream down instead of putting it into her usual bun; she’d turned up the volume on her car stereo and sang along at the top of her lungs with Adele and Bruno Mars. Trips inside various quick-stop grocery outlets meant that all kinds of junk food filled her car to overflowing. Her arm dangled out the window, outrageously in violation of her admonition to her son over the years not to ever do that, since you never knew when a dog would come along to bite it, or a passing vehicle would get too close and rip it out of its socket. She’d basically thrown her rigid common sense to the wind on her wild trip, and now she surveyed where her impulse had gotten her. She was in the middle of nowhere.