The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller - Showcase - Q&A
Today I'm so happy to be hosting a showcase for the Queen of Western Romance and personal favorite, #1 NYT and USA Today bestselling author Linda Lael Miller about her new just released yesterday novel, The Marriage Charm. So sit back relax and enjoy the Q&A and all kinds of info about her newest novel!
The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.
One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it's her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She's not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She's always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she's convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn't what you'd call husband material.
Read an Excerpt:
After the wedding
Most of his duties as his buddy Tripp's best man complete, Spencer "Spence" Hogan ducked out of the reception, held in the library's community room, as soon as the bride and groom left the scene, both of them beaming with just-married joy and understandably eager to get the honeymoon underway.
It was a five-minute drive to the police station. Once there, Spence strode through the small lobby without sparing more than a nod of greeting for Junie McFarlane, the second-shift dispatcher, or either of the two duty officers chatting her up.
Inside his modest office, he wasted no time swapping out the rented tux and shiny lace-up shoes for the well-worn jeans, blue cotton shirt and everyday boots he'd stashed there earlier in the day. He took his hat from the hook next to the door, put it on and then, feeling like his normal self instead of somebody's pet monkey, Spence allowed himself a sigh of pure relief.
Out front again, he surveyed the goings-on.
The deputies, Nick Estes and Moe Radner, were back at their desks, focusing intently on pretty much nothing in particular and fairly radiating the Protestant work ethic. Both were rookies, their hair buzz-cut, their uniforms so starched that the fold lines still showed, their badges buffed to a high shine.
Junie caught Spence's gaze and smiled slightly. She was just this side of forty and beautiful, in a country-music diva way. Mercifully, though, she went easy on the makeup, at least when she was on the job, saving the big hair, false eyelashes, sprayed-on jeans and rhinestones for her nights off. "How'd the wedding go, Chief?" she asked, with a twinkle in her green eyes. "Did Hadleigh Stevens manage to get herself married for real this time around, or did some yahoo show up and derail the whole shindig?"
Like Spence, Junie had attended the other ceremony, by now a local legend, right up there with the bank robbery back in 1894 and the time Elvis and his entourage breezed through town in a convoy of limos, somewhere in the mid-1950s, reportedly on their way to Yellowstone.
Spence chuckled. "Yep," he confirmed, recalling the almost-wedding, just over a decade before. Tripp Galloway had been the yahoo-of-record, and Hadleigh had been the bride, eighteen, storybook-beautiful, naive as hell and in dire need of rescue, although she'd raised some spirited objections that sunny September afternoon. The ousted groom, well, he'd been the personification of Mr. Wrong. Otherwise known as Oakley Smyth.
Tripp, a man on a mission, had blown into that little redbrick church like a dust devil working itself up into a full-scale tornado, moments before the I dos would've been exchanged, calmly announced that he could give the proverbial just cause why these two could not be joined in holy matrimony and proceeded to do so.
Understandably, Hadleigh hadn't taken Tripp's interference at all well; in fact, she'd pitched a memorable fit and whacked him hard with her bridal bouquet, not once, but repeatedly, scattering flower petals every time she made contact. There was no reasoning with her.
Finally, Tripp had lifted Hadleigh off her feet, slung her over one shoulder like a feed sack and carried her out of the sanctuary.
At that point, Hadleigh's protests had escalated considerably, of course, and she'd kicked and squirmed and yelled all the way back down the aisle, through the main doors and outside, into a world of much wider possibilities. Most likely, she hadn't been aware of that last part, being in a royal tizzy and everything.
For all Hadleigh's outrage, no one had interceded—not the preacher, not Alice Stevens, Hadleigh's grandmother and last living relative, not the stunned guests jamming the pews. Nobody moved a muscle, and nobody spoke up, either.
And that was a peculiar thing in itself, given the nature of small towns in general and Mustang Creek in particular. There, folks didn't hesitate to get involved when there was a ruckus, the way they might in a big city. No, sir. These were country people; the men were cowboys and farmers, carpenters and electricians, truck drivers and garage mechanics, sure to wade in and fight if the need arose—and the women, when sufficiently riled, could be fierce, with or without their men to back them up, alone or running in a pack.
This time, though, they'd all stood by and watched, the whole bunch of them, male and female, while Hadleigh was being, as she'd put it, "abducted, damn it!"
After all, the collective reasoning went, it wasn't as if Tripp was some stranger with dubious intentions. Like the indignant bride slung over his shoulder, he was one of their own, a hard worker, decent to the core—even if he had been a little wild in his youth and not much of a churchgoer.
He'd served his country, honorably and in a time of war, too, when the stakes were high. In places like Mustang Creek, things like that mattered.
Oakley, on the other hand, hometown boy though he was and from a prominent family into the bargain, barely registered a blip on the public-opinion meter, one way or the other. Still more kid than man, he'd never exhibited signs of even modest ambition, partied all through college and, most damning of all, forged himself a reputation for always taking the easy route.
He wasn't hated, but he wasn't liked, either.
When the locals thought about Oakley at all, it was usually to wonder what in creation the Stevens girl, an otherwise intelligent and exceptionally pretty one at that, saw in the guy. She was nice, in addition to her other favorable qualities and, in the town's opinion, could've had just about any eligible man she took a liking to.
At that point in his mental wanderings, Junie snapped Spence back to the here and now with a soft, wistful "Isn't it romantic? How Tripp and Hadleigh finally ended up together, even after everything that happened way back when?"
Spence adjusted his hat, frowning. "Romantic?" Just hearing the word, let alone saying it aloud, made him a little nervous, although he wouldn't have admitted as much. Sure, okay, he was glad for the newlyweds—Tripp and Hadleigh wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, and they were obviously meant for each other. They'd traveled separate trails, long and lonely ones mostly, before their paths finally crossed again and, after some fuss and fury, decided to buckle down and forge the kind of relationship that can ride out practically anything.
And if anybody, anywhere, deserved happily-ever-after, it was those two.
Still, as far as Spence was concerned, Tripp and Hadleigh were the exception, not the rule. He felt what he always did when a buddy got married—a certain bittersweet relief that he hadn't been the groom, standing up in front of God and everybody, vowing to hang in there, for better or for worse and all the rest of it.
In the event that things wound up on the "for better" side of the equation, great. Bring on the house with the picket fence, the regular sex and the crop of kids that usually followed.
But what if "for worse" was the name of the game? And let's face it, the statistics definitely indicated that the odds of success were somewhere around 50/50. For Spence's money, a man might as well make advance reservations at the Heartbreak Hotel—at least that way, he'd have someplace to go when the glow wore off and the crap hit the fan.
Room for one, please, and no definite checkout date.
He liked women and made no bones about it, but his reputation had gotten out of control because he didn't typically stick around after a date or two. There were reasons—one reason, actually, and she had a name—but whose business was that, anyway?
Clearly no optimist when it came to matters of the heart, Spence didn't make commitments if he could avoid it. He was considered a ladies' man, even a womanizer, and if that perception wasn't entirely accurate, so be it. Nobody needed to know about the side of himself he went to great lengths to hide—or that he was essentially incapable of breaking a promise, no matter how stupid that promise might be farther down the road. Come hell or high water, he wouldn't—couldn't—be the one to call it quits.
His own father had bailed on the family early on, when things got rocky, and the last thing Spence wanted was to follow in the old man's footsteps. He couldn't help sharing Judd Hogan's DNA, obviously, but the rest of it was a matter of choice.
If the woman he'd married ever wanted a divorce, he wouldn't try to stop her, wouldn't harass her or anything like that. But he knew this much about himself: he'd be half again as stubborn to make the first move. Not only that, but he'd know, deep down, that forcing somebody's hand was bound to leave him feeling like a coward.
He was almost grateful when Junie brought him up short again. She touched his arm, and there was an impish sparkle in her eyes and a got-your-number slant to her mouth.
"What?" Spence asked, looking and sounding more irritated than he really felt and taking care to keep his voice down. On the other side of the room, Estes and Radner sat with their thick noggins bent over their keyboards, fingers tapping industriously away. Spence figured they were probably playing shoot-'em-up video games or updating their profiles on some social-media website rather than checking lawenforcement sites for all-points bulletins and other information of interest to dedicated cops everywhere, as they no doubt wanted him to believe.
Neither scenario, of course, meant their ears weren't pitched in his and Junie's direction, in case a tidbit of gossip drifted their way, something they could take home to their young and talkative wives. Although there was no truth to the rumor that he and Junie had been having an on-again, off-again love affair for years, it was out there and circulating, just the same.
Junie's smile turned downright mischievous. They'd been friends, the two of them, long before they'd become coworkers, and she could read him like a road sign. She liked to remind him of this often.
They'd buddied up, he and Junie, way back when Spence's mother had dumped him on her sister-in-law's doorstep when he was nine, loudly declaring that enough was enough, by God, and she was through being a parent, through being the responsible one, through making all the decisions and all the sacrifices. Done, kaput, over it, fed up, finished.
Kathy Hogan was never the same after Spence's dad ditched her for another woman—younger and thinner, of course—though the truth was, she hadn't exactly been the nurturing type even before the divorce. To her credit, Kathy had made a few half-hearted attempts at parenting after that initial dropoff at his aunt Libby's place, reappearing periodically to gather up her young son and haul him, over Libby's protests and his own, "home" to Virginia. But she'd never really gotten the hang of mothering, for all her fretful efforts, and sooner rather than later, Spence always ended up back in Mustang Creek.
When Judd and the new wife were killed in a boating accident three years after they got married, something in Spence's mom had evidently died right along with them. At Libby's insistence, she'd stopped hauling him from one place to another, the only bright spot in an otherwise dark time.
With a sigh, he pushed away the memories of that initial parting, although he knew they'd be back, soon and with a vengeance. Just when he thought he had it handled, squared it all away in his mind, the whole sad scenario would ambush him again.
If it hadn't been for Libby, his father's oldest sister, and for Junie, who'd lived down the block and appointed herself Spence's new best friend, he might have run off in his teens. It wasn't like it hadn't crossed his mind.
End result: he didn't have a whole lot of faith in marriage. He liked women, no question, but maybe his trust in them was more than a little compromised.
Ya think, Einstein?
He set his jaw briefly before meeting Junie's silent challenge with a glare. "I'm out of here," he told her gruffly. "If you need me—do your best not to—I'll be over at the Moose Jaw. After that I plan to go straight home, do the chores, rustle up some grub and then sleep until I damn well feel like waking up." He turned, adjusting his hat again as he moved, and stopped long enough to fling a narrow-eyed glance at the pair of deputies. "There's a town out there," he reminded them, indicating its presence with a motion of one hand. "If you two can work a little patrol time into your busy schedules, I would appreciate the effort and so would the taxpayers. We've had those robberies lately. I think some visibility would not hurt this department."
Instantly flustered, Radner and Estes clattered and jingled into action, grabbing keys and gear and beating feet for the exit. Chorusing a hurried "yes, sir," they nearly collided with each other in the rush to get out there and protect truth, justice and the American way.
Presto, they were invisible, which was how Spence preferred them to be, at least most of the time.
"You enjoy watching those poor guys scramble like a pair of idiots," Junie observed, amused, from her post behind the desk.
Spence smiled, looked back at his friend. "Yeah," he agreed affably. "I do. Guess all this power goes to my head." A pause. "See you around."
Junie's stock response was not if I see you first, but the phone rang just then, so her reply was a distracted, "See you," instead, followed by a business-like, "Mustang Creek Police Department. How can I help you?"
Spence didn't wait for a rundown, since anything he really needed to know could be relayed to him in nanoseconds via his cell phone or the state-of-the-art communications system wired into his truck. Anyhow, genuine emergencies were blessedly rare in this neck of the woods; most incoming calls had to do with stranded cats, scary noises coming from an attic or a basement, routine fender benders, inconsiderate neighbors blocking somebody else's driveway or playing their music too loudly, sometimes parents fretting about teenagers who should've been home hours before and weren't. The duty officers ought to be up to handling any of the normal problems.
But the robberies had him mightily bothered. They were definitely not business as usual in this quiet town. It disturbed him that the thieves seemed to know exactly where to go. When he reached the police station parking lot, said deputies were already pulling out in their spiffy city-owned SUVs, one headed east, one west.
Melody’s “marriage charms” (from the bet she made with her friends about
getting married and not settling for anyone but the right one in THE MARRIAGE
PACT) seem to be working perfectly! At one point in this book, Melody thinks
about making a marriage charm for Junie. Is it the pact, or the charm—or
both!—that are working their “spell” on the girls?
I think it’s mainly the pact, the shared intention and the personal energy
these friends have invested in their project. The charms, however, are
VERY powerful, as most symbols are.
Do you work with a specific ‘image’ in mind when creating your characters? Do
you base them on people you’ve met or know, or are they more composites of
real-life and your imagination?
I often base my characters’ appearance on a famous person, but then they evolve
and become themselves, in my mind and, hopefully, the reader’s, too.
Have there been any books, romance or other genres, that have greatly
influenced you as a writer? What are they?
I have been influenced by SO many books over my life and career. Like
most writers, I love to read, and I learn something from every writer I come
across. I enjoy meaty historical novels especially—Dorothy Dunnett is a
favorite of mine, and I loved all of Taylor Caldwell’s books, too.
Every writer has her own routines and methods. How do you spend a typical
After a personal quiet time, exercise and breakfast, I head for my office,
Monday through Friday, and spend around 5 hours at my computer, actually putting
words on the screen. That said, computer time is really only a part of
the process, at least for me. I do a lot of thinking, walking, reading
and daydreaming. It’s a difficult thing to quantify.
Can you give us a sneak peak into the next book in the series, THE MARRIAGE
SEASON? (We have our fingers crossed that it’s finally Bex’s turn!)
Yep, THE MARRIAGE SEASON is Bex’s story. Bex wants very much to be a
bride, like her friends, Melody and Hadleigh, but, marriage pact or none, she
has her doubts, too. After all, she loved and tragically lost one Mr. Right—can
there really be another man like him? All right, Tate Calder seems
promising. But can she bring herself to risk another broken heart?
The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is the author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels. Now living in Spokane, Washington, the “First Lady of the West” hit a career high when all three of her 2011 Creed Cowboy books debuted at #1 on the New York Times list. In 2007, the Romance Writers of America presented her their Lifetime Achievement Award. She personally funds her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women. Visit her at www.lindalaelmiller.com.
Today's Gonereading item is: A collection of book club gifts