Seven years ago Monica Stevens left her home town with no intention of returning. Her inability to conceive a child not only devastated her fifteen-year marriage, it made her doubt her appeal as a woman. When her mother has to undergo surgery, she reluctantly agrees to come back and run the Mother Goose Daycare.
Luke Donovan is struggling to balance his career with his duties as a single father to six adopted children. The death of his wife has thrown the adoption of their two youngest sons into limbo. He is further stymied by a dogmatic social worker who questions whether a single parent can adequately care for so many children.
Initially brought together by the children, Monica and Luke quickly surrender to their growing passion. But when she learns about the threatened adoption, Monica wonders if Luke's interest in her is only as a mother to his children. Is history about to repeat itself, or will a Christmas miracle finally give Monica the family she's always dreamed of having?
Today's post is bittersweet. We feature one of the first authors we contracted during our tenure with the Wild Rose Press—and is the last story we edited before leaving to tackle new and exciting options. Brenda and I go back to the day when I jumped across a table in a pitch session and begged her to submit her story to the fledgling Last Rose of Summer line. So . . .drum roll please. . . Wild Women Authors proudly presents author Brenda Gayle and hero extraordinaire, Luke Donovan, from Six Geese for Monica, the Last Rose offering for the Twelve Brides of Christmas series out of the Wild Rose Press.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Luke. Where are you from? That’s a tough one. I’ve spent most of my life traveling the world with non-government organizations, helping to build schools and communities in less developed countries. It was only about six years ago, with the adoption of my first child that I traded in my nomadic lifestyle to raise a family in Havenport, NY. It’s the first time in years I’ve thought of any “place” as home.
What is Six Geese for Monica all about? On its surface, the story seems to be about Monica finally getting the family she’s always wanted. But I think it’s also about me learning what’s really important in life and opening up my heart again. I hate to think where I’d be if I hadn’t met her.
Which is why we consider this man 'extraordinary'! So . . . what did you think the first time you saw Monica Stevens? I thought she was a whack-job, insisting that I owed her $270 because I was a few minutes late picking up my kids from her mother’s daycare center. I couldn’t imagine this tyrant in any kind of nurturing role, certainly not as a caregiver to my six kids while her mother recovered from surgery in the hospital.
Uh huh. And your second thought? Confusion, pure and simple. When she was around the kids she was a different person—firm, but warm. And they loved her! By the time I left the daycare center that first evening, I found myself wanting her to like me. It was very unsettling.
She must be something. Did you think it was love at first sight? Absolutely not. In fact, it wasn’t until Monica almost died that I finally acknowledged I loved her. I guess I can be a little dense sometimes.
What do you like most about her? Besides the fact she’s sexy as hell? (She’s going to be angry at me for saying that, but it’s true.) Actually, what is most remarkable about Monica is her inner strength. She agreed to come home to run the Mother Goose Daycare while her mother underwent surgery even though she knew being back in Havenport would bring up all sorts of painful memories. She was my rock when we didn’t know if Devon and Derrick, two of my kids, would be taken away from us. Despite everything she’s been through, she is loving and kind, and has a heart that knows no bounds.
That is so sweet and describes the perfect heroine. How would you describe her? Did I tell you how sexy she is? Especially when she pulls out her old 80s high school clothes and starts dancing around the house. Man, those shoulder pads, tight stirrup pants, and neon striped leg warmers are hot! Oh boy, I’m going to be in big trouble when I get home.
Hah! Serves you right. How would she describe you? I think she thinks I’m a good dad, probably a bit too focused on my career. Probably a bit dense in the love department. No, definitely dense in the love department. Fortunately she didn’t give up on me.
What made you choose architecture as a profession? It was a way to make a difference in the world. I wanted to help people less fortunate and building schools and buildings is all fine, but unless you can do so in a way that is environmentally sustainable, and takes into account the limitations of the communities you’re working in, it’s not going to be helpful in the long run. Being able to offer the skills of a professional architect seemed to be the best way I could help.
What is your biggest fear? Being a bad dad.
How do you relax? Dancing. We do a lot of dancing at our house.
Sigh. Our kind of man. Who is your favorite fictional character and why?
Dr. Doolittle. I think I have a lot in common with him. He traveled the world and learned to talk to the animals so he could help them. While I haven’t learned how to talk to animals, I have learned a lot about the various cultures with which I’ve worked. Also, his menagerie reminds me of my rambunctious kids at home.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Patience is a skill not an inheritable trait. Unfortunately, it’s a skill I haven’t yet mastered—just ask Monica.
What fun; we didn't quite expect Luke to be so . . . deep. Now it's Brenda's turn at bat. What movies or books have had an impact on your career as a writer and why? I love really sappy romances where you think everything is lost and then suddenly the couple gets a second chance. The 1959 movie, Gidget, with Sandra Dee and James Darren is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it. I still feel a thrill when Gidget grudgingly agrees to go on a date with the son of her father’s friend and discovers it’s Moondoggie, and they get a second chance at love.
Gidget. Now there's a blast from the past. Who knew. What real thing/event in your private life were you able to bring to this story and how do you feel it impacted the novel? Many of my books deal with the concept of what constitutes “family”—what you’re born into or what you create for yourself. It’s also a question faced by the hundreds of thousands of infertile couples around the world—one my husband and I also wrestled with. Technology can only do so much. But miracles do happen; I am proof. And so this Christmas, I was happy to be able to give Monica a second chance to be a mother.
Would you do that in your next story? I’m not sure I would necessarily deal with the subject of infertility in my next book, but I do think the concept of family will be prominent. It seems to be a theme I can’t get away from.
Tell us a bit about your publisher: how did you hear about them; what influenced your decision to submit to them? Six Geese for Monica is my sixth publication with The Wild Rose Press. Before I published, I had heard a lot of good things about this fairly new (at the time) publisher and so I signed up to pitch my first book to one of its editors at the New Jersey Romance Writers conference. The response of the editor (you!) was so fantastic I knew I would do whatever it took to publish with that house. For my first five books, I worked with Maggie Johnson, another wonderful editor, but I jumped at the chance to be part of the Twelve Brides of Christmas series because
1) I loved the concept of brides, Christmas, and incorporating one of the famous “12 gifts” and
2) I really wanted to work with you, the editor to whom I first pitched.
Aww, Thanks. Tell us about the project[s] you're working on now. I’ve been asked to write a short contemporary romance for an anthology that is being published to support women’s cancer research. I’m really excited to be part of this worthwhile project.
What's up next for you? More writing, more publishing (I hope). I think my stories are expanding from pure contemporary romances into what is often referred to as “women’s fiction.” I like writing about older heroines (probably because I identify more closely with them), and these women tend to have a much broader range of life experiences.
Brenda brought along an excerpt from this terrific story. . .
“Gotta love the Internet. There’s a music stream for every situation.” He took a step toward her and held out his hand. “Wanna dance?”
Monica allowed the music to move through her as she and Luke danced through Culture Club, Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” and Hall and Oates’ “Maneater.” She hadn’t heard this music in years and it brought back feelings of being young and free, and a sense of the wild abandon she’d experienced on the high school dance floor.
The mood shifted as the attic filled with the first strains of “Sailing” by Christopher Cross. That, too, brought back high school memories of those awkward moments when you didn’t know if the boy you were dancing with was willing to slow dance with you or if he was going to abandon you on the dance floor.
Luke didn’t hesitate. He wrapped both arms around her waist as if it was the most natural thing in the world. She reached up to encircle his neck, and rested her head against his chest. She could hear his heart beating, steady and firm. He was steady and firm. He smelled wonderful, a mixture of his woodsy aftershave with the softly sweet scent of the soap used by both him and his children.
He was a good dancer, his moves confident and clear. It was obviously something he’d done a lot of. Jeff hadn’t liked to dance—typical jock—and she’d missed it during their time together—and after. How long since she’d been held on a dance floor? Or not on the dance floor, for that matter?
A good dancer. A good husband. A good father. Why couldn’t she have met Luke, or someone like him, twenty years ago?
If that last line doesn't move you, nothing will. Thank you, Brenda. Much much luck in your future. You'll do great.
Kat and Veronica