Dina Maitland spends almost as much time extricating her movie star mother from personal messes as she invests in her forensic accounting job. So much time, she may no longer have a job once she cleans up her mother's latest fiasco, her engagement to a twenty-something film student. Vowing it's the last time she puts herself on clean-up duty, Dina sets off for South Carolina to stop the pending nuptials, and along the way, almost literally, runs into the father of the groom.
Ben Cutler has troubles of his own with his business under attack from competitors and a government audit looming. Not one to trust women, he must team up with Dina to balance his books as well as stop the wedding.
Though unwillingly thrown together, Dina and Ben are surprised to find their interest and passion for each other growing. Can they face their pasts in order to create a union of their own?
“One. Two. Three.”
“What’s taking so long?”
“I’m stopping after each step to test whether there’s anything in front of me. Just in case your instructions are off. If I recall, you weren’t so hot remembering how to get us to the island.”
“Give me a break.”
“Hey, watch out!”
“Eowww!” He toppled into the tub almost on top of her, his eyes flying open as he landed. For a suspended moment, he stared at Dina. A completely naked Dina.
Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” Her third book, Driven to Matrimony for The Wild Rose Press, will be released worldwide on January 15, 2014. Her first two books were The Sleepover Clause and And He Cooks Too. She is currently serving as Website Liaison for the Kiss of Death RWA chapter and as Treasurer for the SpacecoasT Authors of Romance chapter.
Jillian: What’s the first book you remember reading?
Barbara: Heidi. Of course, I read all the “Dick, Jane and Sally” books, but this is the first “long” book I remember. I started reading at a young age, loved to go to the library, yet I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t recall much about what I read, either the title or the story. What does come back to me is how frequently I turned to books for escape, not because I had a difficult childhood or was terribly shy, because neither apply. I just loved to read. Sometime around age ten, maybe a little later, my parents built a cabin on the Mississippi river about an hour away from our home. This was in the days before portable TVs and phones, so rather than enjoy the fishing or swimming, I’d go off to the “boulder” on the beach, climb on top, and read until my back end went to sleep from the hard surface beneath me.
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Jillian: What’s your favorite “love” word?
Barbara: What a delicious question. I’ve never given it much thought, but I’ll bet if someone took the time and trouble to search the words in my books, they’d find “caring,” “attraction” and “commitment” near the top of the list “love-related” words that show up, so I’d say those qualities matter when I’m writing about love. When I was a child in Sunday school at church, I memorized I Corinthians 13. Some of those words come back to me now in answering your question. “Love is patient and kind.” “Love does not rejoice in the wrong but rejoices in the right.” But my favorite “love” word? And by that I’m taking your question to mean what’s the most important element of love, I’d have to say “relinquish.” It’s the best word I could come up with that encompasses the theme of giving oneself over to the greater good of the other. I don’t think I’ve ever used this word in one of my stories, but now that you’ve made me dig this deep, you can plan on seeing it in at least one future story.
Jillian: Describe your favorite kind of hero to read/write?
Barbara: I just received the first season of “The Newsroom” for Christmas, so Jeff Daniels’ character of Will McAvoy is clear in my mind. He appeals to me because he is so complex – troubled, brilliant, articulate (thanks to Aaron Sorkin), and not so bad to look at. If he were a little more caring, he’d be a near perfect hero, but for reasons yet unknown to me, the viewer, his lack of people skills is why he’s “troubled.” Can’t wait to find out what happens next with this guy and how he and his love interest, his new executive producer, bring their newsroom alive again. This is the sort of story I get lost in. It doesn’t hurt that there is a back story behind his relationship with the EP, that it very clearly went south a few years back but is just as clear there is unfinished business between them, she has her own devils to deal with and he is probably her salvation. Finally, although the stories they deal with are timely and largescale, their demons and challenges are intimate yet universal.
Jillian: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Barbara: “West Side Story.” I was probably around fourteen or fifteen, the most emotional time of a girl’s life, when I first saw this film, so that may explain some of its appeal for me. Since there is no happily ever after in this one, you might wonder why a romance writer would select this story. I also love musicals and dance numbers; this movie has both, and they are uplifting, catchy, memorable, and I love that mambo scene in the gym. It suggests fun and animal passion all in the same rambunctious scene. I also love “The Sound of Music,” and it does have an HEA, but the real reason I love it is this split-second look exchanged between Maria and the Baron when they are dancing and they both seem to recognize at the same time that something universal and timeless is happening between them. That look is what I strive to achieve in words in my stories when one or both of my main characters realize “this is it.” Keep in mind, this is a naïve young woman who plans to become a nun and a world-weary widower who believes his time to love has passed; it’s not two sexually-aware and active players. What they experience is “innocent” and “real” at the same time.
Jillian: What’s something you’d like to tell your fans?
Barbara: To truly enjoy romance novels, you have to be open to both hope and disappointment. My writing style is light. I love to write comedy. Sometimes that manifests itself in physical scenes, which though difficult to write, I can’t resist – probably a legacy of my early years watching “I Love Lucy,” “My Little Margie” and “Laverne and Shirley.” I think I’m better at writing humorous, I prefer the word “witty,” dialogue than slapstick. However, to make this lighter side resonate, I’ve learned I also have to include a bit of the “dark” side in my stories. Not evil, just human foibles. Out of trials and tribulations comes optimism and the will to go on, which makes a romance sing. So that’s what you can probably expect from my books, at least the next several.
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I’d also like you to know I’m available to speak via the Internet or phone to book clubs. You’ll read more about my own book club in a later question, but suffice it to say here, I believe in book clubs as one of the best ways for an author’s work to become better known to readers. I also believe it’s important to connect directly with readers whenever possible to learn more about what I’ve written. Yes, that’s right. My readers see things in my writing even I miss – layers, illogic, potential for future stories. So, if your book club is interested in talking with me, see the contact information later in this post.
Jillian: What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
Barbara: I read a lot of romance novels and mysteries, especially cozy mysteries. To get lost in a romance, the characters have to be compelling and relatable, and the conflict has to be believable and not just a lot of male-female parrying, although that element is certainly necessary. For me to get lost in a mystery, solving whodunit is paramount. All the clues need to be there, just beautifully and masterfully hidden.
Because I spend so much time in romances and mysteries, I’m glad I am also part of a book club. I never would have taken the time to read some of the books the group has selected had it not been for this experience. I’m currently reading Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Almost done. By the time you read this response, I will have finished it and figured out what in the heck was happening. There are so many layers and players in this story, I just had to keep reading to find out how they were all related and how the puzzles would resolve themselves in the end. Although I wouldn’t describe it as a love story per se, because I’m not sure there’ll be an HEA, the evolving relationship between the two protagonists definitely underpins the plot line. Throughout what I’ve read thus far, I’ve gotten the feeling there is more going on here than what I was picking up on, which is what keeps me reading more, in other words, “getting lost” in this book.
Jillian: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Barbara: In a phrase, I tear up, at least if that last paragraph, that last sentence effectively sums up my story the way it was meant to end. Following that, I tend to send the time and date to one or more of my writer friends to mark the occasion. Then I collapse in a heap. (Writing’s hard, especially that last paragraph.)
Jillian: What do you do to unwind and relax?
Barbara: Writing is such a solitary endeavor, I tend to unwind and relax in the company of my spouse or friends. I play Mah Jongg twice a week (two versions) to keep the brain nimble and cultivate humility, because I’ve been losing a lot lately. I also go to the fitness center to use the treadmill and stationary bike (deathly afraid of the ellipsis, though it fascinates me) or to lunch with friends. Recently, I’ve been finishing a needlepoint stocking for my latest grandchild before going back to knitting. Though both crafts take concentration, I find story ideas and character development take shape in my head during these times.
Barbara has a questions for commenters: Consider the last one or two romance novels you’ve read. Where did you hear about them?
Barbara is giving away a copy of Driven to Matrimony to one lucky commenter. Please remember to leave your contact information if you wish to be in the raffle.
Website and blog: http://www.barbarabarrettbooks.com
Amazon Author Central page: http://amzn.to/GYGkHr
***Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only. If an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) is available, the author may utilize that option for International participants. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.