The importance of setting in A Good Man.

I don’t know about other writers, but settings are always important elements to me. In many of my books, I’ve tried to make the settings so vivid they feel like a whole other character.

The same is true for A Good Man. When I wrote it, I had a few different ideas in mind. One, to write a heartwarming, sexy romance. Two, to shine a light on mental health awareness. And three, to pen a love letter to my hometown of Toronto.

Toronto is a city full of amazing, multicultural neighbourhoods and each one has something to offer. Being of Italian heritage, I’ve always been familiar with Little Italy. This downtown neighbourhood is one that saw heavy Italian immigration in the early 20th century. Although many of those families eventually moved out of the area, the neighbourhood still boasts lots of trattorias, pool halls, coffee shops and bars.

(image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:College_street_sign_Toronto.jpeg)

In the book, Emily’s grandmother’s home is right at the intersection of College and Beatrice Streets, a real intersection in the neighbourhood. If you go to that corner right now, you’ll find a cafe and a bistro, but quaint brick semi-detached homes border the shops. It’s my hope that when you read the novel, you will absorb some of the flavour of this neighbourhood and its people.

Here’s an excerpt to whet your whistle. And don’t forget, A Good Man, Handymen 1, is now available to preorder. Release day is June 9.

Excerpt:

Emily Daniels turned the key and unlocked the old house her grandmother had willed her a few months ago. She stepped inside the tiny foyer and held her breath. For a moment, she expected to catch the basil-infused scent of her grandmother’s tomato sauce, or even her grandfather’s homemade sausages, but only stale air greeted her. On a sigh, she dismissed her happy childhood memories and marched into the kitchen.

Michael Zorn from Handymen would be here any minute and the perfectionist in her wanted to give the place another once-over. Not that there was any need. With renovations starting next week, no one would be concerned about specks of dust and a lack of air freshener. Still, it used to be her grandmother’s house, and Nonna Olivia always took pride in her home. She owed it to Nonna to revive the old place.

Emily leaned on the cracked laminate counter and indulged in a little daydreaming. Once the Handymen brothers had tackled her grandmother’s house, her house, her business would finally take flight. She’d sacrificed a great deal to get to this point. If everything worked out, her family would be so proud of her.

She glanced at her watch. Where was Trent?

The familiar prickle of dread made her skin itch. It seemed to happen more and more when she thought of her fiancé.

Trent had promised to be here for their first in-person meeting with Michael Zorn. She pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to him.

Are you running late?

 He surprised her by answering right away. Running late for what?

Her shoulders drooped. Not again.

It’s the meeting with Michael Zorn. I told you the details last week.

No, you didn’t. I would have remembered something like that.

 Yes, I did.

Why did he always do this? She knew she’d told him. He’d been standing at the fridge, eating an apple. She’d made him enter it into his calendar.

I don’t think so, babe. This is the first I’m hearing about it.

 Gaping at her phone, Emily searched her memory bank. Had she somehow fabricated the conversation? Maybe they’d been talking about something else? She supposed she could have made a mistake.

Impossible. There was no way she would have screwed this up. Still, sometimes Trent made her wonder if she was losing her mind by questioning her actions and denying the things she said. Some days, she felt like a puppy chasing its own tail.

She’d have to handle that issue later.

Well, are you coming?

I can’t now. I have plans.

 Trent, this is important.

 Then you should have been clearer. Sorry, babe. Looks like you’ll have to meet with Zorn yourself.

 She was about to make a comment about him being selfish but decided it wasn’t worth it. Trent was stressed, but so was she. She’d never been on TV before. Surely he could put himself in her shoes for once. God only knew she’d been doing her best to step into his size elevens.

After being fired from his high-profile chef’s job, he hadn’t been the same. Although she was in no position to diagnose him, she couldn’t help thinking he might be dealing with a case of depression.

The Trent she’d met two years ago had been charming and funny. This new Trent withheld information and turned his sharp tongue on her all too often. In his kitchen at the Imperial, one of Toronto’s top restaurants, he’d been the emperor. His staff had kowtowed to him and never questioned his choices.

In losing his job, Trent had tumbled off his mountain. With no staff to boss around, he’d turned his tyrannical attentions toward her. She’d assumed the role of flunky. Somehow she’d become his sous-chef. A feeble-minded one, if his occasional outbursts were to be believed.

Emily would have to be patient. Once her business took off, once they became financially stable again, she was certain the old Trent would resurface.

If he didn’t, she wasn’t sure what she would do.

She scratched her chest to relieve the nervous itch there and looked at the ceiling to focus her thoughts. It would help if she knew Trent was still on board with the Handymen appearance.

“Of course, he is,” she chastised herself. “We both signed on to do the show. He’ll be here when the renovations start. He knows how much this means to me.”

Although, if he lets me down, it won’t be the first time.

Emily ignored the voice of caution inside her, the one that had been putting up red flags ever since she’d spied the change in Trent. The first time she’d mentioned the soup business idea, he’d laughed. When she’d questioned him, he’d apologized, but it hadn’t felt sincere. Ever since, he’d shown his derision in countless ways. Joking about her ‘cute business’ to his buddies, all while continuing to live off the money she’d put aside to help her get started. He’d also insisted they postpone the wedding date. She understood that. He wanted to be settled and find work again, but married friends had assured her the timing would never be perfect. If they waited for the ideal day and time, they’d be waiting forever.

Some days, she wondered if he wanted to get married at all. Most days, she wondered if she did.

With a sigh, Emily chose to remain optimistic and concentrate on the positives. Putting Trent’s failings out of her head, she planned what she would say to Michael Zorn.

She had written out her business plan years ago, but only recently decided to make it a reality. After taking the plunge and quitting her hellish corporate job, she’d created a company called From Scratch. Her product? Healthy, organic soups made from her own recipes and some her grandmother had taught her. Hoping to cater to busy families who wanted healthy options, she’d package her own spice mixes and even sell fresh soups from her own storefront. The products would have a down-home, rustic appeal. Comfort food that was healthy. She believed people craved a return to good, homemade food, or at least as homemade as possible, and wanted her customers to trust in her products.

Unfortunately, not long afterward, Emily’s grandmother had passed away. A confident, passionate woman, Nonna Olivia had also been Emily’s greatest champion in the kitchen. She’d left her this house on Beatrice Street with the dying wish that her granddaughter renovate it and use it for her soup business. It was the perfect location, in the heart of Toronto’s trendy Little Italy, but the building was as fresh as peeling paint.

Emily had worked her way through her savings after Trent had lost his job. Without enough money to renovate the old house on her own, she’d become desperate, searching for ways to keep her dream alive while helping her fiancé stay afloat.

She’d spotted an advertisement for the Handymen show. To her delight, the producers had thought her a great candidate for the show. She couldn’t have been happier. Appearing on Handymen was the only way Emily would ever be able to get From Scratch off the ground without having to sell her grandmother’s house or her own body.

As a plus, she’d get to meet those dishy Zorn brothers. She’d been glued to their show since its inception. Even though her fascination stemmed primarily from older brother Michael’s dark bedroom eyes and bulging biceps, she admired their work—the Zorn men and their large crew paid attention to detail and craftsmanship.

She appreciated Trent’s meticulous grooming, but something about Michael Zorn’s scruffy exterior had her sighing. With his hint of a dark beard and unkempt black curls, he was the picture of raw masculinity. Michael wielded a saw as if it were an extension of his arm and some of Emily’s favorite moments on the show were when Michael leaned over to cut a piece of wood, his back rippling under his shirt.

She had taken his image to bed with her several times, only the Michael in her dreams looked up from his projects and turned hungry eyes upon her. He’d put down his tools, still sweaty from his hard work, and remove his tool belt. He’d stalk toward her in his steel-toed boots…

“Good Lord, Em.” She shook her head. “Lusting after a TV contractor when you have a perfectly good man in your life? When did you sink so low?”

A Good Man is now available for preorder from @Totally_Bound!

My contemporary romance A Good Man, Handymen 1, is now available for preorder!

He tears down walls for a living. She’ll tear down the ones around his heart.

Contractor Michael Zorn is one of the leading men on the successful home improvement show Handymen. He is also revered for an act of bravery he’d rather forget. The press may hound him, but all he really wants is to help couples realize their home renovation dreams.

One of these couples is Emily Daniels and her fiancé, Trent. When Emily inherits an old home in Toronto’s Little Italy, she sees it as the perfect location for her small business. The house needs a lot of work, but her appearance on the Handymen show means Michael and his contractor brothers will help her renovate at a reasonable cost.

When Michael and Emily meet, their chemistry is intense. Emily wants to stay true to Trent, but her fiancé has done nothing but disappoint her. Michael recognizes Trent for what he is—a cheater. And it isn’t long before he breaks Emily’s heart.

At first, Michael only intends to comfort Emily, but their friendship soon flares into passion. Unfortunately, Michael has secrets and wounds of his own, ones he has never trusted to another. Emily is determined to break down his walls, but can she trust her heart to a man who can’t trust himself?

Preorder links:    Amazon    Kobo     Barnes and Noble     Totally Bound Publishing

Release date: June 9, 2020

A Good Man was previously published and has been revamped for Totally Bound Publishing. I am thrilled to bring it to my readers!

CW: Hero is a civilian with PTSD, and flashbacks are described in the book. Cheating is also discussed, but doesn’t occur between the hero and heroine.

Salt + Stilettos by @JanetWaldenWest.

I’m excited to host Janet Walden-West for the release of Salt + Stilettos!

Sweet Home Alabama meets Top Chef when Miami’s most determined image consultant clashes with Samoa’s most uncooperative chef in a race to rebrand him as South Beach’s newest star.

Brett Fontaine learned early that appearance matters and not to count on anyone but yourself. Trading her red-dirt roots for the title of Miami’s go-to image consultant, she refuses to let anything jeopardize her new life.

Not an influential client-turned-stalker who’s up for parole.
Not post-kidnapping panic attacks.
Certainly not the stubborn, attention-phobic chef she’s challenged to transform into a celeb in ninety days.

Will Te’o can almost taste the dream he sacrificed American Samoa, culture, and cherished family ties for—opening a four star restaurant in the most cut-throat culinary location in North America.

Unfortunately, that requires navigating it’s equally cut-throat social scene. When his first public performance ends in a social media spectacle, his only option is turning to the stiletto-wearing nemesis who’s invaded his kitchen.

Neither expected to share anything but barbs, yet somewhere between accidentally bonding over comfort food and office-wrecking sex, they’re named South Beach’s hottest pairing. Until Brett’s stalker engineers a reputation-shattering reveal. She may be going down, but she’s not taking Will’s dreams with her. Now Will’s pulling out all his new skills and cooking up a last-ditch event. He’ll prove to Brett that relying on the right person makes for the perfect recipe—or be left heartbroken in the spotlight.

Ebook and paperback: April 21st from City Owl Press
Good Reads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50851170-salt-stilettos

Amazon Pre-Order:  https://www.amazon.com/Salt-Stilettos-South-Beach-Romance-ebook/dp/B086NZGPPK/ref=sr_1_1?adid=082VK13VJJCZTQYGWWCZ&campaign=211041&creative=374001&dchild=1&keywords=Salt+%2B+Stilettos&qid=1586709908&s=books&sr=1-1

Rafflecopter giveaway (US residents only): http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9751c04228/

Calling all bloggers! A Good Man, Handymen 1, blog tour.

I’m reaching out to my blogger/bookstagrammer friends today. I’m setting up a blog tour for A Good Man, Handymen 1, and I’d love for you to be a part of it!

A Good Man was the winner of the Northern Hearts Contest 2018 in Contemporary Romance, and I’m so excited to bring it back to readers with Totally Bound Publishing.

This contemporary romance is set for re-release June 9 (preorders April 28.) If you would like to receive an ARC for review, or would like to share a promo post on your blog or page, please sign up today. Simply head over to this doc: https://forms.gle/9iPKJfQpY8dkFFvo6

Thank you!

 

 

$0.99 sale on Covet, Vegas Sins 2!

Hey, everyone! I’m happy to let you know my contemporary romance Covet, Vegas Sins 2, is now on sale for only $0.99!

This sale will run until April 15, so if you haven’t read this one yet, now is the time to snap it up.

CW: this book contains discussions of infertility, which may be difficult for some readers.

Blurb:

Alex just acquired Sin City’s hottest casino hotel, and he’s determined to make Vice the ultimate pleasure palace—along with the mind-blowing new club, Covet.

But behind the successful entrepreneur façade, Alex struggles with a past that continues to haunt him, day in and day out.

After a surprise hookup with a beautiful stranger, he thinks he’s found the perfect distraction…until she walks out, leaving him with an unfamiliar ache which the pulse-pounding nights of excess at Covet can’t soothe.
When their paths cross once again, Alex realizes Dana is so much more than a mere distraction. He wants her—all of her.

But having her means he needs to face both her demons…and his own.

One-click Covet here!

A Good Man cover reveal!

I feel a bit strange sharing book news right now, but frankly, book news is one of the things that’s keeping me happy right now.

So, in that vein, I hope you won’t mind if I share some with you! Those of you who receive my newsletter will already have the link in your inbox.

A Good Man, Handymen 1, has a new cover!

As I’ve shared, A Good Man will be re-released soon, and has found a new home at Totally Bound Publishing. I couldn’t be happier with what they’ve done with the cover, and I hope you love it too.

Preorders will begin April 28, and release day is June 9.

Please stay tuned for more details!

A haunted Toronto lighthouse and A Good Man. #amwriting

For those of you who’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’ve been hard at work on the re-release of A Good Man, Handymen 1, and I expect to be able to share a brand new cover with you soon. My Handymen series is coming to Totally Bound Publishing this year, with book 2 releasing in the fall. A Good Man has been re-edited  and I’m really proud of the journey this book has taken. Stay tuned for more!

A Good Man is set in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario, and you’ll get a lot of local flavour in this book and series. I’ve thrown in several references to some of my favourite spots in the city…including the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse!

Located on the Toronto Islands, this lighthouse dates from 1808. In fact, it is the oldest existing lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It’s best known for the ghost story that has surrounded it for years. The ghost in this case is reputed to be John Paul Radelmüller, it’s first keeper. According to local legend, the poor lighthouse keeper was murdered by two drunken soldiers from Fort York who’d come in search of his stash of bootlegged beer. When Radelmüller wouldn’t give them any, a fight broke out and they killed him, hiding his body somewhere on the site. There are various versions of the legend, but many Torontonians will tell you the lighthouse is haunted by its first keeper to this day.

Personally, I’ve always thought so. As a child, I would visit the Toronto Islands with my family, and always hoped to get a glimpse of poor old J.P.  So far, he has eluded me, but I always look for him when I go to the Islands. I couldn’t resist using this spot as one of the settings in the book, although I can assure you A Good Man is not a ghost story. It’s romance, all the way.

(all photos are my own)

A Good Man will be up for preorder April 28 and general release will be June 9.

Here’s an excerpt:

Emily threw herself at him and wrapped her arms around his torso, cutting off his words and his breath. Only when he hugged her back did he realize how hard she was quivering.
She wasn’t just crying about the old photos.
“It’s okay, Em. Let it out, sweetheart.”
The collar of his shirt grew wet but he didn’t care. Wardrobe had tons of shirts. Besides, she felt good in his arms, all soft and warm. He rubbed her shoulders and the back of her waist, exploring and familiarizing himself with her luscious body. He breathed, drinking in her scent. His nasal cavities had never known such bliss. It was like that first clear breath after a long period of congestion. His fingers were pretty happy too, enjoying the give of her body. It was all he could do not to slide them down, cup her sweet ass and pull her up against him.
Just not while she was crying over another man.
She lingered in his arms and he did nothing to push her away. In fact, it surprised him how badly he wanted to keep her there, so much so that when Emily finally extricated herself, he wanted to pull her back into his embrace. Instead, he wiped her cheeks clean of the remaining tears.
“The makeup ladies are going to kill me for making you cry.”
It might have been his imagination, but her tears made her eyes appear even greener. In fact, her entire face seemed a riot of tempting color. Each shade called to him. The crushed roses in her cheeks. Her strawberry lips, so plump and moist. Even the doeskin brown of her freckles fascinated him to no end. He wanted to count them, to kiss and mark them all.
Kissing her made a whole lot of sense right now. Kissing her senseless seemed even better.
Emily’s eyes widened. Her lips parted in invitation. Michael paused, knowing it was wrong, even though every raised hair on his arms told him it was right.
As he debated with himself for a split second, she brushed her lips against his. It was quick and soft, hunger masquerading as something platonic. Even though a spectator might have called it a friendly kiss, he knew the truth. As brief as it may have been, he felt her yield to him, even if just a little.
From the startled look in her eyes, Emily knew it too.
She took a step back. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“You’re right. I should have been the one to do it.” Michael licked his lips. “Your lips really do taste like strawberries.”
“Michael, I can’t.”
“I think you just did.”
“You know what I mean.” She waved her hand between their two torsos. “This. I can’t do this.”
“What? Point at my chest?”
“You’re teasing me.”
“Maybe a little. Listen, Em, I understand. As unexpected as that kiss was, as much as I want to taste your lips again, I know it’s too soon.”
“It’s too much, too soon.”
He reached for her hand. “I get it. It’s okay.”
“Thank you.”
“But that doesn’t mean I won’t be spending all my waking hours waiting for the moment I can make it happen again.”
“Michael.”
“Don’t worry. I’d never force the matter. Besides, I enjoyed having you thrust yourself at me.”
“Are you ever going to let me live it down?”
“Not in this century, sweetheart.”