Published by The Wild Rose Press, Inc. on March 31st 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
When Sophie Barnes’s fiancé jilts her at the altar, her carefully planned life implodes. Considering her ex’s betrayal to be a rude wake-up call, she leaves everything she knows in San Diego and flees to Laguna Beach. She vows to transform her life by avoiding men for a year and by fulfilling her dream of writing a wildly successful novel.
Sophie’s new landlord, Nicholas Morgan, is a gorgeous, successful architect with a player reputation. He makes it tough for Sophie to remember that she’s sworn to be single. Nick’s avoided the intimacy of a long-term relationship--until Sophie’s independence, courage, and beauty touch his guarded heart. Both Sophie and Nick are terrified of being hurt again, but can they resist the pull of true love?
NAIROBI FIRST, NOVEL LATER
Do certain memories from your childhood remain crystal clear today? Do you trust them? Or, like me, do you begin to explore them and realize the lens of your eight-year-old self might not be a reliable narrator? This epiphany occurred to me after hours compiling anecdotes and initial research efforts for a story set in Africa.
I was lucky enough to travel extensively as a child, due to my father’s career with the World Bank. We lived in Nairobi, Kenya, when I was in second and third grade. Flashes of sunshine warming my skin, afternoons spent chatting with our 24-7 house guard, and seeing all the wild animals, dominate my memories. Lions! Giraffes! Zebras and elephants and baboons!
Most of all, I loved school. My brothers and I attended the Nairobi International School; the only school not run on the British education system. In class, I’d have a Swedish student to my left, a French one to my right, in addition to other Americans. One day my teacher would walk us over to sketch the soaring scenery of the Rift Valley, the next day a mongoose visited, and the next day we’d race to finish the second grade math book early.
Naturally, I’ve always wanted to set a story there using my visceral memories and experiences. The book is about a young woman who lived in Nairobi as a child and connected deeply with her third grade teacher. The heroine’s home life was volatile because her older brothers fell in with a dangerous drug crowd. When her elder brother is expelled from school because he won’t reveal the name of a drug supplier, the situation becomes critical. The family is forced to return to America a year early.
During this tough time, the heroine’s teacher provided a maternal influence in a chaotic world. A deep bond links them and they continue to correspond for decades until the teacher dies. The teacher leaves the heroine a sizable estate and the inheritance triggers the heroine’s journey back to Africa and into intrigue and romance. A battle over the inheritance. Mysterious circumstances surrounding the teacher’s death. An in-depth exploration of the drug culture and political unrest in Nairobi.
What a promising story, right? Wouldn’t my memories and old photos and hours of research be enough to fuel it? Not exactly.
After several hours of research, I realized that in order to create an authentic book, I needed weeks or months of research. The process was like peeling layers of an onion: one layer simply revealed another. My childhood memories and cursory research would not be sufficient. Discovering more about the precarious political climate was one thing. Portraying the poverty and struggles of tribes like the Masai, reporting on the drug culture, and understanding the complex legalities of an inheritance in Kenya proved insurmountable.
Stymied, I decided the story needed to come from the perspective of an adult heroine, through the lens of a woman, not a child. While I’d love to go back to Africa now and see it all for myself, if that isn’t possible, I’ll delve into this story when I have adequate time to give it justice. Consider the tale postponed, not abandoned.
Nick arrived right on time, looking gorgeous in faded jeans and a plain white t-shirt. How did he always manage to start the butterflies fluttering in her stomach? Just by standing there with the setting sun framing him? She was in trouble.
“Hi beautiful, ready to go?” He clasped her face in his hands and planted a soft kiss on her lips.
Returning his kiss, Sophie wound her arms around his neck and deepened it. She couldn’t resist. His strong arms wrapped around her waist, hugging her close to his broad chest.
“Mmmm, feel free to greet me like that every time I come over,” he said, lips curved up into a sweet smile.
Heat washed her cheeks and she returned his smile. “Let’s go. Prepare to be blown away by the movie snack of the century.”
Determined to keep things light and enjoy the movie before “the talk,” Sophie thrust down the lick of panic bubbling in her gut. She’d accomplished next to nothing all afternoon, instead wrestling with whether she needed to tell him about Doug.
The angel on her shoulder whispered to tell him because if they were going to have any kind of relationship, even a friends-with-benefits one, honesty and trust were vital. The devil urged her to zip it. They’d only known each other a few weeks. What if he lived up to his “Player of Laguna” reputation and expected only a fun fling? Even though he seemed deeper than that. What if she scared him off with a premature talk?