I’ll admit I was nervous when I began writing Wyatt’s book. Usually my writing process is to come up with a plot idea and then figure out my main characters. But sometimes a character simply appears and tells me who they are. Wyatt was one of those characters. And the more I got to know
Part 1: Cates Brothers Version Asking an author to pick a favorite of her books is like asking a parent to pick which of their children is their favorite. Can’t be done. But…I do have favorite scenes in each book. BRINGING DELANEY HOME: There’s a scene in a diner that I love. Delaney stands up and makes
New Year, New Series! As much as I love my Cates brothers, I’m excited to introduce you to my newest family of brothers, The Thorne Brothers. Here’s a glimpse into what shaped them into the men they are today…
Twenty-three years ago…
By the time I was in the third grade I knew two things for sure.
First, breathing was easier when I knew my brothers were safe. Like right now. I sat with four of my five brothers, scrunched together like peas in a pod on the queen mattress our daddy had rescued from the dump. Our youngest brother, Wyatt, was only two and lay in a playpen next to us trying to suck on his big toe.
“Why is daddy mad?” Gray asked as glass shattered on the other side of the door making us all jump.
Because the sun rose. Because mama got paid so daddy got drunk. Because the social worker came two days ago which meant she wouldn’t visit again for months.
None of that would make a lick of sense to my youngest brothers. I looked over the heads of my little brothers at Asher, who was seven to my eight. Asher knew. But Eli, Gray, and Ryker were too little.
The yelling got louder, almost as loud as when the tropical storm rumbled through the trailer park last summer. Eli’s body trembled up against mine, and I wrapped my arm around him tight.
“Hey, did I tell you guys what happened at recess today? Suzy Baker forgot she had a dress on”—crash—“and did a cartwheel”—you fucking bitch—”and everyone saw her pink underwear.”
Asher looked over at me with a single nod as our little brothers snickered and giggled.
“Gross,” Eli said. Eli was five and everything was gross to him. Mama said it was a phase.
“Yeah, gross,” Ryker and Grayson, both four but ten months apart, echoed Eli.
“Girls are dumb,” Asher added his wisdom just as the bedroom door slammed open.
I shoved my body in front of my little brothers, whipping my head around to the door. My heart pounded up against my chest, only to calm down at the sight of mama.
Our beautiful mama, even with an eye swollen shut and an angry red handprint slapped on her left check and both arms. I’d seen my mama like this before. The suitcase in her hand—that was new. I hadn’t seen that before.
“Boys—I’m leaving. Your daddy’s a mean son-of-a-bitch, and I can’t take it anymore.”
I watched a single tear roll down her bruised cheek as she looked around the room, avoiding our faces.
I had a bad feeling that started like an earthquake in my stomach. Jumping up, I grabbed onto her arm. “You can’t! Mama, you can’t!”
“I have to. You hear me, Beck?” She grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me so hard my teeth cracked together. “I have to.”
“Can we have pancakes when you get back, mama?” Ryker asked.
Her hands dropped from my shoulders and her eyes finally met mine and I knew—she wasn’t planning on coming back. It was like a big gaping pit opened up between us and just maybe I fell in.
“I’m counting on you, Beckett. You take care of your brothers.” Her green eyes darted around frantically and then she was gone.
That was the day I knew the second thing: don’t count on love.
Two days later when our daddy sobered up after his pay-day binge and realized mama was gone, he’d gone into a rage. And that rage set the pattern for the next three years. Daddy was a mean, ugly drunk. I went to bed every night praying and wishing for something to change. That something would stop the life we were stuck in.
I tried to protect my brothers. Most of the time I succeeded and had the bruises and cuts to show for it. Sometimes I didn’t. It was one of those times and a broken bone that finally brought the change I’d been wishing for.
Too bad no one had taught me that expression, be careful what you wish for…
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Throughout my Cates Brothers Series every so often a reader/reviewer will comment or ponder why in the world I picked the name “Climax” to set my small town series in. I actually have a list of reasons –not necessarily good reasons, lol– but reasons for choosing Climax. Here we go…
1.Climax happens to be an actual town in NC within a few hours of where I live. I didn’t know that until my husband and I got lost driving home from looking for a couch in High Point. (FYI: we didn’t find a couch we could agree on.) We passed the sign for Climax and it made me smile. Yes, I’m easily amused. I did a bit of research and it turns out almost every state has a city/town named Climax. So I liked the idea that my fictional town of Climax was, in theory, a town within driving distance of every reader.
2. The first book in the series, BRINGING DELANEY HOME, touches on some serious issues. My heroine, an army nurse, lost a foot while serving in Afghanistan, and after almost a year of surgeries and therapy she’s given up. Serious stuff. But in between some serious stuff there’s quirky humor. My thinking was naming the town Climax would give a nod to that humor. You know, like give the reader a hint that the book wasn’t going to be dark and angsty. Nothing wrong with dark and angsty. Sometimes that’s the perfect type of read. But I didn’t want a reader to pick up DELANEY expecting dark and angsty and being surprised/disappointed/confused with the quirky humor. Climax is quirky, right?
For example, the first time the hero, Quinn, sees Delaney in eight years, she’s given up on her recovery and beyond tipsy. Here’s part of that first conversation…
Delaney scrubbed her hands over her face and shook her head. “Funny how one second can change your life, you know? Boom. So now I want to be left alone. Why won’t Greer understand that?”
“She’s worried about you.”
“I told her I was fine.”
“You don’t look fine.” Quinn watched the tears run silently down her face, realizing in all the years he’d known Delaney he’d never seen her cry before.
“Of course I’m not fine. My life makes no sense anymore. And I’m tired of trying to make it make sense, you know? I just want to be left alone. That’s all.”
“Yes?” She sniffed and blinked tear-filled eyes up to his face.
“It’s time to come home. Greer sent me to get you.” He used the bottom of his shirt to finish wiping her tears away.
She looked up at him in confusion. “One of the many Cates brothers. In high school, you couldn’t sneeze without spraying a Cates brother. One of you was always at the principal’s office. Was that you? You look like the bad boy of the bunch.”
Quinn quirked an eyebrow at her, wondering what game she was playing. She damn well knew who he was. “No, that was Tynan.”
“The one who cheated off my chemistry tests?”
“The one who dated the student teacher?”
“What? Seriously? Had to be Tynan.”
She studied him, tilting her head different angles. “Hmmm, not Tynan, and not the super hot one, or that other one the girls nicknamed Mr. Darcy, and definitely not old what’s-his-name. That makes you the one who dated all those perky cheerleaders. Quinlan.” She poked him in the chest with her finger.
“Guilty.” He stood up and took a step back, rubbing his chest where she’d poked him.
“You don’t say. Of what?”
“Nothing.” Guilty of being stupid if he let her touch get to him again. He’d gotten over her five years ago. He was not taking that road again.
“Don’t poker up on me now. Go ahead and confess. It’s a few years too late, but . . . No? Fine. I’ll go first. I confess I’m pretty sure I made out with one of you Cates boys, but I’m not sure which one.”
Quinn crossed his arms over his chest and frowned. “How could you not be sure which one of us you made out with?”
“Well, you all looked a lot alike. You know, tall, square jaw, and dark hair. You know what you needed? Name tags. If you Cates brothers had worn name tags, then I’d remember which one.”
Quinn grunted. “I think I might be insulted.”
“Why? Was it you?” She stared at his lips as if this would reveal the truth.
“I don’t kiss and tell.”
“See, you don’t even know. I told you y’all needed name tags.”
“I’d say you need some more coffee.”
Delaney looked around the floor at all the wineglasses and coffee cups lined up. “Oh, good gravy, I know what I need more than coffee.”
“The bathroom. Help me up,” Delaney said. “No! Do. Not. Touch. The. Legs. Just grab my hands and pull.”
Quinn gently pulled her up by her hands. He kept holding on to her while she swayed precariously.
“Okey dokey. Step out of the way, Great Wall of China.” She looked up at him as she pushed against his chest. “Someone’s been working out.”
3. I liked adding in a local connection–although I didn’t base any of my fictional town on the actual town. In fact, I sort of picked it up and moved it about an hour south.
4. BRINGING DELANEY HOME was the first romance book I wrote. When I wrote it I was just writing one book. So Climax, NC for one book was an easy decision. I didn’t dream back then that my Cates Brothers could be a series. I’m blessed that my editor and publisher loved the Cates brothers enough to let me tell all their stories.
But…I’ve had a small subplot running through each of the Cates Brothers’ books about an adorable kid, Henry Lee, who’s looking for a mom and a wife for his widowed dad, Hawk Savage. As the Cates Brothers series came to a close, I knew I wanted to wrap that story up for readers of the series and a Christmas novella sounded perfect. But now there are lovely unsuspecting readers choosing that book, WANTED: MOM FOR CHRISTMAS because they love Christmas stories and have never read a Cates Brother book looking side-eyed at a Christmas in Climax book. I get it. It’s like the perfect title for a steamy read, right? LOL. So, maybe if I’d planned out the whole series ahead of time down to the holiday novella, I might have chosen a different name. Or not.
And that is the story behind my small town Climax, NC setting and the Cates Brothers Series.
To celebrate the release of WANTED: MOM FOR CHRISTMAS in 21 days I’m running a series of Goodreads giveaways for the previous books in the series. First up is a giveaway for 1 *signed copy* of COULD THIS BE LOVE? Here’s the link:
In my book, STILL CRUSHING ON HIS BEST FRIEND’S OLDER SISTER, an Army nurse and runner is wounded in Afghanistan. When her rehabilitation stalls eight months after the explosion, it takes the love of her sister, a stubborn cop, and a whole town to help her find the strength she needs to try again. The