Leo

There’s a new guy in my life, and he is amazing. He’s got gorgeous golden hair and big brown eyes that are exactly the color of melted chocolate, and I am just blown away by the utter adoration I see in those eyes whenever he looks at me.

When our eyes meet, it’s almost like he can’t get to me fast enough. He can’t wait to get his paws on me and cover me with wet, eager kisses.  Sometimes, at night, he stands under my bedroom window and calls out to me, forcing me to open the window and hiss at him to hush before he wakes the whole street.

He can never be mine, though. He belongs to another woman. That’s right; I have become something I never thought I could be. I am the Other Woman.

But it’s all right, because Leo is sort of a hound. A real dirty dog.

Actually, more of Golden Retriever mix. Leo is my neighbor’s new dog, and I really don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that he is obsessed with me. He’s been known to jump into my car and perch on the passenger seat with an expectant look on his face, as if to say, “Hey, baby, where’re we going?” He dodges past me and into my home to sit in the middle of my living room, and I swear he looks like he’s saying, “Hi, Honey, I’m home!”

Although his young owner is terribly embarrassed by his behavior, I have to admit that I’m kind of enjoying it. I miss the dog that I left behind with my ex-husband, so it’s always nice to be able to shower a little bit of affection on someone else’s dog once in a while. But more than that, it’s refreshing to have some attention and yes, adoration, from a male of any species at this point in my life.

God, I hate being single.

I was never very good at dating, even when I was younger. I was always self-conscious about something, whether it was my weight or my lack of experience with men or the fact that I am just not a very sophisticated person. I once dated a really, really rich guy and spent every date worrying about whether or not I was using the right fork. He was a very sweet man, but so far out of my league that it could never have worked.

So here I am, single and nearly fifty years old, and I write romance novels.  Could I be any more of a living cliché? Well, maybe if I get a few cats.

I think that’s why I tend to write about average people. The characters in my novels are not billionaires or heiresses or even corporate VIPs, although I enjoy reading books with those type of characters. I write about people like me. People who work as hairdressers and teachers or mechanics and worry about making the mortgage. I write about people who are searching for something in life, but not necessarily love; I try to write about people who are looking for a spot to land, a place to call home, a life that fits. And, of course, since I write romance novels, they always find love while searching for something else.

So far, my characters are also healing, physically or emotionally, because that’s where I’ve been in my own life these past few years.  Whether it was Tara recovering from her car accident, Lisa moving on after her divorce, or Maggie learning to follow through, I’ve tried to write about women who find love because they grow and heal; I don’t ever want to create the kind of female characters who have to be rescued by a man in order to be complete.  The flipside of this is my desire to create male characters that are also in need of healing and/or personal growth. Ethan needs to let go of his bitterness and anger, Sean needs to grow up and make a decision for himself, and Daniel needs to let go of his fantasy woman so he can get to know the real woman he is falling for.

I believe in love. I believe it’s every bit as necessary as food or water or air. I believe I’ll find it again, and that’s why I write romance novels despite my being single.

I think that’s also why I’m struggling so much with Their Love Rekindled. Cassie Garcia is a single mom, a widow trying to repair her life after losing her firefighter husband in Her House Divided. She is a woman with many secrets and a responsibility to protect her dead husband’s reputation in a small town full of whispers and gossip. In this book, I’m trying to show another side of the cozy little town I’ve built in the rest of my series.

I love Cassie. She’s a great character to write.

Her love interest, however, is giving me trouble. He’s her first love, a teenage romance coming home after being gone for too many years.  He’s a soldier and . . . that’s it. I wanted to give him PTSD or some horrible war injuries, but everything I write just comes out clichéd and melodramatic. Overused. Been there, done that, read the book and saw the movie.

So I think my soldier is going to go back overseas for a while, at least until my next book. Cassie’s high school sweetheart is still coming home to rekindle a few things, but his wounds are from a different type of battle. While Cassie has closed off her emotions in order to focus on her goals, Aaron is a lost soul searching for answers to questions he has spent years trying not to ask.

I like Aaron. He’s a good guy, but a bit of an asshole.

My Beach Haven stories have been all about people finding a place to belong in a warm, loving community. It’s about a small town that’s more like a family. Their Love Rekindled is about the uglier side of small-town life, with the gossip and judgment that sometimes come with everyone knowing everyone else’s business. In the end, the question isn’t as much about Cassie and Aaron rekindling their love for one another as it is about rekindling their love for their home town.

And . . . now I’m excited about it again. Someday, I may write about a billionaire who comes in to rescue the damsel in distress. I may write a historical romance set in the old Wild West. I don’t know where I’m going or what kind of things I may write someday, and I’ll never say never about any kind of topic or character. But for right now, I’m happy writing about men and women in a small town; I’m happy writing about average people like me, people who have a lot of growing and healing to do on the way to finding love.

And one of those characters, somewhere along the line, is going to have a dog named Leo.

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