The Characters Who Sneak Up On You

Toni Fairweather was never supposed to have a happy ending. Even though The Experiment (the first book in the Experimental Love series) opened with a description of his soft lips and pretty features, he was only ever meant to be a throwaway side character. The man my main character, Patrick, didn’t want to kiss.

I’ll admit Toni was all kinds of fun to write. He was snarky and dramatic, with adorable dimples and a deep love of cocktails. But once I finished writing those initial chapters, I never expected to cross paths with him again.

Fast forward to the final chapters of The Experiment. My second main character, Logan, returned to the same club where the book opened. He was determined to find a fling to help him forget his heartache over losing Patrick (yes, it was during that part of the book). Obviously, I couldn’t let that happen. Someone had to get in the way. But who? The answer quickly became obvious: Toni.

With a cocktail in hand and a sympathetic ear to lend, he sauntered back onto the page as if his return were inevitable. Apparently, he’d been hanging out around the edges of my subconscious waiting for his cue. By the end of that second scene, Toni had morphed into a fully-fledged character. Every word and action revealed hints of depth and vulnerability. I loved him in that moment, and I loved the way he took care of Logan when he was in dire need of a friend.

Readers fell in love with Toni, too. Soon after the book was released, I started to get requests for Toni to get a story of his own. Without a doubt, he had become far too bright and shiny to ignore.

I’m so glad I listened to my readers and looked deeper into Toni’s story. For all his surface level snark and tendency to be a bit ‘extra’, he has such a big heart and so much love to give. Toni is one throwaway side character who truly deserved a happy ending all his own.

Toni’s story, Bona Fide Fake, is available now on Amazon (including KU).

Our Very Own Heroes

We all love a hero. In a really good romance novel the hero could be anything from a rugged firefighter to a rock star. A dashing rake in a regency ballroom or a billionaire businessman. We love our romance heroes to be gorgeous with abs to die for. And while they may be a little rough around the edges, that heart of gold is always guaranteed. The romance hero is a man we can count on to save lives and battle demons (sometimes literally). He’s often conflicted, battling all sorts of angst from his traumatic childhood… or his traumatic work situation… or his traumatic past relationship. Let’s face it, there’s usually a trauma of some dramatic kind in there somewhere.

Of course, once we’ve finished the final pages of the book and given our last dreamy sigh, we’re looking for a hero of a whole different ilk. Our real life heroes.

The real world is full of heroes who go to work every day to battle fires, save lives and protect us from crime (although, I suppose we have to admit the ship has sailed on the rakish regency ballroom guy). But today I want to highlight the husband who gets up in the middle of the night when you hear a strange noise outside. The boyfriend who brings home flowers on your birthday. The son who mows your lawn so you don’t have to do it yourself. He’s also the guy who snores at two in the morning, farts in his sleep and maybe has abs that aren’t quite so discernible to the naked eye (though he’ll do his best to flash them for you is you ask nicely).

Personally, I met my very own hero twenty years ago. Over the years he has saved me countless times in so many different ways. He’s challenged me, supported me, made me laugh and generally been a great partner.

A couple of years ago I came down with pneumonia. I was in bed for nearly a month. I coughed so hard I fractured two ribs. My hero took over the household. He worked his normal number of hours as well as managing to drop our two children off at school and pick them up again. He cooked all the meals, did all the cleaning and helped with homework. All the while he took care of me as I lay in bed feeling like death and moaning in pain after every coughing fit. He even fought his way into the heavens to steal me genuine Ambrosia to drink to make me feel better (it was a blend of apple, pear and strawberry juice he bought at the store, but at the time I swear it tasted like Ambrosia).

Somewhere in the middle of all this he turned 40. On this milestone birthday he stopped off at the local grocery store to buy himself a cake. Then he cooked dinner for the family and cleaned up afterwards. He never once complained (within earshot). He was, however, very relieved when I recovered and became a fully functioning part of the household once more.

This man, to me, is all the hero I’ll ever need.

So, while I still enjoy reading and writing about larger-than-life romance heroes and their fiery heroines, when it comes to the real world I’m not holding out for a hero. I’ve already got mine.