Wednesday, June 24, 2015
The Jacks of Her Heart by Virginia McCullough (VBT, guest post and GIVEAWAY) GFT
It is my pleasure to have a guest post from author Virginia McCullough as she answers the following question:
ELF: What do you think is the strongest attraction about the genre(s) you like to write in?
VM: I write romance and romantic women’s fiction, which is only a term that implies a slight variation on romance or love stories. The best part of these novels I both read and write is traveling with the characters on a journey, and in many cases the journey is about finding home or returning home. A hero or heroine are sometimes called back home, and they’re often angry about it and resist this call, at least at first. They may even loudly proclaim they’ll leave again at the first opportunity. In other stories, the characters end up going to a new place and maybe, just maybe they find their true home there. But in romance, somehow, part of the journey we enjoy with such intensity in intertwined with our hope that the hero and heroine will find their true home with each other.
Many of my favorite authors, such as Luanne Rice, Barbara O’Neal, Barbara Delinsky, and many others, often include characters longing for home, symbolic or literal. They lead the characters toward a home for the heart in the form of a person, and at the same time, the character is attached, or soon will be, to a homeplace that fulfills a longing of the heart.
In my new book, The Jacks of Her Heart, Lorna, a widow, marries Jack on impulse (while on a tropical cruise), and he moves into her house. She’s organized and carefully orders her life, and he’s a laidback kind of guy, who runs a ‘60s and ‘70s nostalgia cafe. This book is a light-side romance in many ways, but it has a lot of heart, too, and finding home comes up as a theme. It isn’t long before Jack faces up to his discomfort living in Lorna’s house, where, after all, she and her late husband raised their family. Meanwhile, Jack’s elderly father feels coerced to move from his home, and he puts up mighty resistance to leaving behind the town where Jack’s mother and brother are buried.
For Lorna, the idea of letting go of her home is tied up with her identity, who she is as a person, and what her former life was like. Leaving her house behind means a final goodbye to her late husband and committing to a new home, literally and symbolically, with Jack.
The books in which the meaning of home are prominent often live on our shelves pretty much forever—and we pack and unpack them when we move. (Being a kind of wanderer and vagabond looking for a new home myself, I’ve hauled boxes of books around the country countless times!) These books endure because themes of going home and finding home touch an ancient, universal yearning for connection and belonging that lives deep in the human heart. That’s why in reading and writing romance we never tire of taking a journey with characters in search of a home with each other.
The Jacks of Her Heart
by Virginia McCullough
“A pure delight! I fell in love with Jack instantly—and the storybook town of Capehart Bay.”
—Lily Silver, Author of The Rock Star Next Door
Lorna Lindstrom and Jack Young just got married in the tropics—and their grownup kids don’t like it one bit...
Mere acquaintances in their hometown of Capehart Bay, Wisconsin, Jack and Lorna turn up on the same Caribbean cruise. They soon fall victim to moonlight, champagne, and dancing—and that leads to an impulsive wedding. But now they’re back home, feeling like a couple of fools. Both agree a quick divorce is their best way out of this embarrassing predicament. Lorna’s two kids and Jack’s daughter are all for that, but their meddling prompts the stubborn newlyweds to rethink their plan.
A professional organizer, Lorna is a little too proud of her spotless home. She fell in love with Jack’s generous heart, but must he rescue every abandoned dog in town? The owner of a popular ‘60s nostalgia café, Jack feels right at home in Lorna’s bedroom, but he might as well be a stranger everywhere else in her perfect house. Suspicions that Lorna’s up-and-coming professor son-in-law is a womanizer soon pushes Jack into a different kind of rescue mission. Meanwhile, Lorna steps up and organizes her elderly father-in-law’s move and offers her support to Jack’s daughter in a crisis with baby Joanie. Too bad those classic “irreconcilable differences” appear to doom the pair, even as their kids are beginning to warm to the marriage.
Maybe sharing a couple of romantic dances on the night Jack launches his Blue Sky Nostalgia Music Festival can bring this “opposites attract duo” together again. Will Jack and Lorna decide they can find a way to make peace with their dueling quirks and have some fun with their second-chance romance?
Lorna shot out of her chair when she heard the back door open again. She met Jack in the kitchen and waved off the start of his apology. Even by her standards, he wasn’t sinfully late.
“Everyone’s here,” she said cheerfully and too loud, “so I’ll get the food ready.” She leaned toward him and whispered, “Open another bottle of white wine and refill glasses in the living room. We should all drink way too much.”
She shrugged. “I have a bad case of the jitters. Except for your adorable son-in-law who likely couldn’t care less who marries whom, they all seem stiff—completely devoid of humor.” Why had she suggested this dinner? To do what? Eat humble pie? These grownup kids weren’t their keepers. Then why did they intimidate her so? Ah, yes, that pesky little problem of breaking the rules.
After handing Jack the new bottle of wine and a glass for himself, Lorna busied herself lighting the tapers on the hutch and the tea candles on the table. Candles usually helped melt away tension in a room. At least that’s what she told attendees at her Your Sweet Life seminars.
Minutes later, all the serving bowls were on the table. “Dinner’s ready,” Lorna called out, sick to death of her own sunny voice.
True, the round table softened the edges of the seating arrangements, but that didn’t prevent a face off. Choosing chairs across from each other, Vicky and Holly exchanged a glare.
“Where’s…the baby?” Lorna asked. Why couldn’t she remember the little girl’s name?
“At the last minute, we called Max’s mom and she came over to our place. Since Joanie started walking, she’s into everything.” Holly gestured toward the living room. “We didn’t think your house would be baby-proofed.”
Out of the corner of her eye Lorna saw Jack frown at what sounded like criticism.
“This is a really great house,” Max offered. “I love these big old places.”
Vicky straightened in her chair. “My parents bought it the year I was born. They spent their whole lives in this house.”
Naturally, she’d think our lives began when she came into it, Lorna thought, mildly amused. She found her daughter’s dominating and territorial tone less entertaining. Making small talk until they got around to the big conversation was hard enough without little jabs.
“Help yourselves,” Lorna said, pointing to the two bowls of hot chicken and pasta.
She picked up the salad and passed it to Jack who sat next to her.
“Everything looks great,” Jack said with overblown enthusiasm.
“I don’t know what I’d do without Harbor Bridge Market—we can thank them for the pasta dish and everything else on the table, including the peasant bread.”
“My mom still bakes her own bread,” Holly said. “Right, Dad?”
Jack directed another frown at his daughter. “I wouldn’t know.”
“I understand your mother moved to Michigan.” Lorna immediately kicked herself for opening up that line of conversation.
“She didn’t move. She’s taking care of my grandmother for a little while. She’ll be back soon—probably in a couple of weeks.”
It sounded like a threat. Jack squirmed in his seat. Maybe Nettie’s imminent return was news to him.
Glancing across the table, Lorna settled her gaze on Win, who had been more quiet than usual. Even during their earlier phone conversation, he’d had little to say. Win surely knew Jack, since everyone in town went to Both Sides Now, if not for coffee or a meal, then to attend a debate or an open mic night. Yet Win had greeted Jack with only a polite nod. Come to think of it, Win had barely spoken to her either. Lorna didn’t take her son’s silence personally, though. Like his father, he’d never been one for small talk. But the way both her children—and Holly—were acting skimmed the edges of rude.
“I’m sorry Dwight couldn’t join us,” Lorna said to break the silence.
“He had a department meeting he couldn’t back out of.” Vicky directed the explanation to the others in the room. “Sometimes I think he and his colleagues spend more time in meetings than they do in the classroom.”
“True,” Lorna said, “I know exactly what you mean.”
“Speaking of the college, have you spoken to Gil Ridgeway?” Vicky asked.
Puzzled, Lorna shook her head. An old friend, Gil took over as the chair of the history department after Jackson died, plus he’d been her companion at Vicky’s wedding, a kind of stand in for Jackson.
“I thought you would have given him a heads up.” Vicky looked pointedly at Jack. “Ever since my father died, his colleagues, especially Gil, have paid special attention to my mother.”
“I’m sure they have,” Jack agreed. “They’re a tight group at the college.”
“I’m certain they never expected her to remarry so soon,” Vicky said.
“If ever,” Win added.
Holly glanced around the table. “Who’s Gil?”
Now it was Max’s turn to give Holly a sidelong glance.
“Gil was Mom’s date at my wedding.”
“It wasn’t a date, Vicky,” Lorna corrected. “He was kind enough to be my escort.”
Vicky dismissed that with a flick of her hand. “Same difference.”
“Not at all,” Lorna insisted. “An escort does you a favor, but a date thinks you’re doing him one.” Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Jack suppressing a smile. Under other circumstances, she knew he’d have chuckled at her attempt at a joke.
“Is that what Gil thought?” Vicky demanded.
“Stop.” She raised her fork in the air. “I’d hoped to finish dinner before Jack and I talked about our cruise, but I see that’s not going to happen.”
“You at least owe Gil an explanation. And don’t you care what Dad’s colleagues think?”
With each word, Vicky’s loud voice bounced off the walls and reverberated through the room. “They’ve always had such respect for you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Holly challenged.
“Going away a widow and coming back married to your father? They’ll certainly question her judgment.”
Holly opened her mouth as if to speak, but Jack beat her to it. “Enough! Quit talking about us as if we’re not here. We knew you’d be surprised by our news. But that doesn’t make us any less respectable, for cryin’ out loud.”
Lorna found it necessary to state the obvious. “It’s no one else’s business, certainly not Gil’s.”
“In Capehart Bay, most things end up everyone else’s business,” Vicky said with a cynical snicker, which Holly matched.
Well, well, a moment of unity.
Win cleared his throat, making enough noise that all heads turned his way. “I realize that we must sound critical.”
“Maybe a little,” Lorna said lightly.
“To be clear, Vicky and I spoke shortly after Dad died, and we agreed we’d support your decision to remarry, in due time, of course.”
How decent of them. “How much time is due time?”
Win looked thoughtful, as if forming an answer to a serious question. “I hadn’t put a date on it.” He gestured to Vicky. “We didn’t discuss specifics, Mother. All I meant was that we know it’s natural that in your older years you might want some companionship.”
Jack coughed, as if choking on his food, but quickly covered his mouth with the napkin. “Excuse me. Something caught in my throat.”
Liar. You were about to burst out laughing, like me. Lorna pressed her lips together to hold back rising giggles. Companionship indeed. Oh, Win, when did you turn into such a stuffed shirt? Jackson had hung on to a quirky old-world formality, but Win was too young to sound so old.
“I understand how you feel,” Holly said defensively. “As the saying goes, the ink is barely dry on my parents’ divorce papers. The cruise was supposed to be a chance for Dad to get away from the café and maybe relax and think things over.”
“Come on, Holly. Your mother and I have been divorced for a year.” Jack took a gulp of wine and rested his arm on the back of Holly’s chair. “And I did relax, more or less.”
Stifling a laugh, Lorna pushed her chair back and stood. “Time for dessert.” She glanced at Jack. “I could use some help.”
“I’ll help,” Vicky said.
“I’ve got it.” Jack quickly got to his feet and followed Lorna into the kitchen.
She rarely used the pocket door that separated the two rooms, but she slid it closed.
“So much for our explanations,” Lorna said in a loud whisper.
“Couldn’t get a word in edgewise.”
“The three of them act like they’re our parents.”
“And one-upping each other, too,” Jack added. “But let’s look at the bright side. At least we didn’t have to act contrite and go through that rigmarole about mature people making mistakes.” His mouth curled up in a wicked grin. “They don’t seem interested in any of our speeches.” He circled her waist with one arm and pulled her close. “What about Gil? Are you sure he’s not carrying a torch.”
“I couldn’t be more certain.” She leaned to the side and stretched her arm to switch on the coffee maker, glad she’d prepared it earlier. She wanted to get back to the subject at hand. “Who are these kids to tell us how to spend our older years? Vicky’s been overbearing and bossy ever since her father died, but this is ridiculous. All three of them seem poised on a cliff, ready to pounce and run our lives.”
Lorna broke away from Jack and opened the bakery box. “What do you want to do?” she asked, transferring the raspberry tart to a platter.
“Since you asked, I’d like to shoo the kids out the door.” He came up behind her and squeezed her shoulders. “Maybe we could have a little companionship.”
She glanced behind her and grinned. “Right. I’ll drag out the rocking chairs and we can watch the Weather Channel.” She shook her head. “Honestly, I never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. In due time, indeed.”
“I know one thing,” Jack said with an edge in his voice. “I don’t feel like pretending to feel bad about our so-called mistake.”
Lorna pivoted to face him. “It didn’t feel like a mistake when we said those words—our vows, I mean.”
“Spoken in front of a tall, skinny guy in a lime green suit—it matched your dress as I recall.”
“Ah, yes, that green is one of my best colors,” she said with a giggle, “but not necessarily one of his.”
“You looked beautiful, like you do now.” Jack rested his chin on the top of her head. “I don’t know about you, but I’m stubborn enough to…”
The sound of the door opening interrupted him. “Do you need more help?” Vicky asked, her face pinched in disapproval.
“We’re fine, but why don’t you put out the dessert plates from the breakfront in the dining room?”
When Vicky was out of sight, Lorna turned to Jack. “My stubborn streak is wide awake and standing at attention.”
He cupped her cheeks in his palms. “We’ve been quick to label it a mistake. But I didn’t want to take my hands off your soft skin this afternoon. Then I couldn’t wait to get back over here, even knowing our kids would treat us like criminals.” He kissed her forehead. “What do you think? Whaddya say we give this marriage a go?”
“Sometimes impulsive decisions turn out okay.” She heard the uncertainty in her voice and closed her eyes, enjoying his touch as he cradled her face. Caught in a frenzied game of tug of war, her head yelled no, no, no, but her heart begged her to say yes. Back and forth, her reason locked in a battle with her feelings.
Jack lowered his hands. “Lorna? Are you ever going to answer me?”
His tender tone sent a rush of energy from her toes to the top of her head. That did it. Her heart yanked the hardest and won. “What the heck,” she said with a laugh, “I’ve been at war with myself all day over this. Maybe we’ve been a bit too hasty in assuming breaking up is the one right answer.” She lightly pulled on his jacket lapels. “It won’t be complicated to settle in. You forgot your duffle. It’s still in the bedroom.”
“See? The hand of fate is writing our future.” He pointed with his chin at the door. “What shall we tell the tyrants? More to point, how soon can we get rid of them?”
Before she could answer, Max walked into the kitchen with a dinner plate in each hand. Vicky followed and reached behind Lorna to grab the lid to the pasta bowl she balanced in one hand.
Lorna caught Jack’s eye and shrugged as she moved away from him. Then she picked up the dessert platter and headed into the dining room. Jack followed with the coffee.
Settled at the table again, they used up a few more tense minutes in excruciating small talk about raspberries and the delectable crust. The atmosphere could only go downhill from there.
Vicky pushed her plate away and sat unnaturally straight in her chair.
Get ready for round two. But Win spoke up first. “Will you tell us about your plans going forward?”
“Jack’s moving in here,” Lorna blurted. “This house is bigger than his cottage.” Big assumption. She hoped it was true. As she recalled, tiny cottages dotted the street behind the café where Jack moved after his divorce.
“Much bigger,” Jack confirmed.
“You said you were taking care of this,” Vicky demanded. “That’s what you told me this morning.”
“And that’s what we’re doing now.” Lorna smoothed her fingers across a wrinkle in the tablecloth. “True, we hadn’t sorted out the details, but now we’ve decided that Jack will move in here.” They’d decided no such thing, but she couldn’t imagine leaving her house.
“This is not the outcome we expected,” Win said.
“Tell me about it,” Holly interjected. “How do you think I feel?”
Vicky and Win stared blankly at Holly.
With no answer forthcoming to Holly’s plaintive question, Lorna focused on her son. “This is a family dinner, Win, not a board meeting.”
“We wanted you to get to know each other.” Jack nodded Vicky’s way. “Obviously, Vicky and I work together often, but we thought formal introductions were in order.”
“That’s right,” Lorna agreed with a smile. Considering they hadn’t discussed the possibility of staying together, not even once, they’d handily faked their way to a united front.
Max looked past Holly to Jack. “Like I said before, this is a really great house.”
He’s the only one with the sense to stay out of the meaningful part of the conversation, Lorna thought. “More coffee for anyone? Wine? I have liqueurs in the cabinet.” Please say no.
Holly pushed her chair back. “We really should be going.” She gathered the plates nearest to her. Lorna did the same and she and Holly ended up alone in the kitchen.
“Max is right about your house,” Holly said politely, “and you’ve got plenty of room for the dogs.”
Triumphantly, Lorna noticed.
“One dog at the moment. Goldilocks, a golden retriever.” Holly smacked her lips in fake frustration. “I can’t believe my dad. He should have warned you that he rescues dogs, usually old ones. He’s the hero of the animal shelter. They even gave him an award last year.”
Lorna’s stomach lurched, leaving her lightheaded. She and dogs weren’t a good match. But she had no intention of giving Holly one more second of satisfaction. “Fortunately, I have a big back porch. Goldilocks can stay out there.” She hadn’t expected her voice to turn into a croak.
“Back porch? Fair warning, Lorna, Dad’s dogs don’t live on porches.”
“What’s this about dogs?” Jack asked from the doorway.
Managing to feign a pleasant tone, Lorna said, “Holly was telling me about Goldilocks.”
“And the others who come and go, Dad.”
She can barely suppress her smug smile. Indeed, Holly had won. She’d succeeded in catching Lorna off guard. Well, maybe Jack had made passing comments about a dog, but Lorna hadn’t let it register in her brain.
Jack winced. “I see.”
“We’ve been looking after Goldilocks—Goldi for short—like we always do when Dad is away.” She glanced at her father. “Why don’t I bring her by the café sometime tomorrow?”
“Sounds good, Holly, that’ll be fine.”
With coats collected, the kids filed out the door to the driveway. Jack and Lorna watched out the window as the four climbed into their respective cars and drove away.
Lorna laughed. “Good grief, what have we done?”
Jack slipped his arm around her waist. “We’ve earned ourselves some time alone, you beautiful redhead.”
“Such sweet talk.”
“And there’s more where that came from,” he whispered.
“I’m counting on it.”
Pushing worries about the future—and Goldilocks—to the back of her mind, she turned and grabbed Jack’s free hand and guided it to the other side of her waist. With conga-style steps and rhythm, she led the dance to her—oops, their—bedroom.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
A lifelong writer, Virginia McCullough has coauthored or ghostwritten over 100 books for doctors, therapists, lawyers, professional speakers, and many others. Her other award-winning novels include Amber Light, Greta’s Grace, The Chapels on the Hill, and Island Healing. The Jacks of her Heart is Book 1 of her Capehart Bay series. Asked to sum up the themes of her fiction, she says her books are all about hope, healing, and plenty of second chances.
The Jacks of Her Heart is a lighthearted story about finding love, the second time around. The romantic lead in this story is Jack, a laidback café owner who loves the nostalgia of music popular in the sixties and seventies. Listening to these songs provided great inspiration while I was writing the book, and they served as namesakes for the menu items in Jack’s café. Listen—or sing—along with these classic tunes.
California Dreamin’ (John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, 1965)
Happy Together (The Turtles, 1967)
Forever Young (Bob Dylan, 1974)
Black Magic Woman (Peter Green, 1968, cover, Carlos Santana, 1970)
Wild Thing (Chip Taylor, cover, The Troggs, 1966)
Love Me Tender (Elvis Presley, 1956)
Scarborough Fare (Traditional, cover, Simon & Garfunkle, 1966)
Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan, 1973)
Nights in White Satin (Justin Hayward, cover Moody Blues, album, Days of Future Passed, 1967)
Going to the Chapel (J. Barry, E. Greenwich, P. Spector, cover, The Dixie Cups, 1964)
Woodstock (Joni Mitchell, 1970)
Mellow Yellow (Donovan, 1966)
Brown-eyed Girl (Van Morrison, 1967)
Roses are Red (Al Byron and Paul Evans, cover, Bobby Vinton, 1962)
Forever Young (Bob Dylan, 1974)
A Whiter Shade of Pale (Keith Reid, Procol Harum, 1972)
Sweet Surrender (John Denver, 1974)
Peaceful, Easy Feeling (Jack Tempchin, cover, The Eagles album, 1972)
Chelsea Morning (Joni Mitchell, 1968, cover, Judy Collins album “Living,” 1971
Here Comes the Sun (George Harrison, 1965)
Good Vibrations (Brian Wilson and Mike Love; The Beach Boys album, All Summer Long, 1964)
Strawberry Fields Forever (John Lennon, 1967) https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/strawberry-fields-forever/id400835735?i=400835740
I’m Into Something Good (Gerry Goffin and Carole King, cover, Herman’s Hermits, 1965) https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/im-into-something-good/id76535832?i=76535836
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