Time flies when you’re releasing books. I started Secondhand Heart on Valentine’s Day, sitting in Barnes and Noble in Hyannis, eating cheesecake with Julie. The words came fast, one weekend alone brought ten thousand. I never thought I’d be releasing it eight months later. This book changed a lot of things for me. It was the book that made me decide to become a true independent author. It’s my first contemporary romance. So even though it’s my fourth full-length book, I feel like this is a new beginning for me. It’s scary and exciting and totally fitting for this book.
Secondhand Heart is a book about new beginnings, ones the characters never expected and really never wanted. Daisy had married her childhood sweetheart, but he was killed in the line of duty. Cam had won reality competition The Spotlight, or so he thought, anyway. His wife, daughter of the show’s producer, fixed the results. Once word of the fix got out, Cam’s music career unraveled.
The great thing about life is you don’t only get one chance to do something. It’s not about how many times you get knocked down, it’s about how many times you get back up. Even though Daisy doesn’t think she’s ready to move on–especially not to start a serious relationship with someone–Cam makes her feel something she hasn’t since she lost her husband. Alive. Ready to take chances again.
If you’ve read any of my Night Songs books, you’re used to vampires and rock stars. Secondhand Heart brings you a country singer, Cam Hunter. I set the Night Songs books in Las Vegas because vampires, rock stars, and Sin City had so many similarities, but Secondhand Heart takes place in my hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts. I originally wanted to set it in Nashville, hence the country singer. But as I figured out who the major players were in this book, I realized it was a story about coming home, and I couldn’t set it anywhere else. Later this week, I’ll be sharing some of the places featured in the book. I loved using the town as a setting, and even more, a character.
Sex, blood, and rock n’ roll? It’s all still there, just in a different way. It’s a sexy book, a sweet book, but it’s not a straight line to Happily Ever After Town. I won’t give anything away, but not everyone makes it to the end.
Bree was my best friend, but she couldn’t keep a secret for shit. That’s how I knew that my sister Evelyn’s surprise plans for my twenty-first birthday couldn’t have been that exciting. Bree hadn’t slipped at all. And she loved gossip. Any time I had news I didn’t want to share with the world, I simply didn’t tell her.
“What did you do last night?” Ev laughed at me when I rolled down the stairs at the crack of noon. Her skin was glowing, probably from sunrise yoga or something. I still had sleep crumbs in my eyes. “Did you have a date?”
“Shh.” Perfect example. I let Bree sign me up for an online dating site a few weeks ago, and of course, she told Ev. I got way more hits than I expected, and certainly more than I wanted. Turns out older dudes are really into chubby chicks. Some of them I talked to, because I didn’t want to look like an asshole, but I always blew them off before we could actually go out. “I didn’t go anywhere. I watched baseball with Dad and drank a six pack of blueberry beer.”
I didn’t have to tell her that I spent the night missing Jordan, my husband. She knew. He’d been killed in the line of duty a year ago in Afghanistan. That roadside bomb took everything from me. His dog tags clanked against the counter as I made my coffee. I never took them off.
“Oooh. Bunker Hill?” Ev asked and I nodded. “I love that stuff. But it’s got a higher alcohol content than the swill Dad likes to drink, so it will kick your ass if you’re not careful. No wonder you look like hell. I figured you’d be out partying it up.”
“Thanks a lot.” I ran my finger under my eyes, not remembering if I washed off my makeup last night. I’m sure I’d cried it all off, anyway. I needed grease to kill this hangover. I pulled out the frying pan and cracked some eggs.
“We have a birthday cake shake, Daisy,” my mom almost sang as she danced around me making my eggs and toast. Now that Mom worked for Lifedrinks, a weight loss shake that among other things, promised world peace, she judged everything I put in my mouth. “All you need is skim milk, chocolate pudding mix—“
I couldn’t take this shit before my coffee. “Why would I want that when I can have real birthday cake for my birthday?” Wait a minute. “In what universe is pudding better for you than eggs?”
I didn’t have to turn away from the frying pan to know that my mother was sputtering. Ev giggled. I’d asked her something that wasn’t covered in the sales brochure. “It’s about feeling satisfied. And in control.”
“Ma, stop it. It’s Daisy’s birthday weekend.” Ev shook her head. Mom’s sales pitches had been making us bristle for years. She’d run the gamut of home party products, including sex toys, which I’d discovered, much to my horror, when I moved back home. I hoped she didn’t hear Ev ask me about having a date. I didn’t need her butting her nose into that. Or making suggestions.
Shake in hand, Mom left the house in her nuclear green spandex pants without saying another word.
“What’s with the glasses?” I motioned towards Ev’s face.
“Oh! Aren’t they great?” Ev pushed the glasses up on her nose. “One of my clients made them. She uses recycled water bottles for the frames.” Ev was a publicist for independent artists. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t make much money, so Ev often swapped her time for product.
I brought my breakfast over to the table, and Ev joined me. “They’re fabulous.” I lied, not asking her if there was a prescription. I knew she could see just fine. They were way too big for her face, and after this weekend, I’d probably never see her wear them again. “Stop changing the subject and tell me what we’re doing.”
“You asked about my glasses!” She whacked me. “So mom and I went to the farmer’s market this morning on the way home from the commuter rail, and—“
“If this has to do with organic radishes, I may never talk to you again.”
“Let me finish! I made an awesome salad with all organic veggies while I was waiting for you to get your ass out of bed,” she giggled when I rolled my eyes. “You better eat some of it. And Dad wants to barbeque tonight.”
“You’re just going to eat salad? Sucks to be you.”
Evelyn only loved animals, she didn’t eat them or wear them. I loved them too, and I admired her conviction. But damn, I loved hamburgers, especially from the grill. With pepper jack cheese. And tomato. “We picked up some veggie burgers.”
“This is all good, but Dad barbeques like three times a week. What are we doing tonight?” The suspense was killing me. What could it be? I hung on to hope that it would make me feel better. Everyone tried so hard, and I couldn’t tell them their efforts just made me miss Jordan more.
“We’ll barbeque first. Bree’s going to come over with the kids so mom can watch them.” Ev continued. That was the other reason I knew Ev’s plans couldn’t have been so great. Any time Bree got out of the house without a diaper bag on her shoulder was monumental. She would’ve spoiled the surprise on account of that alone. “Do you remember Cam Hunter?”
“How could I not? Is he going to jump out of my birthday cake?” Before Ev became Evelyn, the hipster determined to save the world one recyclable at a time, she was Evey, an aspiring country singer. And she was damn good. When she was a senior in high school, she tried out for The Spotlight, a talent competition. She made it all the way to the television part, but nerves got the best of her when the show went live and she flubbed the lyrics in one of the early rounds. I still think she would have won if that didn’t happen. Cam Hunter was also on The Spotlight that season, but his nerves were just fine. He won the whole thing.
“Kind of. Did you hear about the bar he’s opening?” Ev bounced up and down in her seat with excitement. Obviously she still had a giant crush on him. I’d tease her about it later, but right now, I wanted to know what his bar had to do with my birthday.
“Oh yeah, I think I did.” Cam was from around here, too. Bridgewater, about a half an hour away. It had been really unusual that The Spotlight had two country singers from Massachusetts that season. Because he was local, and Ev had it bad for him, I’d sort of paid attention to his career, but he’d fallen off my radar lately, along with pretty much everything else.
“Guess who’s handling the press for the bar? We’re going to the grand opening!” Ev’s face fell when I didn’t share her excitement. I wasn’t into country music and I really wanted my surprise not to be one of her work things. “It’s invitation only, red carpet and everything.”
That did sound cool. Maybe a little too cool for me. “What the hell am I going to wear?”
“It’s not formal like the Oscars or anything, just wear something cute that you’d wear out.”
Ev was either in denial or oblivious about how much weight I’d gained since Jordan died. Or how much I hadn’t been out since then. “I don’t have any cute clothes.”
“Jeans and a top. You have jeans and a top,” Ev insisted. “Do you want go shopping?”
I wasn’t that concerned about it. “Hell no. This is a beach day. And all the kids have already worn out their parents. We’ll have the place to ourselves.” I prayed Ev had brought her suit. She’d know I’d want some sun time.
“It’s like you planned it this way.” Ev pulled over the strap of her tank top, revealing her bikini underneath. I didn’t correct her. Sleeping until noon and nursing a hangover was a perfectly sound life plan. Plus it gave her a chance to do all those adult things I wanted nothing to do with before I woke up, and then spend the afternoon at the beach with me.