Our first guest this week is none other than Julie Lessman! (Take a look at the sidebar to see this week's full schedule. And remember that you can get 2 extra entries in one of this week's drawings by taking the event's blog button - details HERE!)
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of 'Passion With a Purpose' underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as 'Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.' She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and is the author of 'The Daughters of Boston' series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Her 'Winds of Change' series has recently released with A Hope Undaunted, which ranked #5 on Booklist’s Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010. You can contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.
Amber: Thank you so much for joining us today! Could you share with us one of your favorite memories from this past summer?
Julie: Uh-oh, this is going to sound reallllly bad, I know, and almost workaholic, but my favorite memories from this summer are sitting with my feet up and laptop in my lap on our lower deck facing the woods. I like to joke that I am a recluse who has the misfortune of having an outgoing personality, but it’s the absolute truth, because I LOVE just staying home to write outside from May through September and even into October as long as I am bundled up.
Our wooded backyard is very private and it’s not a dark, dreary forest, either, but a lush, sprawling woods dappled with sunlight where a family of Cooper hawks squeal and soar, baby squirrels frisk, tiny fawns literally spring and wild turkeys roam. Honestly, it is SO beautiful down there that I literally stop what I’m doing periodically to just praise and thank God, and actually, it’s where I do my Bible study and prayer time as well. My hubby installed a ceiling fan overhead (for Mother’s Day) and I have my cinnamon hazelnut coffee, lip gloss, phone, and mirror (to capture those facial expression when I write) on a table close by. And the best part? My husband comes down to take breaks with me several times a day, and my daughter comes down for long chats, so I actually almost see more of them down there than I do inside!!
Amber: Oh, Julie, that sounds fabulous to me!! Can I come write with you?? ;)
If you could choose one of the characters from your latest novel to join you for an “end-of-summer” party, who would you want to celebrate with in person and where would you go?
Julie: Oh, Amber, how cruel, to limit me to just one! Because if I could I would LOVE to sit in on one of Marcy’s sewing fests on the back porch with all of the O’Connor women, sipping lemonade. BUT … since you are limiting me to only one character, you may not believe this, but it would be Charity Dennehy. Oh. My. Goodness! That woman is SUCH a hoot that she makes me laugh in almost every scene she’s in, even the serious ones. She’s quirky and fun and OH, so point-blank honest—like me—so I think we would have a blast, maybe shopping (one of Charity’s favorite things to do, even though it’s not mine) or going to see a romantic movie at the theater.
Amber: Now that would be one crazy-fun time, for sure!
Please tell us about your latest release. If you could share a scene from the book to whet our appetites, that would be fabulous!
Julie: Sure, Amber—A Heart Revealed is book 2 in “The Winds of Change” series, and it’s the forbidden love story of the oldest O’Connor brother, Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor, and his sister’s best friend, Emma Malloy, a battered married woman. Here’s my own personal blurb:
The ring on her hand belongs to one man …
But her heart belongs to another.As a battered woman, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston ten years ago, seeking shelter for a heart badly bruised by both her husband and guilt. But when she falls in love with Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor who wrestles with demons of his own, fear and shame almost destroy her … until she is finally set free by a heart revealed.
Here is a scene later in the book where Sean is taking Emma home and tells her he’s leaving Dennehy’s (where they work together) because he’s in love with her.
~ Excerpt from A Heart Revealed ~He smiled, offering a sideways glimpse shadowed with mischief. “It’s simple, really—I don’t like to play sports … or games … where my opponents have an unfair advantage.”
“You see a wife as an opponent?”
His grin broadened in the glow of the streetlamp as he eased to a stop. He shifted into park, turned off the ignition and turned to face her. “I see women as the opponent.”
“And what’s the unfair advantage, pray tell?”
Leaning his head back against the window, he draped an arm over the steering wheel and studied her through hooded eyes, his veiled look unable to hide a glimmer of tease. “Why, moods, tears and manipulation, Mrs. Malloy, all powerfully compounded by the deadly pull of sexual attraction.”
An onslaught of blood assaulted her cheeks, and she looked away. “Oh,” she whispered, palm taut on the handle of the door. She swallowed hard and gripped it tightly, ready to flee.
Her fingers stilled on the latch when he touched her arm. The sound of her name had parted from his tongue as a mere whisper, yet the depth of its passion buoyed her heart with a joy she had no right to feel. Her pulse pounded in her ears as she stared at the strong hand now caressing her own and her eyes drifted closed, unwilling to face the man to whom it belonged.
“Look at me,” he said quietly, and her breathing shallowed as she slowly raised her eyes to his. The intensity of his gaze caused her stomach to quiver.
“You are like no woman I have ever met, and if God would allow it, I would get down on my knees right now and commit to cherish and love you all the days of my life.”
“No, please—hear me out. I need to say these things, at least once. Before I go.”
Her breath hitched in her throat. “Before you go?”
He distanced himself, and she felt the loss of his touch. Settling back again, he picked up the baseball mitt to finger the binding, absently staring at the glove as he toyed with its laces.
“I’ve given a lot of prayer and thought to us, Emma, and I think the best course of action would be for me to leave.”
“Leave?” she whispered, the very word cleaving to her tongue.
His eyelids lifted halfway, revealing his sorrow. “Dennehy’s—for good.”
Her heart stuttered in her chest, stealing her air.
He gently took her hand in his, and she was too stunned to resist, staring at his thumb as it feathered her fingers. “I thought we could continue on as friends, but every time I look at you, touch you, see your smile, hear your laugh …” His large hand swallowed hers in a tender hold, squeezing gently before letting go with a deep draw of air. “… I only crave you more. To hold you, to love you … to make you my wife.”
Paralysis claimed her tongue as tears stung her eyes.
With a heavy exhale, he rested his head on the back of the seat, eyes staring aimlessly out the window. “I thought I was strong enough—to be your friend and only your friend, but my thoughts tell me otherwise.” His voice lowered to a bare whisper. “I actually believed that if I laid aside my physical desire, that we would be free from sin. But I can no longer deny that deep in the recesses of my mind, I wrestle with wanting you so badly, that I fear adultery in my heart.” He looked at her then, his eyes naked with regret. “I don’t want to leave you, Emma, but I love you too much to stay.”
Her eyelids fluttered closed, the loss of him almost unbearable. And yet, she’d known all along that this had been their destiny. This was the path she had chosen. The vow she had made, to God … and to Rory. A reedy sigh left her lips as she looked up, fingers quivering while she brushed a stray tear from her cheek. “Where will you go?”
His chest expanded and released. “I don’t know … I don’t really need the money right now, so maybe I’ll just donate my time to the church till I find something I like. I was offered a job a while back … maybe I’ll look into that.”
Her pulse quickened. “Your old store at Kelly’s?” she asked, grateful he could return to a job he loved and the woman who loved him.
“No, I don’t think so.”
She blinked, ridges lining her brow. “But Rose said—”
He glanced up, his gaze suddenly sharp. “Rose and I are over, Emma.”
Shock congealed in her throat. “Over?” she whispered. She felt her ribs constrict. “But why would you do that?” she asked, her voice cracking with strain. “She can offer you everything. Everything you should have—your own store, a woman who loves you, a family …”
His voice gentled. “I’m not in love with her.”
“But you can learn!” She shouted, hysteria rising in her tone as tears welled in her eyes.
With a tender gaze, he slowly gathered her into his arms against her will, gentle strength locking her to his chest where his heart beat steady and sure. She closed her eyes at the touch of his hand stroking her hair, and she had no power over the sobs that rose in her throat.
“No, Emma, I can’t … because I won’t.
“But you’re attracted to her, you told me so …” Her voice broke on a heave.
He kissed her hair, head resting against hers. “Yes, she stirs my body, but not my soul. When I kiss her, touch her … it’s your lips I’m kissing … your body I touch. That’s not fair to Rose, Emma, and it’s not fair to me.”
“But you’re a man who deserves to love and be loved …”
“And so I will be,” he whispered, grief threading his tone. “Because you and I will always love each other from afar.”
She sagged against him then, fingers clutched white on his coat. “No …. you’re a man with needs, desires …” Her frail moan slowly ebbed away.
Like her dreams for him.
His chuckle held little mirth. “The way I see it, Emma, if Father Mac can do it, I can.”
“But you deserve better,” she whispered, her heart raw.
He pulled away to cup her face in his hands, and in his eyes she saw all the pain and regret she felt in her own. A sad smile shadowed his lips. “No,” he said quietly, caressing her cheek with gentle fingers. “Because if I deserved better, I would have you.” Pressing a lingering kiss to her forehead, he gave her arms a quick buff. “Come on, you need to go in.” He opened his door and got out, ducking his head to flash his trademark smile. “The good news is, Mrs. Malloy … you get your store room back.” He shut his door and rounded the car, offering his hand after opening her side. He braced her shoulder on the walk to the door.
“When will you leave?” she asked, leaning on him more than she should.
“As soon as Mitch can hire someone to replace me.”
“No one can replace you,” she whispered.
He turned her to face him on the portico, the pale lamplight from brass sconces revealing his sorrow. A hint of the twinkle she loved returned to his eyes. “I know that, Emma, and you know that, but let’s not let Mitch in on it, okay? You know how he loves control.”
She attempted a smile that failed miserably.
His fingers traced the curve of her jaw before he opened the door. “G’night, Emma. See you on Monday.”
“Good night, Sean,” she whispered, heart buckling at the sight of the man she loved walking away. Tears blurred her vision as his broad back slowly faded into the night, and with a broken cry, she flew down the brick walkway with her heart in her throat. “Sean!
He turned at the street, and within mere seconds she launched into his arms, body heaving with the need to let him know just how much she loved him. With tears streaming her face, she kissed him with all the tenderness, all the passion, all the love that was his alone, and for one breathless moment in time, they belonged to each other. “I love you, Sean, and if I never reap another blessing from the hand of God, I will consider my life a joy because of you.”
He clutched her so tightly, they stood as a solitary figure, two hearts beating as one. He gently smoothed the tears from her face. “I will love you forever, Emma,” he whispered. “Through all the family gatherings where we chat and see each other in passing, I want you to always know—my heart belongs to you.” He pressed a final kiss to her brow. “Get some rest. Next week looks to be a back breaker.” Squeezing her arm, he rounded the car and opened the door, giving her wink as he slipped inside. She watched him churn the ignition and shift before pulling away from the curb.
“A back breaker,” she whispered, her words lost in the rumble of the Model T as it disappeared down the road. “And a heart breaker too.” Clutching her coat, she made her way to the door as her weary sigh collided with the frigid air to become vapor, forever fading away.
Just like our friendship.
~ End of Excerpt ~
Amber: Wow, Julie! This begs one of the questions from the movie Ever After: "How can you live each day with all that passion?" (Or something like that...) Seriously!
So, what do you look forward to most about the coming autumn season?
Julie: Grin … sitting out on my deck bundled up with the smell of wood smoke in the crisp, cool air and drinking in the beauty of scarlets, golds and russets in the woods beyond. Definitely one of my favorite seasons.
Thank you, Amber, for allowing me to be a part of your “End of Summer Bash.” I LOVE to hear from reader friends, so they can feel free to contact me through my Web site at www.julielessman.com, either by sending an e-mail via my site or by signing up for my newsletter. My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways including one right now to have a character named after you or a loved one in my next book. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called “Journal Jots," which is a very laid-back, Friday journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication.
Amber: It's my pleasure to host you here again, Julie! Thank you!!
Readers, ya'll know how generous Julie is! She has offered to give away a copy of any of her books, including A Heart Revealed, to one lucky winner - winner's choice! So please leave a comment along with your e-mail address for a chance to win! All winners will be announced on Saturday, August 27th.
*This drawing is open internationally.*
Tomorrow's guest is author Sarah Sundin, so come back soon to show her some love!