INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY
Left at the Altar Series
by Jana Richards
The Left at the Altar series is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author and a giveaway. Please make sure you visit the other tour stops as well.
Her Best Man:
Left at the Altar Series, Book One
Left at the Altar Series, Book One
Sarah Stevens experiences a bride's worst nightmare; being dumped at the altar. When she goes on the Caribbean cruise meant to be her honeymoon in order to lick her wounds, she discovers her ex-fiancé has sent his brother, Will Marshall, the former best man, on the cruise as well. Everyone on board thinks they're newlyweds, and Sarah is too embarrassed to set them straight. How is she supposed to share a tiny cabin with a man she barely knows? Even worse, how is she supposed to pretend that she and Will are on their honeymoon? Sarah discovers the best man for her really is the best man.
“You have a beautiful engagement ring,” Josie commented.
Sarah felt her positive resolve slip a little. She stared at the ring, uncertain why she still wore it. Did she miss Brad that much, or was it the idea of being married she missed?
“Thank you,” she said simply, hoping Josie would drop the subject. Apparently, that was too much to hope for.
“Why is it you and Will don’t wear wedding bands?”
“Josie, that’s really none of our business,” Ted rebuked gently. He took his bride’s hand and planted a tender kiss on each of her fingers. “We talked about this, sweetie. Boundaries, remember?”
Ted’s love for Josie shone in his eyes, despite her lack of tact. He knew all her foibles, weaknesses and plain old stupidities and he still loved her. Sarah wondered why someone couldn’t love her like that. She stared at her engagement ring and thought of the day Brad had given it to her. She’d been so happy and so hopeful of a wonderful future. But now all her plans and dreams were gone, her hopes of having a family of her own dashed. How could he have done that to her?
The sob seemed to come from the pit of her stomach, working its way up her body until it just burst uncontrollably out of her mouth. She covered her mouth with her hand, shocked by the emotion as well as by the tears flooding out of her eyes. To her surprise she found herself being drawn into Will’s embrace. She sniffled against his shirt, embarrassing herself further by getting his shoulder wet.
“It’s okay, Sarah,” he whispered. In a louder voice she heard him speak to the rest of the group who had stopped in mid-chew to stare at her.
“Sarah’s had a very difficult couple of weeks,” he began. This was it, she thought. This was where she got outed as a fake bride. She sucked in a breath. If he told the truth would he go to jail? Would she?
“We don’t have any rings because a few days before the wedding the jewelry store where we purchased our rings burned to the ground. Our rings were lost and Sarah was devastated. As you can see, she’s still emotional about it.”
Sarah sniffed against Will’s shoulder. What?
“Oh Sarah, how awful for you!” Josie said.
“But that’s not everything,” Will continued, his voice taking on a serious note. Sarah stopped sniveling to listen to what he’d say next. “The wedding dress she’d ordered was lost in transit. She had to wear a dress off the rack.”
Josie took in a sharp breath. “No!”
“But the last straw came when a pipe broke at the hall where our reception was going to be held and the place was flooded. We had to cancel.”
Again, more ohhs and ahhs sounded around the table. Where did he come up with these crazy stories?
Beatrice chuckled. “I’ve heard some wedding disaster stories, but yours take the cake. Don’t worry, Sarah. Someday you’ll look back and laugh, I promise.”
Gladys raised her glass. “Here’s to Sarah and Will. May their marriage be luckier than their wedding.”
Everyone raised his or her glass in a toast. As Sarah wiped her eyes, Will made a toast of his own. “To Sarah. Nothing but blue skies from now on.” He took a drink from his glass, his blue eyes full of compassion, with a hint of humor twinkling under the surface.
Sarah picked up her wineglass. How had he done that? She knew Will’s stories were more about saving his butt than protecting her from humiliation, but still, she’d rather be thought of as the girl whose wedding blew up then the girl who got dumped at the altar. For that she was grateful.
And how had he made her feel so safe and comforted in his arms? She shivered a little, remembering the gentle touch of his hand sliding up and down her back. For that she was less grateful. She was confused enough already about her feelings.
Sarah reluctantly tipped her glass to Will. “To blue skies.”
There Goes the Groom:
Left at the Altar Series, Book Two
Left at the Altar Series, Book Two
Eight years ago Tony left Olivia at the altar. He was sure she didn't really want to marry him. Now he's back, and they're forced to work together.
Coming home isn't easy for Tony, because his father wanted him to work at a trade instead of going off to college. Their relationship is still unsteady. Even before Tony's return, Olivia began questioning the depth of her love for her fiancé, a man she chose because he was safe and reliable. Yet the last thing she wants is a loveless, faithless marriage like the one her parents suffered through.
When Tony, who never stopped loving her, insists her fiancé is the wrong man for her, Olivia sets out to prove him wrong. But the sexual chemistry between them is still strong, and so are her feelings for him. Even so, how can she break her engagement, hurt her fiancé as she was once hurt? And how can she trust Tony not to abandon her as he did before?
If anyone does the jilting this time, she will.
“I, Anthony James DiPietro, take you, Olivia Jane Taylor, to be my lawful wedded wife, from this day forward, till death do us part.”
The impact of the words hit Olivia. They were promising to love each other for the rest of their lives. How could anyone make a promise like that? How could she possibly know at twenty how she would feel at forty?
She swallowed and closed her eyes for a moment, thrusting the thought from her mind. All she knew was that she loved Tony. They’d have to figure out this marriage thing as they went along.
Like her parents figured it out?
Something inside Olivia snapped, like an elastic band reaching its breaking point. What if she and Tony didn’t make it?
The minister continued the liturgy. “Olivia, repeat after me, ‘I, Olivia Jane Taylor—”
“I can’t marry you.”
Always a Bridesmaid:
Left at the Altar Series, Book Three
Left at the Altar Series, Book Three
Dani Dipietro has always considered herself an ugly duckling in a family of swans. She's the bridesmaid her friends count on, but never the woman any man wants for his bride. So she plays the funny girl and guards her emotions, and her secrets, closely.
When Zach Morrison was dumped at his wedding, Dani was there to help him through the humiliation. A year later they meet again and once more Zach needs her help. To fend off the unwanted attentions of his former fiancé, he asks Dani to pretend to be his girlfriend. They play their roles a little too well, and make believe turns into reality. But their relationship comes crashing down around them when Zach's trust issues cause him to accuse Dani of cheating. Telling the truth means Dani will betray a friend, something she will never do. But keeping her secrets means she may be destined to remain a bridesmaid forever.
Her heart cried for him. Zach was a good guy. He didn't deserve the humiliation Chantal had heaped on him. She wanted to tell him how badly she felt for him, wanted to let him know that she would gladly listen if he felt like talking. But their relationship had always been superficial, one that didn't include intimate heart to heart conversations. Offering sympathy would only embarrass him more.
So she'd do what she did best. She'd make him laugh.
"I realize you've had a bad day, but hey, look at me. I got squeezed into a dress that makes me look like an overstuffed Barbie doll. My shoes are killing me, and then to top it all off, the dress from Hell splits across my ass so the whole world can see my underwear."
One corner of Zach's mouth quirked in a brief grin. "Yeah, you've got it all over me. I've only been cheated on and humiliated on my wedding day. For the record, the whole world didn't see your underwear, just me."
She did her best to keep a straight face. "I happen to take my semi-nakedness seriously, even if there's only one person to witness it."
He chuckled, a deep rumbling sound that did funny things to her insides. But despite his laughter, his blue eyes were full of pain. Dani wished there was something more she could do for him.
"Thanks for the loan of the jacket," she said. "Can I hang on to it for a while?"
"Of course. Thank you for providing a diversion."
"Always glad to provide comic relief." She sneered at the neon pink satin spilling out from beneath the tuxedo jacket, while lifting the fabric and dropping it in disgust. "It wasn't a much of a stretch, seeing how I was already dressed like a pink clown."
Zach's lips twitched. "It's certainly an interesting color."
"Please. This pink is bright enough to be visible from space."
He laughed out loud, and she was struck by the warmth of his smile. Once upon a time, she'd had a secret little crush on him. He was way out her league and had been devoted to Chantal, but what red-blooded woman wouldn't lust after a man as handsome as Zach just a little bit, in the privacy of her bedroom?
"The best thing about this dress is that someone else paid for it." Dani was saving her money for something special and nothing was going to stand in her way. "Chantal said she wanted the bridesmaid dresses to make a statement. In my case, the statement was, 'Get a different dress.'"
Hearing his fiancée's name instantly wiped the smile from his face. "She shouldn't have made you wear a dress you felt so uncomfortable in. Don't be so hard on yourself, Daphne."
Her heart fell. "Actually, it's Daniella, Daniella DiPietro. Everyone calls me Dani." She knew this was probably the longest conversation they'd had in their acquaintance, but it still hurt that he didn't remember her name.
He closed his eyes and shook his head. "Of course I know your name. I don't know what's the matter with me. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. You've had a hell of a day. Not as bad as mine of course, but still lousy. It's not a big deal."
"It's a big deal to me. I'm really sorry."
Dani brushed aside his apology with a wave of her hand, trying not to let her disappointment show. She wasn't the kind of woman men remembered. Men remembered women like Chantal, beautiful, tall, slim blondes, with cute little turned up noses. Not short, dark, pudgy women with prominent Italian beaks.
"I should go. Your mother and Camp are waiting for me in the limo. Would you like a ride home with us?"
Zach shook his head. "Thanks, but I think I want to be alone for a while longer. Please tell my mom I'm fine."
"I will," she said. "Can I ask you to do one more favor for me? I promised your mother I'd bring her purse to her, and we both know what'll happen if try to crawl under there again." She pointed to the little beaded bag on the floor beneath the pew.
"Of course." He bent to retrieve it, giving her a close-up and personal view of his gorgeous, tight butt. She swallowed and looked away.
Zach straightened and handed her the bag. "There you go."
"Thank you. How do I get the jacket back to you?"
"Just drop it off at the rental place." He told her the address.
"Okay, I'll do that. Well, I have to go home now and burn this dress. Goodbye Zach."
It surprised her that he called by her full given name. She blinked and looked into his face. The desolation she saw felt like a punch in the gut. He'd obviously loved Chantal and she'd hurt him deeply. Without thinking, she laid her hand on his arm.
"It's going to be all right."
He placed his hand over hers. Closing his eyes for a brief moment, he took a deep breath. I know. I just…"
Wanting nothing more than to comfort, she wrapped her arms around his waist in a hug. He held her tightly, pulling her against him and burying his face in her neck. Dani inhaled the intoxicating scent of spicy aftershave laced with underlying notes of warm, clean male. How could Chantal treat a wonderful man like Zach this way?
She gently pulled away, keeping him at arm's length. "You're going to get past this, Zach."
"It doesn't feel like it right now."
"I know, but someday, when you're old and grey, you'll be sitting on the front porch with your wonderful wife of fifty years, and you'll say 'Thank Heaven Chantal cheated on me or I never would have met you.'"
He made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob. "Fifty years, eh?"
Some lucky girl would snap Zach up in a minute, and if she was smart, she'd shower him with the love and consideration he deserved.
Some lucky girl, but not me.
Reluctantly, she took a step back. He squeezed her fingers before letting her go. With her heart pounding in her chest, and regret nipping at her heels, she hurried from the church.
Before she did something stupid, like kiss the jilted groom.
Interview With the Author
Hi Jana, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Always a Bridesmaid.
Which writers have influenced you the most? I’ve loved the work of Nora Roberts, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley, Susan Wiggs, and Rosamunde Pilcher (to name a few) for many years. Recently, I’ve really enjoyed and been influenced by the work of Lisa Kleypas and Julie James.
For what age group do you recommend your book? It’s definitely meant for an adult audience.
What sparked the idea for this book? This book is the third in a three book series that I call my Left at the Altar series. Each book begins with someone being jilted on their wedding day. I wanted to explore what it would take for someone to get over such a huge humiliation. Could they trust again? Could they let themselves love again? Some of the subject matter is painful, but I wanted to handle it with some humor. I hope the result is making readers laugh and cry at the same time.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel? For me it’s usually the idea or premise for the novel. I have a story question, or questions, I want to ask; in Always a Bridesmaid, one of my questions is, ‘What would it take for a woman who has always considered herself an ugly duckling to finally see herself as a beautiful swan?’ Then I build characters around the questions I want to ask. I give them back stories, goals, and motivations so I have an idea how they’ll respond to the pressure I put them under. But they always manage to surprise me in some way, even though I think I know who they are!
What was the hardest part to write in this book? I had a hard time getting the relationship between Zach and Dani right. Had they known each other for a long time or had they just met? Did they live next door to each other? Had Dani always been secretly in love with Zach? I rewrote the beginning of Always a Bridesmaid many times, much to the frustration of my critique group, since they heard many variations of this story. Again and again, poor souls.
How do you hope this book affects its readers? I hope readers come away from this story believing they don’t have to be beautiful to find love. What they need is the courage and faith to trust in love. When someone loves you, all they see is beauty.
How long did it take you to write this book? Way too long! I’d always meant to write this series, but I got stumped by a lack of confidence, and a fair bit of angst and confusion along the way. It took me a long time to overcome that stumbling block. The first book in the series, Her Best Man, was published in February 2007, the second, There Goes the Groom, in May 2013, and finally, Always a Bridesmaid, in January 2014, nearly seven years after release of the first book!
What is your writing routine? I try to write something every day, even if it’s only a blog post. When I’m on a deadline, or really immersed in the writing of a book, I’ll write for great chunks of time for many days in a row.
How did you get your book published? The first book in the series, Her Best Man, was also my first published book. I had been seeking publication in print for many years without success, and in my frustration, I was close to throwing in the towel and quitting writing. A writing friend had just published with a new e-Publisher named Uncial Press. She was very happy with them and encouraged me to submit to them. I did so, thinking I had nothing to lose, and was thrilled when they offered to publish my first book. I currently have five books with Uncial Press.
That's great! What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer? I have a few pieces of advice. First of all, learn your craft. Aside from a small number of wunderkinds out there, most of us have to do a lot of practicing before we produce anything worth publishing. Don’t rush to publication; make your writing as good as it can possibly be before self-publishing, or submitting to an agent or editor. Learn to embrace revisions because that’s where the real magic is in writing. Be prepared for rejections because they are as sure as death and taxes. Lastly, understand that talent is a wonderful thing, but it will only take you so far. This is a tough business and only those writers who work hard and persevere through tough times and numerous rejections manage to survive. I’ve known a lot of writers over the years who have dropped out of the business, many who were probably more talented than me. It’s just too tough and requires more time and energy than many are able to give. So be prepared to work hard and give it all you’ve got going in.
Great advice, Jana. What do you like to do when you're not writing? I like to read, of course. My husband and I like to travel, and go to concerts and movies. I also enjoy live theater and sporting events. I like yoga and Pilates, and I won’t say I like going to the gym, but I drag myself over there to offset all the sitting I do in front of my computer. But I have found the gym much more enjoyable since I started listening to books on my Mp3 player while I work out!
What does your family think of your writing? My family is happy for me, but unless I get as famous as J. K. Rowling, I don’t think they’ll be really impressed!
Please tell us a bit about your childhood. I grew up on a farm in Western Canada. We were fourteen miles from the town where I went to school, and none of my friends lived close by, so I was a bit isolated as a child. But being on a farm meant I always had animals. We always had a dog and dozens of cats. There was plenty of space to explore and use my imagination.
Did you enjoy school? I did, especially in elementary grades. I never found school work particularly difficult – okay, maybe algebra and physics in high school were the exception. Being from a farming community and going to school in a small town meant that class sizes were very small. My grade 12 graduating class had 24 students, 18 girls and 6 boys. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of dates!
Did you like reading when you were a child? I liked reading very much. Our school library was small and kind of limited, but I usually found something to interest me.
What was your favorite book as a child? I enjoyed the Little House on the Prairie books very much. Probably because I lived in a little house on the prairie!
Who were your favorite authors as a child? Laura Ingalls Wilder was a favorite. I also read a lot of the Nancy Drew and a few of the Hardy Boys books.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? In high school and university I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but I wasn’t able to go away to a school that offered a journalism course. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I even considered the possibility that I could write fiction.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing? I would say only in that my childhood taught me the value of hard work.
Do you hear from your readers much? I would love to hear from readers! They can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can we look forward to from you in the future? I’m currently working on a fantasy/paranormal/time travel series in which a man who dies in a car accident must give others a second chance at love in order to earn his wings and enter Heaven. Aside from that, I’m developing a humorous contemporary romance series that I call Love in the North Woods. It’s about three sisters who attempt to bring back to life the business left to them by their grandparents – a fishing lodge in northern Minnesota.
Sounds interesting! Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Jana. Best of luck with your future projects.
About the Author
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense, Seeing Things, was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/administrative assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg with their Pug/Terrier-cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website.
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.