Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Hemphill Towers" by Leona Pence

Hemphill Towers
by Leona Pence

Hemphill Towers is currently on tour with Reading Addiction 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.

Riley Saunders has her dream job. As an art director at a leading advertising agency, she works every day with her two best friends, Stella and Birdie. All three have been assigned to ensure that the Grand Opening of the Peterson Art Museum is nothing short of a success.
When a girl’s night out at a hot new Italian restaurant ends with a spilled bottle of wine, it sets in motion a series of events that leaves Stella and Birdie caught up in whirlwind romances, and Riley fearing for her life at the hands of a deranged stalker. But, when the handsome museum curator, Trent Peterson, learns of her situation, he vows to keep her safe.
In a quick-paced tale of fine art, wine forgery, and the Russian Mafia, Riley and her friends soon discover their pursuit of love will require them to expose a crime, thwart a murder, and trust the one thing that has never failed them … their friendship.

Trent, having just come from a dinner meeting, looked as if he'd stepped off the pages of a men's fashion magazine. She invited him inside to show him her meager collection of art that she’d acquired over the past ten years. He looked closely at the paintings and grinned when he saw the one painted by his mother.
“You have one of my mother's very first original paintings. I'm not sure if you realize how much this has appreciated in value.” His hand swept over the painting. “The museum would pay you to allow us to use this at our opening. We’ve devoted one room to display her artwork. Most of her early paintings were sold at a modest price.” He shrugged. “We haven't had much luck locating them.”
“I’d be happy to lend it to you without payment.”
“Thank you, but I want you to think of this as a business arrangement. I’d rather pay you than a lot of other people I deal with, and remember, an amount is budgeted for this by the museum trustees.”
She pursed her lips thoughtfully. “I’m proud of it. It will be nice to see my small contribution hanging in your museum.”
“Your other paintings are good too.” He walked over to examine one hanging above her couch. “Your choices say a lot about you.” He smiled down at her.
“Such as?” A quizzical grin played around her mouth.
“Well for one, you chose vibrant colors, which suggests a zest for life. You chose pictures that did not give away everything at first glance, suggesting an in depth character with an inquisitive mind. Lastly, this rug and couch pillow suggests you love the color red.” He laughed at her expression.
“You must be psychic.” She smacked his arm. “Can we take this painting along tonight so I can see where it will hang?”
“If you wish. Do you have a soft blanket to wrap it in?”
“Yes, just a moment.”
Riley brought a velour blanket from her closet. Trent wrapped the painting carefully and carried it to his car, a luxurious black Jaguar. He opened the passenger door for her before carefully stowing the painting.
The museum was not far. Within minutes, he drove into an underground garage to a parking spot reserved specifically for his private entrance. He unlocked the door, retrieved the painting from the car and followed Riley inside. The door opened into a dimly lit foyer. She noted a few offices off to one side. A curved hallway on the other side led into the main part of the museum.
A security guard shined a flashlight beam on them before acknowledging Trent.
“Good evening, Mr. Peterson, I knew you were coming in tonight, but I had to check anyway.” He lowered the flashlight.
“As I would have expected you to. You’re doing a good job, Kenny. Thank you. We’ll be in several of the rooms tonight. Ms. Saunders is going to look around while I do some work in the Victorian Room.”
“Okay, Mr. Peterson, I'll bring up the lights for you.” Kenny nodded as he walked away.
Riley could not contain her excitement. She loved the smells associated with museums. This one, being new, emitted all sorts of aromas, oil paint, wall paint, varnish, wood. That she could enjoy the artwork without moving through crowds of people made it even more special.
“Come along, I’ll show you my mother's display room.” Trent juggled the picture under his arm and took her hand just as the lights came on. They followed the wide hallway until it curved leading into a three-sided open room. It had been designed for easy viewing. Trent removed the cover from her painting and hung it with care on a wall that had been allotted for his mother’s earlier paintings. Riley looked around in fascination.
Trent smiled at the rapt expression on her face. “I'm going to leave you for a short time while I work. If you need me, just call my cell. The other guard knows we’re here also. Don't hesitate to ask them for help or directions to specific rooms.”
“Okay, Trent, I’m ready to explore. If you can't find me when you're finished, just call my cell.” She laughed.
“I shouldn't be more than an hour.” He started back in the direction from which they’d come.
To Riley, the hour passed in a blink. She was so engrossed at what was spread out before her eyes, she wasn’t even aware that Trent stood beside her until his fingers brushed hers. Then, she became very aware of him. With his arm touching hers and the scent of his cologne, he radiated an aura of masculinity that engulfed her.
“What do think of our museum,” he asked softly.
“It’s magnificent, Trent. I’ve just gotten a good start. Have you really been gone an hour?”
“Actually, I've been gone an hour and a half. I guess you didn't miss me at all.” He feigned indignation. “Let’s walk through the rooms so you can get a quick look. I know you’re a working girl. I don't want to keep you out too late, and as you saw, time can get away from you.”
He took her hand and they spent the next two hours moving quickly through galleries and different exhibitions. She got an idea of where she would like to spend more time when she returned for another visit.
It was midnight when he pulled up in front of her apartment. He walked with her, and waited while she unlocked the door. She turned to say goodnight, but her words stuck in her throat as she looked at him. She knew he was going to kiss her; she knew she wanted him to. She lifted her face and his lips found hers. The Earth spun faster and faster until her whole body felt weak. She pulled her lips away and clung to him until her knees held her again. They both stood silently for a moment, lost in the wonder of what had just transpired. Finally, he said very softly, “Goodnight, Riley, I'll call you tomorrow.”

Hemphill Towers really took me surprise. I honestly wasn’t expecting much since this is an unknown author to me but I decided to take a chance on her anyway since her book was offered to me free by participating on her blog tour. And boy was I glad I took it!!
This book kept me actively interested and engaged. I didn’t know that a book of unfamiliarity could take me from left field and captivate me so thoroughly!
From a one-sided romance whirl winding into a passionate romance fulfilled intrigue, suspense, and a thrill of danger. This book has it all!
I really liked the set up of the characters and couplings that Leona has set for us and how they mesh so well with one another and have such great camaraderie!
From just a spilled glass of wine, this sets in action a shuffle of events and romances that have the characters clinging together to stay alive and solve the mysteries have them on the run from crime, forgery, the Russian mafia, and even a deranged stalker!
A very well written story that I highly recommend! I definitely will be on the lookout for more from this author for sure!!

Interview With the Author
Hi, Leona, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Hemphill Towers.
Hi Lynda, it’s very nice to be here.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Probably Barbara Cartland with her wonderful romance books. I read all I could get my hands on. I’ve also read a gazillion Harlequin romance books over the years, but I can’t remember the titles or the authors. They all made an impact on the idea of romance and happy endings.
What age group do you recommend your book for?
I’d say 18+, even though my book is pretty tame as far as the romance goes.
What sparked the idea for this book?
One night, I was joking around with two online friends. We projected ourselves as younger career women, each described a love interest, and I was to use the info to write a short humor story. Words kept flowing, and plot twists came in my dreams. It wasn’t long before I had written a novel.
That's great! So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The character’s story, without a doubt. The characters were fleshed out pretty much before I started. I had three heroines, and one chose the name Federico for her love interest, so I had her storyline take place mostly in Italy.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I wrote three storylines that were separate, yet entwined. I knew I had to tie them together toward the end. It was a challenge, but it all worked out.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I want them to be entertained by it and enjoy it enough to want to read more of my work.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It took three months to write. Editing, being critiqued in a novel group, shelf time, more rewrites, shelf time, one on one critique, and finally submitted and accepted by MuseItUp Publishing … five long years between writing and publishing.
What is your writing routine?
Oh, I wish I had a routine. I just sit in front of my computer and write when the muse tells me too.
How did you get your book published?
A mutual friend emailed Lea Schizas, the publisher at MuseItUp, on my behalf. She immediately asked me to send her my manuscript. I did not go through the agony of getting rejection slips.
Fantastic! What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Learn all you can about basic writing skills, or editing will be a big headache. Never give up your dream of being published. Be sure to have somebody critique your work who will give an honest opinion.
Great advice, Leona. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to read, chat with friends, play online pool, and visit with my family. I’m also a mentor in an online writing course called F2K (Fiction for 2000).
What does your family think of your writing?
They are so proud of me. Even my sons have read my romance book. I guess that’s why I keep it tame. I have a large extended family who read what I write.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up with seven siblings in a house built for four. We were poor, but happy enough. My hometown of Pana, Illinois, was small then, and still is fifty years later. My childhood was spent without a TV, running water, or indoor bathroom. I was in the eighth grade before we got any of those. Not many can remember the good old days.
I listened to a lot of radio programs including the top 40 songs played every Saturday. I’m thankful that I loved music and memorized lyrics easily. I started losing my hearing in my latter twenties and was deaf by the age of forty-five. It’s like I have a juke box of tunes in my head that I can call up from memory. I can go to sleep listening to Fats Domino singing "Blueberry Hill" or Elvis singing "Love Me Tender".
Did you enjoy school?
Yes and no. I liked learning. But, I was poor, walked with a limp, and was always shy and self-conscious. Kids could be cruel. High school was much better. I had a close friend, and we were a bit competitive. Thanks to her, I even got an A in Biology.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Yes, from the time I learned to read.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I don’t think I had a favorite book. I read what our school library had to offer.
Who were your favorite authors as a child?
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t start writing until a couple of years after my husband died. But after I wrote that first rough draft of Hemphill Towers, I was bitten by the writing bug. Still, I never expected to be a published author. Up until then, my writing consisted of limericks written for my grandkids.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
No, I can’t really say they did except for my love of reading. I take that back. My mother only had a fifth grade education, so she wasn’t a writer, but boy was she a story teller. I can still remember her tales of growing up in the hills and hollers of Arkansas. I’m sure they did influence me.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Thus far, my readers love my book and hope I keep writing more. I only have nine reviews, but all nine are rated five star.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I’ve started a second book using characters from Hemphil Towers. I’d like to try flash fiction too.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thank you, Lynda. It’s been my pleasure. I appreciate you hosting for me.

About the Author
Leona Pence is a lifelong resident of Illinois. She's a widowed mother of four, grandmother to twelve, and great-grandmother of two.
Leona Pence started reading romance novels as a teen. She graduated from Nancy Drew stories to Harlequin Romance, and then to her favorite author, Barbara Cartland and her vast Regency romance collection. Happy endings were a must.
Leona began writing late in life after the death of her husband of forty-four years. They married on her 19th birthday after a three month courtship – and yes – love at first sight really did happen.
She enjoys reading, writing, online pool, and especially being a Mentor in F2K, a free online writing course.

The author is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to a random commenter during the tour, so please leave a comment below or at any of the other tour stops.