Saturday, February 8, 2014

"Baggage Check" by M. J. Pullen

Baggage Check
by M. J. Pullen

Baggage Check is the third and final book in The Marriage Pact trilogy. Also available: The Marriage Pact and Regrets Only.

Baggage Check is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author. You can also enter the giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite (US only). Please make sure you visit the other tour stops as well.

At thirty-five, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings. Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta, Georgia. But despite Rebecca’s best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. Even though her job as a flight attendant fits perfectly with her orderly nature, and brings her into contact with lots of eligible men, she can’t seem to find a man who is Jake’s equal.
Then a frantic phone call from her mother in Oreville, Alabama turns Rebecca’s structured life on its ear. She will find herself back in the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind, and thrown together with Deputy Alex Chen, a face from the past who’s made it clear he thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend’s kid sister.
But Alex is nothing like what Rebecca had in mind; and in the meantime, she has other battles to fight, including her painful family history. Can she navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she's always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?
Note: Contains adult material.

“What the hell was that?” Valerie asked, sliding into the booth across from Rebecca. “He was a nice-looking kid. You don’t like foreign guys?”
“That’s not it,” Rebecca said.
“Well, I had that one primed for you. Such a waste.”
“Thanks, Val, but I don’t need you to find guys for me. And I’m sure he won’t go to waste. Look, he’s talking to that girl at the bar already.”
“I didn’t mean him,” Val said. “I meant you. You’re such a beautiful girl: educated, nice nose, and that pretty brown hair is your real color as far as I can tell. We’ve flown together three years and I never hear about you dating anyone.”
“Well, maybe I—”
Valerie leaned across the table with a loud whisper. “Are you a lesbian?”
“What? No!”
“Because I’m okay with it, really. I’m very hip about this stuff. I even have a lesbian niece. Very attractive, if she would just let her hair grow out. Of course, she’s younger than you, but...”
“Valerie!” Rebecca said too loudly. Then softer, “I am not a lesbian. I used to date men all the time. I just haven’t lately.”
“Why not?”
“I don’t know. The hours?”
“Come on, Val. Why the sudden interest in my love life? Can we talk about something else?”
Rebecca knew from experience Valerie had no intention of letting up. She took a sip of her drink, not terribly helpful since it was mostly melted ice. A long sigh under Valerie’s unwavering stare. “I guess you could say I got my heart broken a few years ago, and I just haven’t gotten over it yet.”
“Really? Who was this? How come I haven’t heard about him?”
Rebecca sighed. In for a penny... “You have heard of him. It was my friend Jake.”
“Jake?” Valerie furrowed her brow. “You mean...your friend, the girl with the blog, what’s her name—Marci? That Jake?”
“Yes. That Jake.”
Valerie whistled. “So how long ago was this?”
“How long ago was what? They got married four years ago. And they have Bonnie now.”
“Yeah, but when did you stop...” Valerie trailed off.
Rebecca shook her head. “I don’t think I have stopped. I know that’s ridiculous, but I-I loved him for so long. It’s like I don’t know any other way to be.”
Val looked down at the table for a minute, and slid the rest of her neat Scotch across to Rebecca. “Here, kid. I think you need this a hell of a lot more than I do.”

By Dara
I devoured this book in the space of several hours, which isn't a common occurrence these days. Pullen did a nice job of interweaving bits from the first two books in the series to remind the forgetful reader of the nature of the characters and the happenings in their lives. Real and relatable characters are one of Pullen's particular gifts - they don't look perfect and they don't behave perfectly. You might even have a difficult time liking some of them but that's kind of the point. They're just like the people you meet in the real world, and even just like your own friends, whom you adore one day and are annoyed by the next. Pullen is particularly gifted at writing dialogue. I don't think Pullen should be typecast as a romance writer, although that's certainly an enjoyable aspect of the books. She includes some gritty material, mental illness, family issues, and the like ... and suddenly you find yourself nodding along to a thought-provoking insight on life and living. Read it!

Interview With the Author
Hi M. J., thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Baggage Check.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
This is an adult novel, with a main character who is thirty-five. I think in general it will appeal more to women than to men.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
This is the third book in The Marriage Pact trilogy, and ever since I wrote Rebecca into the first novel as Marci’s nemesis, I have been toying with the idea of telling her own story. I did not set out to write three books in the same series; it just happened that way when I discovered how much fun these characters are.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
When Rebecca first walks into her mother’s house in Oreville, Alabama, and discovers how bad her mother’s hoarding has become. It was hard to write technically, to convey the emotions and paint a realistic reaction on Rebecca’s part; and it was hard for me emotionally, too.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
Obviously I hope they enjoy the story, especially Rebecca’s relationship with the Sheriff’s deputy, Alex Chen. Beyond that, I hope they develop a new perspective on Rebecca after seeing her at her worst in the previous novels. Friendships and romance are complicated, and we bring our history with us everywhere we go. I hope this books shines a small light on what Rebecca’s inner life is like and why.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Yes. My mother had a pervasive mental illness that impacted almost everything about my upbringing. She taught me a tremendous amount about how powerful the struggle with one’s own mind can be, and also about love and forgiveness. These themes are an undercurrent in all my writing, but especially present in Rebecca’s story and her relationship with her mother.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do! I’m very lucky that people contact me a couple of times a week to let me know they’ve read my books and liked them. It’s a huge honor and it never gets old. I especially love when readers share something personal from their own lives that something I’ve written has touched for them. It takes some time and effort to reach out like that, not to mention emotional vulnerability, and it means the world to me when readers do it.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I’m working on a few different projects right now, including another contemporary novel that is more of a family saga than a traditional romance, and I may be starting another series soon, too. If all goes well, I’m also planning to launch a program to help other writers in late 2014. Busy, busy!
Sounds good! Thanks for stopping by for a chat today. Best of luck for the rest of your book tour.

About the Author
M. J. (Manda) Pullen studied English Literature and Business at the University of Georgia in Athens, and later Professional Counseling at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She practiced psychotherapy for five years before taking time off for writing and raising her two young boys. Since high school, she has also been an executive assistant, cashier, telemarketer, professional fundraiser, marketing guru, magazine writer, grant-writer, waitress, box-packer, HR person, and casual drifter.
She reads and writes across many genres, and learns something from everything she does. No matter what she’s writing, M. J. believes that love is the greatest adventure there is, and that hopeless romantics are never really hopeless.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite or some other great prizes (US only).