Shannon here: Annette M. Irby shares insight into her latest Contemporary Romance, Finding Love in Bainbridge Island, Washington with a romantic excerpt. Comment or answer the question at the end of any post dated April 24 – 27 to enter the drawing for a PDF e-copy of book one in the series, Finding Love in Friday Harbor, Washington. Deadline: May 5th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Annette:
The Heart of this Story set on Bainbridge Island by Annette M. Irby
Liam and Shea are both broken characters, though Liam is in denial about his current state. He uses adventure and adrenaline to distract himself from the pain of his father’s abandonment of his mother and him when he was a small child. Shea suffers from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). She isn’t in denial, but neither is she healed. So as I was writing about these characters and their weighty issues, I wanted to put them in a lovely setting.
As the story opens, the Seattle area is enduring the month locals call “June-uary.” That refers to the month of June on the calendar that is gloomy and dark and wet and chilly—kind of a mirror for these characters’ current conditions. Still, they have moments of beauty to enjoy. (Personally, even on misty or foggy days, I love visiting the beach. All that salty air to breathe in. I love it!) As the story progresses, they find hope and the weather coordinates by moving toward sunny. In that way, the setting is a mirror-like character.
I also used humor as a way of balancing the sometimes heavy emotional journeys of these characters. One of my early readers’ favorite characters in this book is Aunt Matilda, Liam’s maternal great-aunt and one-time guardian. She was a hoot to write. She has a dog, a cockatiel, and an eccentric personality. A retired theater actress, she often uses various accents in every day conversations. And she considers herself the best choice to teach Liam about romancing Shea. Ha! Here’s a scene in Aunt Matilda’s POV:
Excerpt from Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington by Annette M. Irby © 2018:
“Trying to make a good impression?” Matilda asked her nephew.
Liam went still and squinted at her with accusation, plus a touch of humor, in his eyes. “What are you up to?”
As nonchalantly as she could, she sipped her hot chocolate. “Funny you should ask.”
“Hear me out, now. Hear me out.” She dished up her own plate and then sat back with her glass of OJ in hand. “You know it would do me a world of good to see you find the woman you’re meant to marry and make it permanent.”
He seemed to relax as if whatever she might say next wouldn’t bother him, given the way she’d started. The bacon strip in his hand disappeared bite by bite as he munched it. “So you’ve said, every time I see you lately.”
“You’re getting older every day.”
His grin spoke of humoring her. “Right . . .”
“And years ago, all you could do was rave about Jenna-Shea this, and Jenna-Shea that. So, since she’s back in your life, I think it’s time you courted her and then asked her to marry you.”
He laughed outright and nearly choked on his bacon. After he swallowed, more waves of laughter came until she feared he might need oxygen. Since she had his undivided attention, she waited for a moment of relative quiet and threw the last pitch at him.
“I want to train you in how to romance a woman.”
This time he did choke. He coughed and moved to the sink where she joined him and pounded his back while handing him a glass of water she filled between pats. “Obviously you’ve had no role model, so you need my help. It’s one of my responsibilities as your former guardian to teach you this. And we’ll get started today.”
“Y-you”—he sputtered—“have got to be kidding me. You’ve lost your last walnut, Auntie Mat.”
When it was clear he was no longer choking, she returned to her seat at the table. As far as she was concerned, this was settled.
He squinted, grimaced, shook his head, leaned against the cabinets, and gripped the countertop with each hand, eyeing her. “What are you talking about?”
“You and Shea. Together.” She clasped her hands in front of her and shook them. “Forever.”
“You have lost your last walnut. What makes you think Shea is going to go along with your plan?”
Mentally choosing her Irish accent for the following words, she clutched her cocoa mug and held it up to breathe the chocolatey steam. “I saw it with me own eyes. That girl is smitten. Or she wants to be. You give her but a single good reason to fall for ye, and surely she will, not a doubt in the world.”
He guffawed and followed it up with a few chuckles. “You’re serious?”
She nodded. Calm and certain now.
“I love you, but I’m going to miss your mind the most.” He rejoined her at the table and sat down.
She reached over and swatted his shoulder. “I have not lost my marbles, my walnuts, or any part of my mind, young man. Thank you very much,” she said playfully. Pearl flew over and took up residence on her pointer finger. She patted the bird and fed her a bite of food. “Watch yourself,” she said to Liam.
“Yes, ma’am.” Finally a sober reaction, as he tipped his head toward his plate. But he still wore a grin.
She gave him a moment to finish his waffle before making more demands. “And I will teach you about romancing a woman and you will use that advice respectfully with Shea—since you’re obviously still smitten with her—”
“I am not—”
She held up a hand to interrupt him. “And we will begin today. This morning.” She straightened and cleared her throat. “Lesson number one in romancing a woman is to be warm and attentive. You show her warmth, and I guarantee you will get her attention.”
Liam stared off toward the floor on his right as if thinking about that one.
“You’ve already seen that one’s true, haven’t you?” His head snapped up, and the confirmation encouraged her to keep moving ahead with this plan. “Perhaps on your walk last night?”
His sober expression hinted at secrets. “She’s been through something.”
Matilda had recognized a few scars as well. Shea needed compassion, and a motherly sort in her life. Especially since her own mother was off in France. “We all have.” Matilda pictured the sad little eleven-year-old boy who’d cried on her shoulder more than once after his mom died. She hugged Pearl, who tucked her head under Matilda’s chin.
One nod showed Liam understood what she meant, acknowledging they’d all suffered something—perhaps even remembering their history together—auntie and nephew. “For some reason, she’s jumpy, and then she overreacts. First, Pearl startling her at the cottage, followed by me appearing at the door when she didn’t expect me.” He shook his finger at Pearl. Matilda snuggled the bird tighter. “And last night, a blue heron’s call about gave her a panic attack. I’m concerned about her—not that I’d know how to help. But when I asked if I could help, she got all . . . I don’t know. Her face changed—like she appreciated my compassion or something.”
“Your warmth.” She wanted to high-five him. “That’s the way, Liam! You’re already on the right track.”
He snorted as if she were still one walnut shy of a bushel.
“So, you’re ready to add my second guideline to your repertoire.”
He grabbed his mug of cocoa and tipped it all the way up, finishing the last of it, as if buying himself time. When he set it down, he gave her solid eye contact, where she read humor in those sky-blue eyes so like Jack’s. Not that she’d tell him that. “Auntie Mat, I have dated before. For crying out loud.”
After a long pause and a sigh, she locked gazes with him. “But you haven’t settled down. And that, my dear Liam, is the goal of Auntie Mat’s School of Romance.”
Another loud chuckle filled the room. She was afraid he’d startle Pearl.
“So, tip number two: do things for her; try to make her happy. Focus on her, not yourself. Ask yourself: what does she need? And then, meet that need, if you can.”
Liam had finished his meal. He stood, wearing a good-natured grin. Then he carried his dishes to the sink, rinsed them, and loaded them into the empty dishwasher. “I need to get next door and start working on the cottage—for Shea.” He emphasized her name as if showing he was ahead of Matilda’s lessons. She doubted he got the romantic aspect yet though. Obviously, she had work to do. “And I hope you’re not making brownies later.” He opened the kitchen door and took one step out into the chilly morning.
“Because you’re all out of walnuts!”
She threw a kitchen towel in his direction, which hit the door as he slammed it shut to the sound of his laughter.
Come visit me on Bainbridge Island for a fun, deep, romantic story, friends. Happy reading!
About Annette: Annette M. Irby has been writing since her teen years when she sat pounding out stories on a vintage typewriter just for fun. Since then, she’s joined Christian writing groups and launched blogs so she could share the joy of writing. She likes to say she’s addicted to color as flowers and seascapes inspire her. In her off hours, she enjoys gardening, photography, and music. She lives with her husband and family in the Pacific Northwest.
About the book – Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington:
Neither of them is ready for a relationship, but love may not give them an out.
Jenna-Shea Brown considers herself a broken therapist. Years ago, she witnessed something that caused PTSD. She can’t let her boss or her patients know about her battle. Who would want to trust her to help them, when she can’t help herself? She’s finally able to find a fresh start in her family’s beach cabin, but the renovations aren’t complete. Her parents have hired her ex-boyfriend to finalize them, but his negligence led to her being in the wrong place at the wrong time all those years ago.
Liam Barrett is trying to prove he’s nothing like his deadbeat dad. He’s working hard, yet still failing. Adrenaline and adventure offer him a diversion, but maybe he can’t escape his genes. He’d like to make things right with Shea, but he’s unsure if she’ll forgive him. Meanwhile, he’s challenged to forgive his father. He’s also worried about Shea and all these episodes she won’t explain. Now that they’re back in close proximity, he’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past?
Question for Readers: Have you ever read a novel where the setting is the thing you remember most about the book? Where was the setting that captured your imagination?