Hi C.J. Carmichael and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, A Hometown Proposal!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
If you pick up A Hometown Proposal you should expect an emotional roller coaster ride of a story for the eldest Shannon sister, Maureen, as she falls in love with adventurer Jake Hartman. Thanks to Maureen’s daughter Holly (think young Nancy Drew) there is also an exciting conclusion to the mystery that began with the youngest Shannon sister, Cathleen (A Cowboy’s Proposal). As a final bonus, the story ends with a surprise wedding that I hope will melt your heart.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
It was strange, Poppy reflected, how sometimes years, decades, could pass in your life without anything major happening in your life. Then there were times when things changed so fast your life became unrecognizable.
What inspired this book?
I am always inspired by the setting of Montana, by the mountains and by all the wild places.
As an eldest sister myself, I was also very aware of how birth order affects a personality and the expectations that an older sister puts on herself—which in Maureen’s case become quite crippling.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
I like to plot my stories in advance, but I do learn the deeper layers of a character as I write the book. Maureen Shannon is a very complex person and I found, in the end, that she was even stronger and more heroic than I thought.
What was your favorite scene to write?
The final scene between Maureen and Jake. This is how it begins:
At ten o’clock that evening the sky was like a dark blue velvet blanket. Maureen took a bottle of wine and two glasses out to her deck. Up in her room Holly was texting with her friends Mads and Adam. Maureen knew the best way for her daughter to move past the traumatic events of the day was to talk about them with her friends.
She felt the need to talk as well. She’d considered her sisters. Poppy. But there was only one person she really wanted to be with tonight.
The questions was, did he still want to be with her?
She texted an invite, then prepared herself to be rejected. A minute passed, then five, with no response. Then she heard a rustling in the hedge that separated her property from her neighbor’s. A hand parted the branches, then out stepped Jake.
“This feels clandestine,” he said. “I like it.”
What was the most difficult scene to write?
Maureen hits emotional rock bottom during a harsh scene with her teenaged daughter. I found it very wrenching to write this scene and also the one following where Maureen confides her darkest secret to her grandmother Poppy:
Wearily, Maureen covered half her face with one hand. “You think? I don’t feel so resilient right now.”
“Sometimes you have to touch bottom before you can push your way to the surface again.”
The comment struck Maureen as wise. She glanced at Poppy, wondering if perhaps she’d been too judgmental about the older woman’s presence in their lives. After all, it wasn’t Poppy’s fault her son had been such a loser. She of all people knew how little control a mother could have over her child’s behavior at times.
“Maureen, I can imagine it’s strange to have a grandmother foisted on you at this stage of your life. But though we haven’t known each other long, I love you and your sisters with all my heart. My deepest wish is to be here for you when you need me. You’re the eldest, but even you need someone to lean on now and then.”
Again, Poppy was bang on with her comments. It was difficult being the strong one, the eldest. Maureen laid her hand flat on the table. Tentatively, Poppy placed her hand on top. Her fingers were a little misshapen with age and arthritis, but they were still strong.
“My husband didn’t love me anymore,” Maureen found herself saying. “He wanted a divorce. If he hadn’t died on Mount Aconcagua, that’s what would’ve happened.”
Now two people shared her secret. She was falling apart; that was what she was doing.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
This book is not a departure! It has all the trademarks I think readers have come to expect from my stories…a small mountain town, a family with lots of drama and secrets, a touch of mystery, and a life and love affirming ending.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I’d love it if the book could be both entertaining and a comfort. I’m hoping my town and my characters will feel real to my readers and that the Shannon sisters will live on in their imaginations the way they do in mine.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m working on another small-town romance called Letters From Grace. We don’t have a release date yet.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: An ebook copy of A Hometown Proposal & 3 Tule ebooks
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: For those familiar with all three books…which sister felt closest to your heart—Cathleen, Kelly or Maureen—and why?
Excerpt from A Hometown Proposal:
Breakfast for Holly, shower, dress…don’t forget the papers you took out of your briefcase last night… Maureen Shannon ran through her mental checklist as she scanned the morning news items on her phone. One headline stopped her cold.
Flathead County Approves Development Plans for Thunder Valley. Clutching the lapels of her fuzzy, warm housecoat, she scanned the article. It seemed Whitefish’s former mayor Max Strongman was going to get his golf course and recreational property development after all. Only, instead of building it on the ranch owned by his ex-wife and her son Dylan McLean, he had scooped up properties to the south and east of the ranch.
Dylan and his new wife, Maureen’s sister Cathleen, would not be happy about this.
Especially since it seemed Max was getting off scot-free after masterminding the murder of Joe Beckett and the subsequent shooting of Max’s ex-wife. Max’s son James Strongman, awaiting trial for both of these crimes, was loyally insisting he’d acted alone—but no one in Maureen’s family believed that.
Maureen stopped reading to sniff. That smell… Oh, no, Holly’s breakfast! She dropped her phone onto the counter and ran to the toaster. Too late. Both slices of bread were edged in black. Knowing her daughter wouldn’t eat toast this way, not even if Maureen scraped off the burned parts, she threw the pieces out and slipped two fresh slices into the slots.
She finished her coffee, then eyed the time display on her microwave. If she didn’t leave in fifteen minutes, she’d be late for the office. And she wasn’t even dressed. She’d have to finish reading the article later.
Ignoring the sick feeling in her stomach, she hurried along the hall to the single bathroom. When Holly was a baby, the nine-hundred-square-foot floor plan of their home in historic Missoula hadn’t bothered Maureen. She loved the inner-city location and the charm of their old neighborhood. Now that Holly was almost a teenager, however, sharing a bathroom was becoming a real strain.
“Holly? Are you finished in there?” Rod had always planned to renovate one day, build a bedroom and bathroom for Holly in the basement. He’d never gotten past the looking-at-glossy-brochures stage.
No answer from the bathroom, only the sound of water streaming into the sink. Well, she’d have to skip her shower this morning. Back in her bedroom, Maureen grabbed the first suit and blouse that came to hand, then yanked matching shoes from the shelf above them.
Catching her reflection in the mirror on her dresser, she frowned. The only way to deal with her cowlick was to put up her hair—another five minutes lost there…
Hair fixed, she tore back down the short hall. The bathroom door was still locked, and she could smell—
Damn it to heck!
Maureen raced to the kitchen where she tossed the second batch of ruined toast into the garbage. She checked the clock again. Five minutes.
Back down the hall.
“Holly, I can’t go to work without brushing my teeth and washing my face. And you need to eat. The toaster isn’t working so you’ll have to have cereal.”
Her twelve-year-old didn’t answer.
Maureen rested her head against the paneled door. From inside, she heard some suspicious sniffing. Was Holly crying? In the months following her father’s death, this had been a daily ritual. A familiar, helpless pain sapped the energy from Maureen’s limbs.
“Are you okay?”
The water came on again, blocking out the quiet sobbing.
“Please let me in. Holly?”
Still no answer. From past experience, Maureen knew there probably wouldn’t be. In her grief Holly had withdrawn from her mother, refusing to take the comfort Maureen ached to provide.
Silence descended as the water was turned off. Maureen made quick use of the opportunity to be heard. “Holly? Please tell me what’s wrong.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
Maureen flinched. When had her daughter perfected that icy, cutting tone?
Something slammed. The toilet seat? The medicine cabinet? A second later the door opened, and Holly glared at her. Eyes red, cheeks flushed, lips swollen. Maureen longed to hold out her arms, but she knew—oh, how she knew—that her daughter would just back away.
“What is it, sweetie?” Maybe she’d heard one of her dad’s favorite songs on the station she liked to listen to in the morning. Or had a sad dream.
“You are so insensitive. I can’t believe it.”
Maureen stepped to the side so Holly could leave the bathroom. Oh how she longed for the simplicity of a two-year-old’s temper tantrum.
“It’s a year today,” Holly burst out. “You didn’t even remember!”
Instantly Maureen understood. “I’m sorry, Holly.”
But her daughter had already taken off down the hall. A second later, the front door slammed.
Maureen swallowed an urge to scream, then went to the living room window. She caught a glimpse of Holly from the back as she ran across the street toward school. Poor sad, confused child.
She missed her father so much. Maureen wished her own grief could be so uncomplicated.
Two minutes after she was in her BMW, Maureen was on the cell phone, using the Bluetooth function. At a red light, she speed-dialed her assistant.
“Looks like I’m going to be a little late for the partners’ meeting. Could you pull the files I was working on last week? And order me a latte, please?”
Next she dialed her youngest sister who lived about two hours north of Missoula in Whitefish. Kelly was a patrol officer and could be counted on for levelheaded advice. Last time Maureen had seen her in person had been at Kelly and Mick’s wedding, two months ago, but they spoke on the phone often.
“Hey, Kel, are you at work?”
“I’m off for the next few days. Just dropped Billy off at kindergarten. What’s up?”
Maureen marveled at her calm tone. Kelly and Mick were raising Mick’s young nephew Billy and niece Amanda, quite a lot to take on for a woman who’d been single six months ago. Yet Kelly never seemed flustered by her new roles.
Which only made Maureen feel more incompetent as a mother.
“Holly was crying in the bathroom again this morning. As usual, nothing I said helped. Should I try a different grief counselor?”
Holly hadn’t seemed to benefit from sessions with two previous psychologists and Maureen had given up. But maybe she needed to try therapy one more time…
“It’s the year anniversary today, isn’t it?” Kelly said.
“Yeah.” Jeez, even her sister had remembered. Maybe she was the heartless monster her daughter thought she was.
“It’s pretty normal for her to be upset on a day like today. Honestly, I’m more worried about you. You’re so busy worrying about Holly, you never take time for yourself. I know it’s hard to lose a father—didn’t we all grow up without one? But you lost your husband, your life partner.”
Maureen resisted the urge to groan. Yes, Rod’s death had been a tragedy. But their marriage had been far from the rosy union her sisters seemed to imagine.
“At least we had sisters,” Kelly continued. “Holly’s an only child. And she and Rod were so close.”
“They sure were.” It had been painful for Maureen sometimes how obvious Holly’s preference for Rod was over her. She couldn’t pinpoint the moment her doting toddler had begun running to Daddy when she had a problem, instead of Mommy. Probably shortly after Maureen had started back at work full-time and Rod had become the stay-at-home caregiver.
It was around that time that Rod had started to pull away emotionally from her too. He would make cutting remarks about Maureen in front of Holly. And undermine her authority whenever she tried to discipline their daughter. Whenever Maureen tried to address the problems in their marriage Rod would always blame everything on the fact that she worked too hard.
Their arguments had become tiresomely predictable and Maureen had learned to just hold her unhappiness and resentment inside.
“Of course I understand how hard this is for Holly. But you have to consider yourself, as well. You’re a single mom now, working in a demanding legal profession. That’s a lot.”
It was a lot. And Maureen was tired. “Lately I’ve been fantasizing about quitting my job. Crazy huh?”
“Not so crazy. Rod had insurance, right?”
“Yes.” And lots of it, as did she. But only because she’d filled out the forms for both of them and paid the premiums every year. She’d discovered early in their marriage that she couldn’t count on Rod for mundane, practical matters.
A lesson Holly had never learned. No way could she admit that her darling father had died as a result of his carelessness. No. In her mind, his death had become her mother’s fault. As if Maureen had wanted him to climb that bloody mountain in the first place!
“It can’t hurt to consider your options,” Kelly said. “You could use the break, and having you around more might help Holly. And of course, if you quit your job, you and Holly could move back here.”
Maureen’s sisters were always trying to convince her to move to Whitefish, the mountain town where they’d all grown up and where her two sisters and their husbands now lived.
In a way the idea had appeal. She could start her own legal practice there. It would be much smaller and less stressful than her work for a big firm here in Missoula. Equating to more time spent at home with Holly.
But Holly didn’t want to spend time with her mother. She’d probably hate the idea of moving. And surely an upheaval, just when she was beginning to adjust to junior high, would be a mistake.
Maureen ended the call with her sister as she approached her usual parking lot. Soon she would be in her office. Any problem that came up there, she would know how to handle.
The lousy start to the day had been portentous, however. At the partners’ meeting, Maureen was urged to take on a new child custody case that would have her spending significant time in Condon, almost one and a half hours northeast of Missoula. She used her lunch break on the phone with Rod’s mom, who called from Seattle to commiserate on the sad anniversary.
Maureen listened, feeling for the woman’s pain, never letting on that their marriage had been on the verge of splintering, that Rod had been other than the ideal father and husband, or that the accident had been anything but bad luck.
Her husband had been addicted to extreme sports. Eighteen months ago, he’d decided he had to tackle Mount Everest. In preparation, he’d signed on with a team to climb Mount Aconcagua, a less-demanding peak in the Andes.
At more than twenty-two thousand feet, Aconcagua was the highest mountain in the world, except for those in the Himalayas. Though the ascent didn’t require technical expertise, it would give him an opportunity to see how his body reacted to the drop in oxygen at high elevations.
Unfortunately, altitude sickness had stricken him early on in the climb. Instead of moderating his ascent, Rod had tried to speed up. When his companions noted his growing disorientation, they’d urged him to slow down. But he’d refused until it was too late.
Death, Maureen was told later, can come quickly to those who ignore the early warning signs.
If Rod had gambled with only his life, Maureen could have forgiven him. But his loss had devastated their daughter, and that was hard to absolve.
During dinner that evening, Holly was silent. After dessert, when Maureen suggested they watch some home videos of her father, she relented enough to settle in front of the entertainment unit.
Maureen stretched her feet out on the sofa as her daughter selected from the dozens of home videos stored on the cloud. Seeing Rod’s face suddenly appear on the TV screen made Maureen feel instantly tense. Across the room on the love seat Holly pressed a tissue under her eyes.
They came to some footage Maureen had shot from the back deck a couple of autumns ago as Rod and Holly were horsing around in the abundant piles of raked leaves that Maureen hadn’t yet bagged for composting. On the screen father and daughter tumbled and wrestled and shrieked with laughter. But in the tidy family room Maureen and Holly watched in silence.
Maureen was aware of Holly’s quiet weeping. She, however, didn’t shed a tear. Not until the camera caught Rod smiling at his daughter, reaching out to touch a strand of her almost-white hair. The expression on his face was absolutely doting.
The dull pain in Maureen’s chest tightened. The video confirmed how much Rod had loved Holly. When he’d been around, he’d treated their daughter like a princess. No wonder poor Holly was so devastated without him.
Maureen pulled a tissue from the pocket of her jeans and blew her nose. She wanted to go and hug Holly, but when she stood up from her corner of the room, Holly muttered good night and scurried to her room.
Maureen tidied the family room, stacked a few glasses in the dishwasher, then brewed herself a little coffee, which she mixed with half a cup of hot milk and a teaspoon of sugar.
She picked up a book, but after ten minutes, set it down again. Rubbing her eyes, Maureen sighed. Just the prospect of preparing for bed exhausted her.
Physically, Maureen still had Holly by her side.
But emotionally, they’d lost contact years ago. And Maureen had no idea how to go about regaining it.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
She’s looking for a second chance to reconnect with her daughter but finds so much more.
Since her husband’s climbing death a year ago, Maureen Shannon’s relationship with her twelve-year-old daughter has spiraled out of control. Desperate, she resigns from her partnership at a legal firm and moves back to her hometown in Whitefish, Montana, with the hope that family and nature can heal their wounds. Her investment in a heli-skiing and lodge operation makes financial sense, but her attraction to the owner doesn’t. He’s everything she’s come to hate—a man who makes his living chasing adventure.
Jake Hartman knows Maureen Shannon is off limits. She’s an investor in his company—a silent investor who’s never silent. Worse, she’s a mom who’s beautiful, intelligent and makes him feel more alive than he’s ever known. A self-confirmed bachelor, he finds himself uneasily contemplating a very different partnership.
But will Maureen be able to let go of her past and build a future with a man who never imagined becoming a husband or a father?
Meet the Author:
USA Today Bestselling author C. J. Carmichael has written over 45 novels in her favorite genres of romance and mystery. She has been nominated twice for the Romance Writers of America RITA Award, as well as RT Bookclub’s Career Achievement in Romantic Suspense award, and the Bookseller’s Best honor.
She gave up the thrills of income tax forms and double entry book-keeping in 1998 when she sold her first book to Harlequin Superromance. Since then she has published over 35 novels with Harlequin and is currently working on a series of western romances with Tule Publishing. In addition C. J. Carmichael has published several cozy mystery series as an Indie author.
When not writing C. J. enjoys family time with her grown daughters and her husband. Family dinners are great. Even better are the times they spend hiking in the Rocky Mountains around their home in Calgary, and relaxing at their cottage on Flathead Lake, Montana.
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