The Matchmaking Motor Coach Series
Keeping It Casual – Book 3
Talent manager Alex Appleby needs Geoff McKenna’s help. Her vicious client is threatening the reputation of Alex’s television-star father if Alex can’t convince her stepsister to go along with the client’s demand. Alex turns to Geoff to make the case to her sister.
Geoff has his own proposition for Alex. Thus far, his case of multiple sclerosis has been mild, but he’s unsure of his future. When his girlfriend pushes for a stronger commitment, he enlists Alex as his new pretend love interest so his girlfriend will break things off.
When they discover they actually are attracted to each, they agree to keep things casual, since Alex is only in town briefly and Geoff isn’t interested in anything serious. But fate intervenes as their feelings deepen. Alex must decide whether to relocate to Iowa from LA, and Geoff must place faith in his future.
Was this Graham McKenna? It had been almost a year since she’d last seen him. And then only briefly. She remembered the man being slightly taller and thinner.
His gait was slow, strained. He almost stumbled once, even stopped about ten feet from the door on which she’d pounded a few minutes prior.
When he bent, gripped his thighs, she shot from her car.
“Are you okay?”
He didn’t seem to hear at first, until she realized he was trying to catch his breath.
“Who’re you?” Voice slurred, he attempted another few steps, only to pull up again.
“Let me help you to the door.”
He hesitated briefly, then almost fell into her. Something jabbed her. Keys. He couldn’t be an intruder if he had keys; he had to be one of the McKennas. No time to debate whether she could trust him enough to go inside with him. The man needed help. “Okay if I unlock the door?”
He leaned heavily on her as they made their way into the building. Her white slacks would take a beating, but she didn’t have a choice. He seemed out of it, as if he’d been drugged. He indicated a light switch tucked away on the back wall. She flipped it, illuminating the cavern of a garage. A blue-and-black motor coach occupied the center of the room, although she barely noticed it as he veered off to the right. They came to an interior wall with three doors. “Other key.” He headed to the door closest to the front of the building.
She unlocked this inner door and helped him into the room, then located another light switch inside.
“Thanks,” he got out before he collapsed on the couch.
“You need a blanket.” By the time she’d retrieved an afghan from the back of the sofa, he was out. She covered him, then stepped away to study the man.
A real pretty boy. That type abounded in Los Angeles, her home territory. A long time ago, she’d learned the hard way to avoid the category. Too much into themselves.
She should probably take off and return later, because she was pretty sure this wasn’t Graham McKenna. She was no shrinking violet where men were concerned, but she was also savvy enough to realize lone women should not put themselves at risk around men they didn’t know. But he was so out of it, should she leave him on his own?
The Story Behind the Story
As I was well into drafting the second book of the “Matchmaking Motor Coach” series, Seduction on Wheels, I had one of those moments that changed the course of the third book. Originally, this was going to be the “Clause” series. I kept that concept for Book 1, The Sleepover Clause. Book 2 was going to be The Travel Clause and Book 3, this one, was tentatively titled The Escape Clause. But calling it The Clause Series just didn’t grab me; I thought some might confuse the books with Santa Claus. The Travel Clause just didn’t sound sexy enough. Seduction on Wheels told the reader exactly what the book was about.
With that thinking in mind, I decided The Escape Clause just wasn’t going to work for Book 3, because the clause was between my hero, Geoff McKenna, and his current girlfriend, Eileen Summers, not his new love interest, Alexandra Appleby. I actually started the book with this title, but as I developed the idea of the escape clause they would use to end their relationship, it rang flat. I wanted the title to focus on Geoff and Alex’s story. The agreement to keep whatever develops between them “casual” underlines the whole story, because they eventually reach a point where that no longer makes sense.
I’d also reached the point in the series evolution where I wasn’t quite sure how to incorporate the motor coach into the love story. It is a major character in Books 1 and 2, which dwell on finishing the coach’s interior and getting the finished coach back to California. The motor coach is never present in Book 3, yet it is still a central character as Alex tries to convince her stepsister to lease the coach to Alex’s client.
The Sleepover Clause takes place completely in Burlington, Iowa, my hometown. Seduction on Wheels starts in Burlington, but the last two-thirds of the story occur on the road trip between there and California. I decided to keep most of Keeping It Casual in Burlington again, except for a road trip Alex and Geoff take in the middle of the book to a small town near Sioux City, on the other side of the state. My husband’s hometown is near there; over the years, we’ve taken many a trip across I-80 and up I-29, so I had a pretty good feel for what my two passengers would see along the way.
The stop in Pella, before they even got to I-80, was a personal inclusion. My husband’s family is of Dutch heritage, so Pella is always a fun place to visit. Especially the bakeries. Yum. Fond memories of those Dutch letters.
Since Book 3 is the last in the series, at least at this time, I got to wrap things up at the end, and that includes the stories of Aubrey and Mitch and Jenna and Gray also. I hope my readers will be happy with this resolution of the Matchmaking Motor Coach story.
Seduction on Wheels – Book 2
When her cheating ex absconds with their money, Jenna DiFranco returns to her concert career to support herself and her teenage daughter. But self-doubt has her skipping rehearsals and picking up men in bars to prove she’s still got it. When her daughter runs away to be with her aunt in Iowa, Jenna’s stress level puts her in a near catatonic state as she is about to take the child home. Fearing she won’t follow doctor’s orders for three weeks of rest, her family confines her to their home to prevent her from leaving.
Though he takes an immediate dislike to the tall blonde from L.A., Gray McKenna’s the one she turns to for friendship until her alter ego emerges and takes him to bed. With difficulty, he refuses, but he’s scared what else she might do if allowed to escape on her own, so he agrees to help her get away if she agrees to his conditions.
He keeps her money and phone and requires they return to California in the motor coach he and his brothers have customized for her concert tour. In turn, Jenna makes him promise no matter how much she might come on to him if her other self appears, he won’t follow through. Gray is a man who keeps his promises, even though he finds himself increasingly attracted to the damned woman. Something has to give. Someone has to give in.
She placed a hand on his cheek, then quickly removed it. “You’re a nice guy, in a testy sort of way. You’re not so bad to look at, either. But I can’t risk losing control again. Especially since we’ll be on the road so long.”
“Agreed.” Those condoms in the bottom of his duffle would just have to wait for another woman, another time.
“So I have my own stipulation.”
God, shades of Aubrey. They truly were related. “Oh? What’s that?”
“No matter what I do or say or how either one of us may feel at some point during this trip, no hankypanky. No cuddling, hugging, kissing, and especially, no sex.”
“You forgot handholding.” He kept his expression bland, though it tickled his ego she was worried about resisting him.
She took a step back. “I’m serious, Gray.”
“I get you. No sex. But for the sake of argument, what if I agree to your requirement and somewhere along the way west, one of us wants to drop it?”
She crossed her arms in front of her chest. “You’ve already told me how you feel about me, so that possibility is moot. Even if I got the hots for you— which won’t happen—but say it did, if it’s me and not my dark persona, I can’t allow myself to get serious about any man right now. Don’t know if I ever will again after what happened with Jerry.”
The Story Behind the Story
Seduction on Wheels is the second book in “The Matchmaking Motor Coach” series. The first book, The Sleepover Clause, introduces the reader to the three McKenna brothers of Burlington, Iowa–Mitch, the youngest and hero, Graham/Gray, the oldest and hero of this book, and Geoffrey/Geoff, whose story is currently in progress. A few years earlier, their father died, leaving them to deal with a mass of bills from his ill-fated RV business. The brothers left their careers and joined forces to reinvent their dad’s business into McKenna Custom Coaches. They customize luxury motor coaches for entertainers, sports figures, business tycoons, and others who can afford them.
In The Sleepover Clause, Aubrey Carpenter, an interior decorator who is hiding out from a project gone bad in LA, arrives in town to finish the interior of the coach her half sister, Jenna DiFranco, has purchased to restart her career as a concert pianist. Aubrey immediately tangles with Mitch, who has already begun to finish the coach’s interior. In the course of the story, Jenna’s daughter, Paige, disgruntled because her mother refuses to take her along on her tour, runs away from home and makes her way to Iowa to be with her aunt. At the end of the book, Jenna, also, comes to Iowa, to take her daughter back home.
At the beginning of the second book, the stress of reclaiming a runaway daughter, preparing to go back on the road after over a decade away from the business, and adjusting to life as a single parent whose former spouse made off with most of their money catches up with Jenna and she winds up at the hospital ER in something akin to a catatonic state. Her doctor advises three weeks of complete rest…in town. Jenna resists, feeling the pressure to return home to practice for her upcoming concert tour, so her family and the McKennas make her their “guest” in the McKenna home. But when it becomes apparent she’ll take off on her own at the first opportunity, the conspire to let her “escape” with one of them she thinks she’s talked into helping her. Though he’s taken an immediate dislike to the woman he deems high maintenance, Gray is the driver most likely. And so the journey west, in her own coach, begins.
As the set up for her exit continues, I spend that part of the book in Burlington, my home town in Southeast, Iowa on the Mississippi River, having a great time incorporating local landmarks into the story. I used the band shell, cannons and fountain in Crapo Park, which overlooks the River, the winding Snake Alley, next to the church where I grew up, and O’Connell Island, a sandbar in the River.
Although I’ve been to both California and Arizona in the past, I got there by air. I wanted to correctly reflect the topography of the road west, so last summer, my husband and I returned to our winter home in Florida from Iowa via Arizona. We took I-35 and I-40 and traveled through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona the same as Jenna and Gray. There is beautiful, raw country to be seen and admired on this route, although the traveler also views poverty and desolation in spots, plus traffic all the way. Probably my greatest surprise was the number of trucks on the road with us; shouldn’t have been that big a surprise, because this is one of the most heavily-traveled cross-country routes in the U.S.
The drive south from Flagstaff to Sedona along I-17 is breathtaking. I am so glad I wasn’t behind the wheel, because the road also scares me with the drop-offs and six-percent descents along the way. I used my queasiness and fright to describe Gray’s struggle to overcome his fear of mountain driving as they take the same.
The Sleepover Clause – Book 1
“THE SLEEPOVER CLAUSE was a fun read. The characters are very likable and Barrett’s prose is smooth and entertaining.” My Book Addiction Reviews, posted January 21, 2015.
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Beware of sticky divorces, or you could wind up a pawn in the middle.
Aubrey Carpenter has no idea that the rustic, man’s man mountain cabin she just converted to high Louis XIV style is still owned by her client’s estranged husband. And he’s not impressed with the results.
While his anger subsides, Aubrey skips town, trying to avoid embarrassing her social-climbing mother further. She lands in small town Iowa finishing the interior of the motor coach for her sister’s concert tour, to the dismay of the three brothers who run the customization company. Mitch McKenna, in particular, doesn’t want a professional interior decorator around, or she might pick up on the underwhelming job he’s doing.
To stay, she must agree to a lengthy list of “conditions.” She retaliates with her own provision: an on-site place to sleep on nights when work runs late. When they fall behind schedule, she invokes the Sleepover Clause, to help her catch up.
Underfoot more often, Aubrey discovers what Mitch’s brothers have been too blind to see: he’d rather be practicing law. And Mitch wonders why someone who disparages the Midwest at every opportunity would willingly spend the hottest days of summer in the Hawkeye state.
When Aubrey’s former client, now reunited with her husband, sues, Mitch is forced to team up with his mentor to take her case. But when it becomes apparent that Aubrey can only defend herself by asking her mother for help, she’d rather run away again than have her judgmental mother turn her down.
The Story Behind the Story
This is the second go-round for this book. It is now being published by The Wild Rose Press. I thought I’d learned a lot about writing in the two years between submitting my final version to the first publisher and submitting my revised version to TWRP. I had. But it still underwent more changes with them. I am very happy where it wound up.
I made one major change in the plot: I changed the name of Geoff McKenna’s girlfriend from Peggy to Eileen. Well, two changes, actually. I then changed the name of her mother from Debbie to Peggy. Why on earth would I do this? Because this was my first published book, I wasn’t thinking far enough ahead in the series. It is highly possible that Geoff and his girlfriend will break up in his story, which will be the third book in the series. Since Peggy is my sister’s name, I didn’t want to place her in a bad light, so Peggy got to stay, only she now is the mother. Did you follow that? I’m not sure how this move will pan out in the long run, so we’ll see how many readers of the first version get confused when they read the second book in the series.
When a country music star brought her show to town, the reviewer on our local newspaper devoted part of his story to describing the motor coach that had been customized just for her. The article initiated one of those “what if’s” in my brain, the kind that set the writer’s mind percolating. What if I set a story in one of those rigs? Loved the idea but I still needed a hook.
About that same time, I became a fan of HGTV, especially the interior design shows. Somehow, the two thoughts married up and took me to another “what if”: what if the star insisted on having her own interior designer finish the interior? And just to make things more interesting, what if said designer was claustrophobic?
And what if I set the story in my home state of Iowa and gave it a fish-out-of-water theme: an Angelino with attitude, who within four hours of her arrival in the Hawkeye state pronounces that Iowa sucks? I had great fun throwing her into one seeming catastrophe after another, threatening her with June bugs, an attack of mayflies, and being smoked out of a fire house.