UnderWright Productions Series
Love in the Third Act
Wedding planner Hadley Mayhew makes the mistake of sharing with new client her mother’s bizarre request to help her find a man, never contemplating the woman will think the idea of a mature child helping their parent reenter the dating game might be great fodder for a reality TV show. Even more surprising, her client wants Hadley and her mother to be her first subjects.
Kevin Barkley had every reason to believe he’d be a huge success as a filmmaker when he won his film school’s most prestigious award. But for reasons he doesn’t understand, fate, or what seems to be fate, keeps working against him. Several producing jobs have eluded him, notably a recent offer that was withdrawn at the last minute. To make matters worse, the showrunner has been spreading rumors that Kevin is difficult.
Temporarily unemployed, Kevin is unable to refuse his aunt’s offer to executive produce and direct her latest project, a reality show about senior dating, especially since the money involved is obscene. There’s just one catch: He must agree to hire Hadley Mayhew, his former best friend in college, as his writer and assistant producer. If they are to work together, can his forgive her for revealing his fiancée was cheating on him?
Bethany rose and shook hands with Hadley. “This has been a great first meeting. I’ll review this contract with my fiancé and get back to you with any questions or comments before our next meeting.” She glanced at her watch. “I’d better get going. I have a fitting to supervise.”
She was out the door before Hadley could reply. Kevin remained behind to pack his equipment, even though the way he was slamming things together, it was obvious he was anxious to leave as soon as possible.
“Is she always like that? All business one minute and gone the next?” She didn’t care about the response as much as she wanted him to speak directly to her. If he opted out of his videographer duties, this might be the only chance she’d ever have to talk to him again. Awkward as things still appeared between them, for some reason, it was important they clear the air.
He stared at the door. “Yeah, more or less.” He slung the straps of two cases over his shoulders and made ready to leave.
Desperation forced her to be direct. “Are you really okay with this?”
His back was to her, but he stopped, set down his equipment and pivoted to face her. “Hell, no.”
The Story Behind the Story
Way back in the Dark Ages when I got married, I was “assigned” a wedding planner by the church. Those of us in the wedding party nicknamed her “Sarge” behind her back, because her main interest was to make sure everything went off on schedule for the church’s benefit. We showed her when we discovered we’d forgotten to bring our marriage license! It nearly killed her when she found out our friends had brought rice to throw; after she intervened with that idea, they wound up heading to the grocery store across the street to purchase bird seed.
Since I never had a wedding planner who focused on me and my fiancé, I thought it was time to make one the heroine of a book. Hadley Mayhew has all the qualities I would have wanted: organized, resourceful, patient and great at human relations. A bit of an organizer myself, I had fun devising the minor setbacks that throw her clients into panic.
I also had fun with the idea of senior dating. Since I’ve been married to the same man for over four decades, this was an area I only knew about through some of my single friends. Although some of my information came from their experiences, more was just from my imagination. I wish I’d known before she reviewed the manuscript that my editor had recently traveled this path. With good results, I’m happy to say. Thanks to her, I added a few more details that lend more credibility to the story.
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Soft? His boss says he’s soft with clients? Entertainment attorney Ryan Donahue is simply more “in tune” with his clients’ needs than his resentful associates. But if he wants to make partner so he’ll be viewed as an equal amongst his medical family, he must suck up his pride and accept the assignment to represent the boss’s financial interests on a fledging TV production.
Unable to find another gig after the cancellation of her travel show, producer Ainsley Hilton uses her interior decorator sister’s apartment renovation project to cheer up a friend as the inspiration for her own show, “Change Up.” All she needs is financing. Her best bet is the head of a large entertainment law firm intent on broadening his investments. He’s not about to part with his money unless she agrees to his conditions, including the ongoing presence of his representative charged with monitoring every penny spent.
He begrudges his babysitting job. She detests his continual meddling in her decisions. Neither wants to like the other, let alone fall in love. But who can account for the heart when it finds its soul mate?
The minute she was shown into his office, his dark blue Hugo Boss suit and matching shirt and black tie told her she needn’t have tried; he won the wardrobe challenge hands down. But then, he did work for the town’s biggest entertainment law firm. She should have expected as much.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Hilton. I’m Ryan Donahue. Please, call me Ryan.”
Right to familiarity first thing. “Then you can call me Ainsley.”
When he rose and slid around his desk to shake hands, her focus moved north after lingering a tad too long on his mid-section. Lengthy dark lashes no man had a right to possess framed blue-gray eyes. Black hair, trimmed within an inch of its life, couldn’t restrain the curls.
The handshake ended too soon. That large, warm hand covering hers emitted vibes that awakened nerve endings long dormant. Her lady parts clenched.
Though he didn’t blink, for about a millisecond, the tiniest movement registered surprise, quickly replaced with a bland, friendly expression. This guy was as gorgeous as the movie star clients he represented. The last thing she needed for this meeting. She’d have to concentrate even harder on her pitch to keep from tripping over her words.
All this took place in less than a minute. He asked if she’d like a beverage, which she refused. Interesting. In her limited experience with law firms, refreshments weren’t always offered. She didn’t assume for a minute it was a gesture of welcome. No, he was stalling, taking time to assess her. Fine. She’d experienced this kind of test before, and she could hold her own.
She took a seat, crossed right ankle over the left and settled back, leather portfolio in her lap. She didn’t wait for him to speak. If she planned to hold her own, she needed to strike first. “Tell me, Ryan, what qualifies you to judge a proposal for an interior decoration show when your specialty is entertainment law?”
The Story Behind the Story
Are you the oldest child? The youngest? In the middle? Or are you an only child? Birth order plays a role in the motivations faced by both the heroine, Ainsley Hilton, the oldest child of three and the hero, Ryan Donahue, the third of four children. Ainsley’s parents passed away before she finished college, leaving her in charge of her younger brother and sister. Even as the three of them mature, Ainsley can’t shake her need to watch out for them. Ryan is not the oldest or the youngest; birth order theory has the middle child doing whatever it takes to stand out. In Ryan’s case, he is the only non-medical one in the family and more people-focused.
Confession time. I’m the older of two girls in my family. I see a bit of myself in Ainsley. I was the trailblazer, the one who followed the rules (most of the time). My sister, on the other hand, was and still is more free-spirited, the rule challenger.
Don’t Toy with Me
Imagine you’re a talented management consultant whose lack of self-confidence prompts you to quit your jobs rather than defend your ideas. You’ve been out of work for several months, and the bills are mounting. Desperate, you accept a position beneath your skill set with a fledgling TV production company. To your horror, you discover the reality competition show the company is producing denigrates unattractive people. Your first thought is flight, but with the loss of your car pending, that’s no longer an option. Given that, why not try to change the concept instead?
That’s the dilemma for Jordan Wright. Then add one more complication to the mix: you fall for your boss, executive producer, Bart Underwood.
(This is from Jordan’s first meeting with Bart, “Facial Hair.” She has just decided that this audition for his reality show “beauty competition” isn’t for her. But before she can leave, he makes an enticing offer.)
Facial Hair propped a foot on one of the chairs and leaned toward her. Be still my heart. Those jeans were tighter than she realized at first glance. The scent of musk wafted across the short distance between them. Nice. Don’t breathe it, don’t breathe it, or you’ll be sorry.
“Why should I believe you?” His mouth widened as if to smile, but she didn’t sense amiability. It was more the spider-to-the-fly variety. Still, her focus stayed there longer than necessary, until she reminded herself she didn’t owe him any further explanation.
This was going nowhere. Even she, doormat to the world, had her limits. “Look, I’m leaving. I haven’t done anything illegal, so you can’t hold me here like a criminal. I won’t hesitate to use the can of pepper spray in my purse if provoked.” She actually did have one with her, though it was a couple years old and probably inoperable.
Jordan threw her bag over her shoulder like a mail carrier preparing for the day’s deliveries and headed for the door. He didn’t try to stop her. Just as her hand reached the door knob, he spoke. “How’d you like to work for me instead?”
Few statements could have stopped her in her tracks. That one did. God, she hated the vulnerability near-poverty forced on a person.
The Story Behind the Story
Don’t Toy with Me has gone through more iterations than most of my books. It began as a chick lit written in the first person present with only one point of view. It was totally Jordan’s story. I enjoyed writing in the first person, although it was challenging to reflect the full story when seen from only one person’s perspective.
Years ago, a TV commercial for hair products was based on the slogan, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” That’s how I saw my heroine in those first versions. She couldn’t keep her jobs because she wasn’t taken seriously.
As the focus on chick lit faded, I decided to take the story another direction, more mainline romance. That meant giving Bart a bigger role and switching to two points of view, plus changing from present to past tense. At times, I wondered if it wouldn’t have been easier to start from scratch.
Along the way, the focus on her “problem” of being too beautiful to be taken seriously disappeared (she’s still quite good looking, of course) and instead, her low self-confidence emerged as the obstacle keeping her from becoming the bright and creative person she was. In addition, Bart now became cognizant early on that her “spy” story was a hoax, but he used it as his reason for hiring her rather than tell her how much he needed her for the kind of creativity she exhibited in coming up with this tall tale on the spot. His inability to ask for help is his obstacle.
Although they become intimate fairly soon in the story, their relationship will grow slowly, because it will serve as the framework for the rest of the series, starting with Change Up, coming this fall. I hope you enjoy this introduction to Jordan and Bart’s story and will continue to follow its evolution in future additions to the series.