Harlequin American Romance author Leigh Duncan sets the scene for her latest, a small town you are sure to want to keep revisiting plus a chance to win an autographed copy of Leigh's latest.
Cocoa, Florida has changed a lot in the years since my childhood. For one thing, the town has a new name, Cocoa Village. Gone are the five-and-dimes that bookmarked the ends of Main Street. Trees shade the bare concrete sidewalks that once baked under the summer sun. The drugstore where Daddy took my sister and I shopping for Mom’s Christmas present has been replaced by a peddler’s mall. The movie theater with its plush velvet seats and a balcony where all the cool kids hung out has been turned into a playhouse where local theater groups perform. Mom-and-Pop specialty stores—a bath shop, an upscale consignment store, designer clothiers—unfurl colorful awnings along narrow, one-way streets. Coffee shops, instead of the soda counter I worked behind as a teen, provide respite from the heat or the rain.
Despite all these changes, Cocoa Village has preserved the essence of Small Town, America. And it’s that spirit I wanted to convey in SECOND CHANCE FAMILY, my fifth book for Harlequin American Romance.
“Make your setting a character,” says Donald Maass. Easy to say. Harder to do. Brian Klems advises that “setting comes alive partly in its details and partly in the way that the story’s characters experience it.” In other words, talking about the tree-lined streets, the awnings, the fishing dock on the east end of town is one thing. But inviting readers to experience single mom Courtney Smith’s reaction to her recently opened coffee shop, the one she’s pinned all her hopes and dreams on after a disastrous marriage to one of baseball’s bad boys fell apart, that’s what brings the setting to life. As I hope I’ve done in this passage:
In the dining area, she swept an appraising glance over the cafe. Turning the vacant storefront into a welcoming oasis had been a huge risk, but the results were everything she’d hoped for. White trim above pink-and-green striped wallpaper gave the room a cheery, Florida look that balanced nicely against the dark green wainscoting. Glass drop lights illuminated each of the small tables she’d dressed with starched linens and fresh flowers. Hardwood floors added to the ambiance. Best of all was the nook she’d created in one corner. There, she encouraged patrons to take one of the current best-sellers from her small collection and curl up on the comfy sofa, a novel in one hand, a steaming cup of coffee in the other.
Now, if she could only drum up enough business to stay afloat, she’d be okay. She worried a thumb nail.
Or this one in which the hero, Coach Travis Oak, prepares for Little League try-outs at McLarty Park:
Saturday morning, Travis rounded third and headed for home. He exhaled slowly as chalk spilled, thick and straight, from the cart he pushed along the base path of Field Number One. He gave an approving nod to the dad who anchored second base into place...Returning players, on the look-out for broken bottles or other dangerous objects, walked shoulder-to-shoulder across the freshly mowed outfield as coaches and parents wrapped up preparations for tryouts.
Finished with the line marker, Travis slapped his hands together. The move created a cloud of white dust that mingled with the odor of hot dogs and popcorn from the snack bar. Though he’d never admit it, the smell was one of the things he loved best about baseball.
Some of my fondest childhood memories include sun-warmed wooden bleachers, popcorn and hot dogs from the snack bar, the sharp crack of a bat, cheering when “our” team won the game. I’ve done my best to convey the essence of those feelings, as well as a love for my own small town, Cocoa Village, in SECOND CHANCE FAMILY.
Blurb for SECOND CHANCE FAMILY:
Coaching Little League in a small Florida town is a world away from Travis Oak’s dream of being a professional pitcher. But now the phys ed teacher faces his greatest challenge: keeping a ten-year-old boy from being expelled. He’s got the perfect solution...until he runs up against a petite, irresistible blonde.
After her major league husband’s betrayal, Courtney Smith wants nothing to do with bad boys...or baseball. But her son thinks Travis is some kind of hero, and she has to admit—it’s hard to resist Cocoa Village’s most gorgeous coach. But will her secret keep Travis from having a family to call his own?
Leigh Duncan Bio:
Leigh Duncan is an award winning author of contemporary romance. Her fifth Harlequin American Romance, Second Chance Family, hit store shelves this month. Her previous books include Amazon Kindle’s #1 selling Rancher’s Son. Look for three more stories in the Glades County Cowboy series beginning with The Bull Rider’s Family in May 2014. Leigh lives in Central Florida where she serves as the PAN Liaison for the FL STAR chapter.
I’ll gladly give away an autographed copy of SECOND CHANCE FAMILY to one luck commentator. The winner will be chosen next Saturday.