Monday, March 31, 2008
Welcome to the blog! I’m Callie, the florist for The Wedding Belles, and for some reason I can’t figure out, I’m the first one in this love story series. All because I had to go and say I didn’t believe in love, and then the other gals basically told me to prove it--to prove there was no such thing as a Mr. Right for everyone.
Well, if there’s one thing I can’t turn down, it’s a challenge. I know I’m a wedding planner, and I know of everyone I should believe in love the most, but my road to romance hasn’t just been rocky, it’s been a cliff, with a big old plummet to Broken Heart Lane.
I’ve spent my life on the road, moving from place to place, making my living where I could. Until I met Belle and the other women who worked at The Wedding Belles. I’ve found a home here, a job I love, and friends I couldn’t imagine leaving. I’m as settled as I’ve ever been--
But that doesn’t mean I want to actually settle down with a man, no matter how much the other women try to convince me. Except…
I’ve just run into Jared Townsend, the one man from my past who spells unfinished business in capital letters. He may look like a brainy professor, but beneath the clipboards and pencils, there’s a wild guy waiting to get out.
Not to mention the only guy whose ever been able to turn every theory I’ve ever had about life and love upside down and inside out. And now all the rest of the Belles are taking bets on how long it’ll be before I’m the one walking down the aisle. I think it’s time to hit the open road again…because there’s no way I’ve giving my heart away again.
Join me in SWEETHEART LOST AND FOUND
and see how The Wedding Belles work their wedding magic!
This week, look for guest blogs from a makeup expert, another great excerpt from our series, and lots more fun!!
Labels: callie, Shirley, Sweetheart Lost and Found
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Excerpt from SWEETHEART LOST AND FOUND by Shirley Jump
Excerpt from SWEETHEART LOST AND FOUND
by Shirley Jump
Book #1 The Wedding Planners Continuity
Callie’s StoryCHAPTER ONE
Callie Phillips slipped the final flower into the cheery wedding bouquet, stepped back to admire her handiwork, and marveled at the irony of her career choice.
A woman who didn't believe in happily ever after, crafting floral dreams for starry-eyed, Cinderella-was-no-fairy-tale brides.
Callie fingered the greenery surrounding the flowers symbolizing hope. True love. A happy ending. Her clients at Wedding Belles were paying her to act like she believed fairy tales came true. But all the while Callie created those dreams with vibrant blooming white roses and delicate pastel freesia, she hid the fact that the petals had long ago dropped from her own jaded heart.
"My goodness, will you look at that. Another beautiful creation, darlin'." Belle Mackenzie, the owner of the Wedding Belles and Callie's employer, breezed into the basement floral design area. She was impeccable as always in a skirt and bright red sweater set that offset her gray hair and shaved years off her fifty-plus years. "You are incredible. Whatever made you think of this combination?" Belle bent to inhale the fragrance of the burnt orange tulips, paired with deep purple calla and crimson gloriosa lilies.
"The bride, actually," Callie said. "Becky was just so outgoing, and this design seemed to suit her personality, not to mention the unique colors of her wedding party dresses."
"I don't know how you do it. You read people like novels." Belle smiled. "Best thing I ever did was hire you."
Callie smiled. "No, I think it's the opposite. Best thing I ever did was walk in here and apply for a job." Belle had taken Callie under her wing years ago, seeing a budding creative talent and someone who needed a stable maternal figure. She'd taught Callie the art of flower arranging, even paid for her to go to classes, then when she'd expanded her wedding planning company into the much bigger Wedding Belles, had given Callie the job of florist. And through that job, a group of close friends who had since become Callie's rock.
Giving Callie's unstable life a firm basis for the first time in her life.
Now Callie spent her days discussing calla lilies and Candia roses with starry-eyed brides, but never for once believing she would hold another bouquet, opening her heart a second time, believing once again that one man would be by her side forever.
Just the idea of forever made her consider heading for the hills. She'd tried it once, on a whim, and it hadn't worked at all. Callie wasn't slipping on that gold band of permanence again under any circumstances.
Belle gave her a grin. "We all make a good team, don't we? The Wedding Belles."
"Even if one of us has never been swayed to the dark side?"
Belle's laughter was hearty. "You mean the white side of the aisle? It's not as bad as you think over there. And one day, darlin', I'll convince you that falling in love and getting married isn't the prison sentence you think."
Ever since Belle had hired Callie three years ago, she'd been working on convincing Callie that marriage was an institution for everyone, sort of like a One Size Fits All suit. Callie wasn't surprised--the gregarious owner of the wedding planner company had been married several times and had gone into the business because she loved happy endings. The other women on the Belles team echoed that sentiment--and most had already found their happily ever after.
But Callie knew better. For some people, love was an emotion best left for greeting cards.
"Belle, I already tried marriage once and it didn't work." Callie cut the end of the crimson satin ribbon that she'd tied in a ballet slipper style around the stems of the bouquet, then tucked a few strands of reflective wires and delicate crystal sprays into the flowers, adding a touch of bling.
"That's called practice," Belle said, laughing. "Second time's always better. And if not, third time's a charm. Or in my case, maybe the fourth."
Callie rolled her eyes. "I'm certainly not going to get married that many times." If at all, ever again. Her divorce was only eighteen months in the past, and if there was one thing her marriage to Tony had taught Callie--
It was that she, of all people, should never get married again.
"You know what you should do?" Belle said. "Celebrate."
"Being single again. You've been back on the market for over a year, Callie, and you have yet to take a step out of the barn."
"A step out of the barn?"
"And pick another stallion in the corral." Belle winked. "There are plenty of 'em out there, honey. All you need to do is pick the one that gets your hooves beatin' the fastest."
"Oh no, not me." Callie waved off the idea, even as she laughed at Belle's advice. "I'll keep on working with the flowers. They don't let me down."
"They also don't keep your bed toasty at night."
"So I'll buy an electric blanket." Callie put the bouquet, along with the rest of the wedding party flowers, inside the large walk-in refrigerator, then turned to walk upstairs with Belle. In a couple of hours, she and the other Bells would deliver everything to the wedding party, and see one more bride down the aisle.
"Well, before you go choosing a blanket over a beau, will you run on down to O'Malley's tonight and drop off the new invitations for his daughter's wedding? Apparently the first time the printer changed the groom's name from Clarence to Clarice. Thankfully, we caught the mistake just before they got mailed."
Callie eyed Belle. "Is this some way of forcing me out?"
Belle gave a suspicious up and down of her shoulders, a teasing smile playing at her lips. "Maybe."
Audra Green, the company's accountant, greeted the two of them as they entered the bright yellow reception area of the Belles' office. The entire room spoke of Belle's sunny personality, with its bright yellow walls, gleaming oak floors and bright white woodwork. It welcomed and warmed everyone who entered, just as Belle herself did, with her warm, happy, welcoming personality. "What's Belle cooking up now?" Audra asked. "I read something mischievous in her eyes."
"Proving to Callie that Mr. Right could be right down the street."
"Along with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus," Callie deadpanned, retrieving the box of invitations from the desk.
"So I thought she should go down to O'Malley's tonight and maybe deliver these invitations, scope out the dating scene," Belle went on, optimistically ignoring Callie.
"Get back on the horse before she forgets where the stirrups are."
Callie and Audra laughed, then the straight-laced accountant sobered and gave Callie a sympathetic smile. "Do you want some company?" Audra asked.
"Thanks, but I won't need it. Contrary to Belle's matchmaking plans, I'm going to drop off these wedding invitations and nothing more," Callie said.
"And if Mr. Right happens to be sitting at the end of the bar?" Belle asked.
"If he is," Callie laughed at her Belle's indomitable believe in Disney endings and picked up one of the thick silver envelopes in the box and wagged it in Belle's direction for emphasis, "then I'm sure you'll be the first to announce it to the world."
# # #
Jared Townsend believed in the power of proof. If something could be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, then he accepted it as fact.
His quest for proof was why he had excelled in geometry but not abstract thought. Why he'd nearly failed poetic analysis and instead discovered a home in the concrete world of statistics.
But now he found himself in the most unlikely of places, to prove the most unprovable of statistics. A bar on a Thursday night.
To prove that true love could be measured and analyzed, weighed and researched. For that reason, he had a clipboard and a pen and intended to interview at least a dozen couples before the bar closed, assuming he stayed awake that long.
A party animal, he was not. He wasn't even a party puppy.
"Welcome to O'Malley's. What can I get you?" A rotund bartender with a gray goatee came over to Jared, a ready smile on his face, his hand already on a pint glass. At the other end of the bar sat an older man, his shoulders hunched, head hung, staring into a beer.
"Beer sounds good." Jared slid his clipboard onto the bar, along with a few already sharpened pencils. Raring to go.
If anything spelled geek, that was it. No wonder Jared hadn't had a date in three months. Carry a clipboard--an instant death knell for attracting women.
The bartender arched a brow at the pencils and clipboard, apparently agreeing with that mental assessment, but kept his counsel and poured the draft. He slid the frosty mug over to Jared without a word.
A couple walked in. Jared grabbed a pencil, readied his clipboard. At first glance, they looked perfect for his survey. Early twenties, blond girl, brunette guy, walking close, talking fast, as if they were--
"You're a moron," the girl said. "I don't know what I ever saw in you. Seriously, Joey, my toaster has more brains than you and that's after I burned my bagel."
"Dude, that's mean."
"And quit calling me dude. I'm your girlfriend, or at least I was. Not your dude." She flung off his hand and stalked away, ordering a tequila shot, which she knocked back in one swift, easy movement that said she'd done this before. More than once.
Jared put down his pencil. He let out a sigh, settled back on his stool and took a long, deep gulp of beer. No one else was in the bar, even though it was nearly nine and the sign outside promised karaoke night would start in a little while. Maybe he should have picked a place further downtown, rather than one so close to his apartment…
…The door opened again and Jared swiveled toward the sound, once again grabbing his clipboard and pencil. This time a single woman walked in, but no man followed behind her. Jared's spirits plummeted. Clearly, he'd picked the wrong bar. Not a big surprise, given how little experience he had with this kind of scene.
Maybe he should leave, try another place, one with more atmosphere--some atmosphere at least--or try a restaurant, a diner, a--
Holy cow. Callie Phillips.
Jared's breath caught, held. The pencil in his hands dropped to the floor, rolled across the hardwood surface. Sheryl Crow sang about a broken heart on the jukebox, Sam said something about the quality of the coffee, and the tequila toting couple went on fighting, but Jared didn't pay attention. He pushed his glasses up his nose, refocused, and made two hundred percent sure.
Yes, it was Callie.
She'd just walked into the bar and upset his perfectly ordered, perfectly balanced life.
He had the advantage of watching her while her eyes adjusted to the dim interior. He studied her, noting the difference nine years had made. It could have been nine days for all his heart noticed.
She'd cut her hair, and now the dark blond locks curled around her ears, framed her face, teased at her cheeks. But she still had the same delicate, fine boned face, wide green eyes, and those lips--
Bright crimson lipstick danced across her lips, lips that had always seemed to beg him to kiss them, mesmerized him whenever she talked. He watched her approach, his gaze sweeping over her still lithe curves, outlined in jeans and a bright turquoise top, then returning to her face, to her mouth, and something tightened in his gut.
And Jared Townsend, who never did anything without a reason, a plan, completely forgot why he was here.
Labels: except, Shirley, Sweetheart Lost and Found
Friday, March 28, 2008
Audra Checks In!
Audra here. I just wanted to pop in and introduce myself. I'm the Wedding Belles' accountant, and as you've probably already realized (because it's income tax time in the United States) I'm a bit busy.
But, really, isn't that the way it is for most brides? Nobody lets a bride quit her job so she'll have plenty of time to plan a wedding. Brides (and helpful grooms ;) ) are forced to squeeze all our wedding efforts into our free time.
I'd love to hear from anyone who has suggestions on how to find time to plan a wedding!
Please feel free to post in the comments!
Audra...the accountant. :)
Labels: audra, Susan
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Collecting Once Upon a Time
From Shirley: This blog entry is from Kenneth Gloss, owner of the Brattle Book Shop, the oldest antiquarian book store in the country. It's all about collecting romance novels, which is a pretty cool thing to do, if you ask me! So if you love your romance novels, read on for tips on their history and for creating a collection!
ROMANCE NOVELS HAVE BEEN FAVORITES FOR DECADES
By Kenneth Gloss
Romance novels, in one form or another, have been around virtually as long as writers have been penning stories. Some of the more famous ones were written by the Bronte sisters and also by Jane Austen. Many of these early novels are enjoying a resurgence in popularity as Hollywood takes them and converts their tales into movies. Those box office dollars often translate into increased demand for the early works. An original first edition of a Bronte or an Austen novel can be worth thousands of dollars, depending on the rarity of the edition.
What sets those two authors apart is their innovation in writing. Their plots and themes set the trend for many novels that followed. Decades of authors have written stories about mysterious men and strong women who escaped the traps of their lives by the end of the book.
The true original romances are found in fairy tales, in the love story between Cinderella and Prince Charming, who swept her away from her dreary life. The romances that were written in the ensuing decades either repeated this theme or were so grand in scale and scope that they allowed readers to live vicariously through the exciting lives of the characters. Gone with the Wind is a classic love story (even though it didn't have a happy ending), complete with a larger-than-life panoramic backdrop and multi-generational scope.The popularity of that novel is clear in its price tag, too. A first edition of Margaret Mitchell's classic (which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1937) runs $2500 to $3500, depending on its condition.
It takes a special combination of story, tragedy and conflict to create a romance novel that endures decades of reader popularity. Not every book written 100 or 200 years ago was good, however. Many people complain about the paucity of quality modern novels, when in fact, many of the books written in the 19th century weren't all that well written. Some of the books were very formulaic and predictable. Ultimately, as with any book, it's the writing and the story that set one book apart from another.
The books of the 19th century also weren't as explicit in description of romantic encounters as today's books are. A great deal was inferred, leaving the rest behind closed doors. There were a few books that bucked that trend, like Tom Jones, but it was rare. What little sexuality there was in those books was frowned upon by censors. The novels written around the turn of the century were mainly sold by subscription because they weren't deemed proper enough to be sold in stores.
The popularity of romance novels skyrocketed 50 years ago when Harlequin began producing paperback versions that made the books cheaper and more accessible to the general public. Collecting the vast number of Harlequins produced is a nearly impossible task because they were meant to be read and eventually discarded. People who collect one certain author and want earlier Harlequins that someone like Nora Roberts has written may end up paying 20 to 100 dollars for a book that probably cost no more than three dollars when it was released. It's the books that were worth the least at the time of release that are usually the hardest to track down.
There is such a wide selection of romance novels and types of novels, from the gothic romances to the paranormals like Anne Rice's Dracula, that one can begin a collection at almost any point and have a great deal of selection available. There are people who collect books by certain authors, ones that had interesting covers or books that were illustrated. As far as I know, there is no bookstore that specializes in antiquarian romance novels. However, nearly all good stores will stock a variety of romance novels and carry the high-demand ones by Austen, Bronte and other romantic writers.
Romance novels provide a vivid social picture of the mores and customs of the time when they were written. Mitchell's novel paints a picture of a world filled with balls and debutantes that was ripped apart by a brutal war. Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's classic romantic play, shows the devastating consequences of wars between families. Tolstoy's Anna Karenina depicts the constraints of life in Russia at that time, coupled with the consequences of bucking social traditions. Many collectors seek out books that provide the fictionalized version of life at a particular time, finding that the authors often had a true handle on their world.
Some people collect books written in specific settings or romances from particular time periods, like Regency England. Each individual collector's interests will usually dictate the area on which he or she chooses to focus.No matter which type of romance novels a collector selects, there is bound to be a wide variety of books to choose from. These types of books are sometimes even spotted at garage sales or library sales because the value of an early Bronte isn't always as clearly seen as that of a first edition Dickens, for instance. These were books that were read and enjoyed by hundreds of people over hundreds of years. Their classic themes of love conquering all live on in the hearts of many readers and collectors. Starting a collection of romance novels can provide both reading entertainment and a glimpse of the enduring power of love.
Ken Gloss is the owner of the Brattle Book Shop in Boston, the oldest antiquarian bookstore in the United States. 2008 is the 59th year of Gloss family ownership. Ken is seen from time to time on PBS' Antiques Roadshow. For further information visit the website at http://www.brattlebookshop.com/ or call 1-800-447-9595.
Labels: book collecting, romance novels
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
On the Way to a Wedding Dress
There have been so many exciting things going on here, but this is the first time I’m posting, so I’m pretty revved up. It’s got me thinking about how things often look when you begin something. I don’t know about you but I start out having this pretty solid idea of just how things are going to be, but (you can see this coming, can’t you?) I tend to be wrong. A lot. I take a turn I didn’t expect to take and I end up somewhere I never thought I’d be. Which, since we’re all about weddings here, brings me to remembering an unexpected turn I took once, the turn that took me to THE DRESS. Specifically, my wedding dress.
I had been dating my husband-to-be forever (and I’m not saying how long forever actually was, but trust me, it was forever). But despite the length of time I hadn’t even thought about what happens when a person gets engaged, the whole wedding planning scenario. Now I was. I had to, because we were old enough that we felt we should pay for and plan our wedding ourselves. I was totally clueless, but I knew one thing. I had to have a really great dress. It was going to be the dress that would make everyone in the room go temporarily blind and actually believe that I looked like Scarlett Johannson (or the equivalent beauty of the time). In other words, I had to have a total, magical miracle of a dress that was capable of mind control. I was only going to do this once and I was going to do it right.
The hunt began. I bought bridal magazines (of course) and flipped through them until they were ragged. I discussed THE MAGIC DRESS with my friends and my family as if it were a living being. And then reality hit. I could have the dress I wanted, but my future husband and I might have to give up eating for the next fifty years and we would have to live in his parents' basement for the rest of our lives. It was a pretty nice basement but…
In the end I gave up the magazine versions of perfection, but I still got the dress I wanted. It might not have had any super magical properties and it might not have been the dress that would have been right for others, but it was exactly the right dress for me, because it came to me through an act of generosity from someone close to me. One of my best friend's mothers owned a shop that rented wedding dresses. She cruised all the designer shows, studied styles, bought the best stuff she could afford and then rented out the gowns. These were dresses I could never afford and, frankly, I probably couldn’t have afforded to rent one, either. They were one of a kind (meaning you had to actually fit into the dress—no alterations). But, being a friend, she pretty much let me borrow one of these sparklers for the cost of wear and tear and cleaning it. For a woman like me who wanted to be a princess for a day and couldn’t afford it, it was a small miracle.
Looking back, I've forgotten who designed the gown. Does it matter? What matters is that this was the perfect gift from a generous lady who knew how much a dress means to every bride-to-be. Thank you, Mrs. B. You made me and a whole lot of other brides who stumbled into your pretty little shop happy.
And just so all of you reading this can see what I've been talking about, I've included a shot of the dress. All right, yes, it is out of date (we won't say what year this was, discuss why there's a shadow behind my head or…please don't make me explain my hair!) but for a day this dress was all mine, and I loved it.
I hope this brings back memories of your own wedding dresses (or dreams of the ones you hope to wear)!
Labels: myrna, wedding dresses
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I am so excited I can hardly think. Please celebrate with me. A TOUCH OF GRACE, book 2 in my Brothers' Bond series has been nominated for a RITA, the romance writers' 'academy award'.
After an eye appointment today, I was driving home when my cell phone rang. Thinking it was my husband reminding me to pick up some milk or something, I nearly fainted when the caller identified herself and said she was calling from Romance Writers of America. She said, "How are you today?" I replied, "I think I just got a whole lot better!" Then she went on to congratulate me as a finalist. I'm sure she thought I was an idiot. I alternately laughed, squealed, and asked if she was joking.
This is my first RITA final so I am extremely thrilled. Obviously. :-)
Labels: linda, RITA
Friday, March 21, 2008
Hello! I'm Serena James, dress designer for The Wedding Belles. One of our brides is running late for her fitting so I thought I'd take advantage of the time and check in here. It's either that or eat another one of our baker Natalie's delicious wedding cake samples. My waistline can't take much more especially since I plan to be a bride myself. Well, as soon as my devoted boyfriend Rupert proposes. I know it's just a matter of time!
Anyway, we've been so busy planning for all the upcoming spring wedding, but I wanted to thank you for stopping by. The Wedding Belles have lots in store for you over the next six months!
Oh, Julie just let me know that the bride arrived for her fitting. I need to go. Talk to you soon!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The Wedding Planners on eHarlequin
We haven't kicked off the blog here yet, but we are posting on a forum at eHarlequin dedicated to the Wedding Planners continuity. Stop by and say hi here