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What does a romance author do when she finds she's in love with a secondary character halfway through writing a novel?
Write another novel, of course, and give that character a happily ever after too!
Which brings me to The Dating Game, my latest sexy romantic comedy, out today – five short days after its 'sister' book Kiss Don’t Tell hit the cybershelves.
Kiss Don’t Tell is about an uptight economist (Lane) who hires the tough guy brother (Adam) of one of her best friends (Sarah) to teach her the art of seduction. The purpose of the lessons is to give Lane the skills she needs to land the sexiest guy in her office – the been-there-done-that David Bennett.
Most early readers of Kiss Don’t Tell really had it in for David. They were decidedly and unabashedly Team Adam and David could take himself off, thank you very much! I didn't have a problem with that attitude because Adam is so very clearly the right man for Lane.
But something happened about three quarters of the way through writing Kiss Don’t Tell when the big, brawny, rough-around-the-edges Adam Quinn finally met the classically handsome, urbane, sophisticated, impeccably dressed and world-weary David Bennett: I fell in love with 'the other man' myself – and frankly, I couldn't bear to say goodbye to him.
Fortunately for me, then, Adam's tiny, pretty, perky sister Sarah happened to be on hand to meet David at the same time as her brother and – bingo! – another hero and heroine took over my mind and a new book was born.
But it was quite a challenge to write a new book that started a quarter of a way before the ending of the original story and not give away too many clues about what was coming up!
There are certainly signs in the last quarter of Kiss Don’t Tell that something's up with Sarah, but it's not until you pick up The Dating Game that you learn that the 'something' is the fact that David and Sarah have struck their own deal. Sarah feels guilty as sin over their arrangement because even though David insists it has nothing to do with Lane - it's a simple 'let me paint you and I'll find you a man to love' deal - Sarah doesn't feel all that innocent when she's around him.
What follows is a romp of a story complete with secret meetings, plans going haywire and screwball situations, as everyone's relationships are wrangled into what can only be described as a mess!
Read a little...
In this scene, David is trying to find man #1 for Sarah's consideration, and not having much luck...
He wasn’t seeing anyone in the gallery worth their effort—as he’d been communicating to Sarah via a strange telepathy she seemed to understand innately. It was amazing what you could achieve with a series of finger twitches, glancing frowns, eyelid flickers and half-shrugs. He probably looked like a palsy sufferer to anyone watching closely, but the silent language seemed to do the job.
An engineer called Harry—flick. Edward the dentist—flick. Earnest China expert Felix who’d made a beeline for her and actually kissed her cheek—flick. Four others, gone within as many minutes. It was getting ridiculous. There had to be someone in the room who wasn’t a total loser.
Sarah had obviously reached the same conclusion, because she was converging on him in her tottering-on-high-heels, stopping-for-a-chat, strutting way, with a determined sparkle in her eye.
‘There has to be one who passes muster,’ she said through a too-large smile as she sidled close to him.
‘If you’d stop hitting on the conservative intellectual types, we might find him. Who are you trying to date? Your father?’
‘My father is not conservative.’
‘All right, then don’t deliberately not date your father. Okay, that sounds repellent, but you know what I mean. Either way, no more guys with glasses and pokers up their backsides.’
‘They didn’t all wear glasses.’
‘No, one out of ten didn’t wear glasses. And they all, bar none, had the poker shoved high enough to have them singing falsetto. No, don’t argue, just listen: no glasses, no plain blue ties, no supercilious smirks. Okay?’
She rolled her eyes. ‘Okay.’
‘And don’t roll your eyes. You know I’m right.’
‘I said okay, didn’t I?’
‘It’s how you said it.’ He swept his eyes around the room—in one direction, then back … and stopped. Victim located. He cocked his head to the left. ‘Over there. The guy with the dark hair, on the long side.’ Slight pause. ‘Too long, if you ask me.’
‘Hello? You’re talking to me about dating my father but from where I’m standing, I could just date you if that’s going to be your attitude. Are you going to check them for tattoos as well as hair length? What if they ride motorbikes, Dad?’
‘Shut up, brat,’ he said, trying not to laugh. ‘Look at him, not me. Black suit, white shirt buttoned up to the neck but no tie. See? He’s raising his champagne glass to his lips. Good, he’s seen me. He’s coming over.’
‘You know him?’
‘His name’s Craig. He works at the bank.’
‘I thought you said no more conservatives.’
‘Not all bankers are conservative. I’m a case in point.’
‘But you’re only half a banker.’
‘And even a hundred per cent banker would be better than Lacklustre Liam. Who was what, by the way?’
‘Now who’s being judgemental?’
‘If it makes you feel better, Craig is only half a banker, like me.’
‘What’s the other half?’
‘Jazz singer. And yes, I know pop’s your thing, but at least it’s not opera, so cope with it. Now come here, your lipstick’s smeared.’ He wiped the corner of her mouth with his thumb. ‘There. Better.’
‘What about my—’
‘Shhh, he’s almost here.’
‘Stop shushing me.’
‘Stop needing to be shushed. Now, shhh.’ He turned abruptly to welcome his long-haired colleague. ‘Craig! How are you?’
A quick note: Kiss Don't Tell and The Dating Game are standalone stories – this is not a cliffhanger situation where you have to read one to understand the next; in fact you can choose to read only one, and you can read them in any order – but they are a lot of fun to read in sequence!
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