Welcome Nell Castle and her first Wild Rose Press romance, A Leap of Faith. Tell us about your book and how you came to write it, Nell.
I’d be happy to. Two years ago, when I made up my mind to quit deferring my dream of writing a novel, I decided to try my hand at romance. To prime the pump, I asked my friends to tell me the most romantic moments of their pasts. One of them, the person who inspired the character of my heroine, Sophia, had worked as a special events director in a major department store in northeastern Ohio. The first scene in A Leap of Faith is based on her experience of cooking pancakes for customers in a twelve-foot frying pan. She shared some poignant memories of pining over a man who was absolutely wrong for her, a man I villainized in the character of Christopher. Jackson is my own idealized creation of the perfect guy for Sophia: a spiritual man who would see past fluctuations in her weight to the beauty shining from within. The fun part was entangling the three characters in a love triangle. What woman doesn’t like the idea of two men fighting over her?
Special events coordinator Sophia Anton is an old-fashioned girl. She wants a family by the time she’s 30, and she’s set her sights on an old friend. She just needs to lose 40 pounds, fast. But Jackson Thomas, the handsome new minister in town, turns her head to unexpected possibilities. Trouble is, Jackson’s taken a vow of celibacy, while Sophia’s scheme to snag the “man of her dreams” is working like a charm. So why does Jackson’s face haunt her when she closes her eyes? And how can Jackson dream of a future with Sophia after he’s shut the door on love?
Ebook: 68,000 words; Print: 270 p.
Sweet (PG) Romance
The Wild Rose Press: http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/4345-a-leap-of-faith.html
Excerpt (G): Jackson and the Kids
Jackson picked up one child after another, gently lifting the shyer ones and dangling rambunctious children by their ankles.
Sophia had never seen him so relaxed.
“He's like the Pied Piper,” Kate said in her ear.
Transfixed by Jackson and the kids, Sophia hadn't noticed Kate’s arrival.
“Too bad he's sworn off having kids. He'd be a great dad.” Kate slid plates to the back of the table as she nodded toward the minister.
Emotion clogged Sophia’s throat as she collected plates from the lower shelf. Alone at the dessert table, she felt her pulse quicken as she watched the minister, still gazing at the baby, make his way toward her. His gentle expression when he looked up from the baby made her knees weak. “You're good with babies,” she faltered. Lame.
Forgetting the awkwardness she’d felt a moment before, she cooed as the baby wrapped tiny fists in her hair. When she felt him pull her hair toward his mouth, she whispered a gentle reproof. “No, no.” She extricated her hair and planted kisses on the soft top of his head. Closing her eyes, she inhaled the scent of powder and baby lotion as she rubbed her cheek against his downy scalp. Jackson’s tall figure harbored them from the noise and commotion of the hall. Lowering her eyes as she hummed, she stole a glance at the minister.
He stood close enough for her to smell his aftershave and feel the warmth radiating from his neck. She blushed, her gaze averted until he backed away with the child. Crossing her hands over her chest, she rubbed her arms, feeling more barren with each step he took.
Kate joined her by the wall as a line formed in front of the table. “You like him, don't you?” Kate asked in a low voice.
Sophia fiddled with the hem of the apron protecting her blouse. Was Kate just fishing, or did she suspect Sophia had feelings for the minister? She swallowed hard. “He's good with kids.”
“He's good with adults too,” Kate said.
Sophia's face flamed. She studied her fingernails to avoid Kate's stare.
“So how'd the weekend go with Christopher?”
“Fabulous.” Sophia stood next to Kate in tense silence as Franny’s guests selected plates of pie. Pulling her cell phone from the pocket of her slacks, she showed Kate her new screensaver. “Tiffany, from ladies fashions at O’Grady’s, helped me pick my outfit.”
Kate whistled. “Wow. You look like a princess.” She touched the screen, enlarging Sophia’s image and pushing Christopher into the margins.
“I rocked that dress.” Sophia’s voice was smug. They both laughed.
“So—did Christopher approve of the way you looked?” Kate handed back the phone.
Sophia looked at her feet, tapping her toe against the linoleum. “Yeah.”
After a long pause, Kate said, “'Yeah'? Can you tell me more?”
Looking up, Sophia saw Jackson had found another playmate. He held on to a little boy’s hands as he bounced the child on his knee.
The boy giggled uncontrollably, sliding side to side like a rider whose saddle was slipping off the horse.
Sophia dragged her attention back to Kate. “Christopher thought I looked beautiful.” Right now, Christopher felt very far away.
“And...?” Kate prompted.
“And, he told me how glad he was I'd come. And—we kissed,” Sophia finished.
“You kissed?” Kate’s voice was loud as ever.
Her cheeks reddening, Sophia shushed her friend.
“Are we talking about more than his usual European cheek kisses?”
Sophia nodded again.
“With tongue?” Kate wrinkled her nose and shuddered.
“We made out, okay?” Sophia whispered in vexation, drawing Kate from the table. “I’m twenty-nine years old, Kate. I’m allowed to kiss.” She glared at her friend, knowing Kate would insist on hearing the whole story. Fine, then. She may as well hear it all. “He’s broken up with April. He wants us to take our relationship to the next level.”
“The next level, huh? And what's the next level?”
She braced herself. “We’re thinking about getting married.”
Kate’s jaw dropped. “Getting married and having kids is the next level?” she sputtered. “Don't you think you're skipping a few steps? Like, maybe, dating a while? Finding out if you're compatible?”
Sophia threw back her shoulders. “We know each other inside and out. I told you I’m the only woman Christopher’s ever considered committing to. And after this weekend, he feels like he's ready.”
“Why this weekend?” Kate countered.
“Because I'm more confident. I'm willing to take chances. I'm not so eager to please as I used to be.” Sophia lifted her chin, feigning ignorance to what Kate’s question implied.
“Right. His sudden interest in you has nothing to do with you losing weight.” Kate ground her bottom lip between her teeth, shaking her head.
Clenching her fists, Sophia forced herself to keep her voice low. “I'm sure losing weight helped, okay? Is that what you want to hear? Then yes. Christopher did like the way I look. Why can’t a man admit he’s attracted to thin women?”
Kate threw her hands in the air. “What happens if you gain back the weight? Will he still want you then?”
Nell Castle grew up in western Pennsylvania and graduated with a degree in English literature from Temple University in Philadelphia. Since then, she’s lived in Key West, Anchorage, Sarasota, and Virginia Beach. She moved back to northeastern Ohio to raise her kids closer to family but looks forward to moving to a gentler climate after her youngest graduates. Until then, she revisits white powder beaches and craggy mountain tops only in her writing. She’s submitted a new manuscript to her publisher, The Wild Rose Press, and is currently at work on a novella.
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/nellcastle
The Wild Rose Press author page: http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/1309_nell-castle