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In Love and War by Suzanne Barrett

Today Suzanne Barrett is visiting to give us a taste of her recent release, In Love and War.

Timnagh, County Waterford, 1993

Irish dairy farmer, Meaghann Power, struggling to make ends meet, rents her converted castle keep to an embittered war correspondent wounded in Bosnia.

Quinn Lawlor has come to his ancestral homeland to heal and to be left alone. However, pragmatic Meaghann discovers much more than just her attractive-but-surly tenant’s body is in need of healing. What begins as indifference turns to fascination, and later, desire. But can their passion survive Meaghann’s own dark secrets?

‘But where can we draw water,’
said Pearse to Connolly,
‘When all the wells are parched away?’
‘O plain as plain can be
There’s nothing but our own red blood
Can make a right Rose tree.’
William Butler Yeats

Love and War“Well, my girl, you’ve done it, now!” Brid O’Donnell’s efficient voice sliced through the stillness inside the cheese barn, sharp as a knife through curd.

Meaghann Power straightened, wiped milk-spattered palms on her white apron, and turned toward her aunt. No secret remained long in the village, but the speed with which this particular news had traveled surprised even her. “What have I done, Aunt Brid?” she began.

Arms akimbo, the stout middle-aged woman loomed in the open doorway in a dripping yellow mackintosh. She smoothed wisps of rain-dampened hair from her eyes as moisture pooled beneath her on the barn’s concrete floor. Aunt Brid’s usually set features tightened into a disapproving frown. Outside the barn door, Ireland’s continual rain misted the hillside and ran in rivulets, forming a lake in the driveway.

Meaghann plunged her hands into the sink’s soapy water and groped for the wooden paddle floating on the surface. Please God, not another lecture. She drained the suds and refilled the sink, staring at her work-roughened hands. A paraffin heater in the corner hissed as a drop of water landed on its black enameled surface. Above her a string of incandescent bulbs cast a golden glow over the paint-peeled ivory walls.

“Done?” the older woman snapped. “You invite a single man to live with you, then act as if it’s nothing!” Brid’s voice rose several decibels. “The decent people of the parish won’t be seeing it that way, and neither do I. It’s not seemly for a single woman and a strange man to be livin’ together,” Brid clucked. “This sort of carry-on may happen in Dublin, but not in Timnagh. And not in my own family.” She punctuated her remark with an irate shake of her head.

Caught by a gust of wind, the door behind Brid creaked on its hinges, and Meaghann stepped to the threshold and wrenched it closed. Only then did she face her aunt. “We won’t be ‘living together’. He’s renting the keep. And he’s not a stranger. The Lawlors came from the village.”

Brid gave a humph, then moved to the dusty corner where the heater glowed. “Hardly! They left thirty-five years ago. Besides, you know nothing about him. If you’d come to your senses and take Seamus, you’d not be struggling to run this farm by yourself.”

Meaghann stiffened her jaw. Didn’t she have the Devil’s own troubles trying to keep the place from falling to bits around her without her aunt determined to foist onto her every available man under seventy? With a sigh, she lifted the washed utensils from the sink onto a towel. “Aunt Brid, the truth of the matter is, I don’t want to marry Seamus. I­ ” She paused, not waiting to give thought to her reluctance, then plunged on. “I…don’t want to marry anyone­least of all Seamus.” She’d wanted to marry once, but that was a long time ago. Then she could afford to dream, now…. Her jaw tightened and she picked up another utensil. Now there was just today, and an endless stream of work, which never quite got done.

Brid’s heavy arms criss-crossed her ample bosom. Ginger brows furrowed as she spoke. “The way I see it, you’ve little choice. I hate to remind you, but you’re growin’ no younger. Seamus is a good man, and a fine farmer.”

Meaghann whirled around, her hand wielding a three-foot paddle like a sword.
“Seamus McHenry is fifty-seven years old!”

Brid snorted. “Don’t see as how you can afford to be choosey, girl. You’re goin’ on for forty yourself.”

How well she knew. Noisily, Meaghann expelled her breath, at this point not caring if her frustration carried over in her voice. “You’ve been at this for the last three years. Give it up. Seamus doesn’t want a wife­he wants a mother for that brood of his. Five young ones and little Cara not out of nappies.”

Meaghann turned her back on her aunt and plunged the still-damp wooden paddle into the milk curd. She gave the curds another swirl, then, satisfied the culture was working, set the paddle on a plate. “I’m managing just fine, Aunt Brid. I don’t need a husband to help me run my farm.”

Bold words, she thought as she pushed the ribbed cuffs of her cardigan up her forearms. Fact was, she needed help in the worst way.

Jack Power’s daughter wasn’t one to crumble under a little adversity when keeping her farm meant everything­security, a sense of place­of continuity. She’d grown up here in Timnagh, seeing the cycle of life repeat itself again and again. She loved the welcoming acceptance a small, close-knit community offered, as well as the chance to grow old with those you loved.

But there were times when the load she carried threatened to crush her.

Purchase In Love and War

Suzanne Barrett spent part of a winter in Ireland researching In Love and War. She has published four books with Kensington. In Love and War, twice a Golden Heart finalist, is her second book for Turquoise Morning Press with four more releases scheduled for 2011.

Late Harvest by Suzanne Barrett plus Contest!

My special guest today is author Suzanne Barrett. I’ll turn you over to Suzanne since she’s done a great job of introducing herself.

I’ve been writing since 1989, and the book that got me started into thinking I’d like to do this is LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird. In re-reading that well-worn paperback, I can see writing errors we try not to do today, however, I didn’t understand those things then. What stood out for me was that the book drew me in like no other. I went on to read every book Ms. Spencer published, but I liked Hummingbird the most.

As for the writing, I did the usual things: joined RWA, my local chapter, joined a critique group and attended workshops, and of course bought every writing how-to book to hit the bookshelves. Of course none of those things got me published. It was more plain hard work, studying my writing and the writing of people who did it better than me, and making changes where necessary and still remaining true to myself.

I entered contests, and worked myself up to finalist status and winner in some. Late Harvest was a Golden Heart finalist one year. That opened doors but didn’t get me a contract. I continued writing and submitting. Finally, after nine years, I sold to Kensington…and went on to sell three more books before they dropped the line.

So here I am with Turquoise Morning Press and loving the interaction with a small press and its publisher who is herself a writer. Late Harvest is my first release with TMP, however, I have five more books coming out in 2011. It promises to be an exciting year.

Now about the book:

Late HarvestLate Harvest was a difficult sell to New York because it’s not formulaic. Too dark, my Kensington publisher said. “We don’t like Germans,” my editor said. “We might be interested if you change those awful German names.”

I didn’t want to make those changes. Late Harvest isn’t just about wine-making, but about the late harvest wine called Eiswein–made from grapes picked after a first frost. It is, of course, a German wine and German wineries abound in the Mendocino area. So Cresthaven was born, owned by the von Daniken family from Germany’s Rheingau. When the story opens, Otto, the patriarch is bedridden by a stroke, unable to speak, and the key to the artificial method for making Eiswein lies with Glenna Ryan who fled the winery some five years earlier. Kurt, Otto’s nephew, now runs the winery and he’s determined to bring Glenna back so she can facilitate the production of this precious late harvest wine. But Glenna has secrets she cannot reveal and agrees to return by exacting a promise from Kurt: her expertise in exchange for surgery for her son.

An excerpt:

Glenna moistened lips that had suddenly gone dry. “Do I pass inspection?” Her voice sounded a little throaty.

“You look…lovely, Glenna.” Kurt continued his perusal, one lean forefinger tracing his full lower lip.

Glenna found the movement of his hand fascinating. Her own grew moist as her mouth turned dust dry. She moistened her lips with her tongue and realized that he was staring.

Raising her eyes to his, she deliberately blanked her expression. “Why did you do it–buy this dress? I didn’t need a new gown for the ball. My blue dress–”

“Was a made over,” he interrupted gently. “I asked Mags what you were wearing. I wanted you to–” He paused, searching for a word, “–have something more personal.”

Glenna tensed. “I would have looked acceptable even in my made-over dress.” She noted the instant thinning of his mouth, and she pasted on a bright smile. “I’ve grown quite socially acceptable in recent years.”

A hardness crept into his eyes. “You were–are always acceptable, as I suspect you know. God, Glenna. Can’t we just….”

The smile left her lips. Once again she dragged her gaze upward. “Call a truce?”

“No, I–” He slapped the magazine down on the table, then stared intently into her face for what seemed an interminable moment. “Yes, why not? Just for tonight, Glenna, let us pretend we met only this last April, when you came to work for me.”

Glenna found herself mesmerized by the smoky depths of his eyes. Warm and friendly on the surface, but underneath….Underneath lay a deep hunger. She saw it, and felt it as a wave of desire shook her.

In a voice that was little more than a thready whisper she said, “Yes, I’d like that. Tonight is our first…” Her voice trailed off. She couldn’t say it.

“Our first evening together, Glenna. And California’s entire wine community will be watching.”
He made a quarter turn, offering her his arm.

Purchase Late Harvest

CONTEST: Suzanne is giving away a Kindle download of Late Harvest to one lucky commenter. Ask her a question or make a comment and you’re in the draw.