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Virginia McCullough: The Jacks of Her Heart

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Author Insights

by Virginia McCullough

After a lifetime of reading, it’s not surprising to me that I’d have noticed certain themes coming up again and again, not only my work, but in that of most authors who write romance and romantic women’s fiction. One of these repeating themes is “coming home or finding home.” In either case, the most alluring part of novels I both read and write involves traveling with the characters on a journey. In many cases, the journey is about finding home or returning home. As someone who has been a wanderer and a vagabond all my life, I find a certain fascination with these stories.

Our heroes and heroines are sometimes called back home, and they’re often angry about it and resist this call, at least at first. They may even loudly proclaim they’ll leave again at the first opportunity. (And the readers mutter to themselves, Ha! That’s what you think.) In other stories, the characters end up going to a new place and maybe, just maybe they’ll find their true home there. But in romance, somehow, part of the journey we embrace with such intensity is intertwined with our hope that the hero and heroine will find their true home with each other.

Playlist

The Jacks of Her Heart is a lighthearted story about finding love, the second time around. The romantic lead in this story is Jack, a laidback café owner who loves the nostalgia of music popular in the sixties and seventies. Listening to these songs provided great inspiration while I was writing the book, and they served as namesakes for the menu items in Jack’s café. Listing—or sing—along with these classic tunes.

California Dreamin’ (John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, 1965)

Happy Together (The Turtles, 1967)

Forever Young (Bob Dylan, 1974)

Black Magic Woman (Peter Green, 1968, cover, Carlos Santana, 1970)

Wild Thing (Chip Taylor, cover, The Troggs, 1966)

Love Me Tender (Elvis Presley, 1956)

Scarborough Fare (Traditional, cover, Simon & Garfunkle, 1966)

Knocking on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan, 1973)

Nights in White Satin (Justin Hayward, cover Moody Blues, album, Days of Future Passed, 1967)

Going to the Chapel (J. Barry, E. Greenwich, P. Spector, cover, The Dixie Cups, 1964)

Woodstock (Joni Mitchell, 1970)

Mellow Yellow (Donovan, 1966)

Brown-eyed Girl (Van Morrison, 1967)

Forever Young (Bob Dylan, 1974)

A Whiter Shade of Pale (Keith Reid, Procol Harum, 1972)

Sweet Surrender (John Denver, 1974)

Peaceful, Easy Feeling (Jack Tempchin, cover, The Eagles album, 1972)

Chelsea Morning (Joni Mitchell, 1968, cover, Judy Collins album “Living,” 1971

Here Comes the Sun (George Harrison, 1965)

Good Vibrations (Brian Wilson and Mike Love; The Beach Boys album, All Summer Long, 1964)

Strawberry Fields Forever (John Lennon, 1967)

I’m Into Something Good (Gerry Goffin and Carole King, cover, Herman’s Hermits, 1965)

About The Jacks of Her Heart

“A pure delight! I fell in love with Jack instantly—and the storybook town of Capehart Bay.”

—Lily Silver, Author of The Rock Star Next Door

Lorna Lindstrom and Jack Young just got married in the tropics—and their grownup kids don’t like it one bit…

Mere acquaintances in their hometown of Capehart Bay, Wisconsin, Jack and Lorna turn up on the same Caribbean cruise. They soon fall victim to moonlight, champagne, and dancing—and that leads to an impulsive wedding. But now they’re back home, feeling like a couple of fools. Both agree a quick divorce is their best way out of this embarrassing predicament. Lorna’s two kids and Jack’s daughter are all for that, but their meddling prompts the stubborn newlyweds to rethink their plan.

A professional organizer, Lorna is a little too proud of her spotless home. She fell in love with Jack’s generous heart, but must he rescue every abandoned dog in town? The owner of a popular ‘60s nostalgia café, Jack feels right at home in Lorna’s bedroom, but he might as well be a stranger everywhere else in her perfect house. Suspicions that Lorna’s up-and-coming professor son-in-law is a womanizer soon pushes Jack into a different kind of rescue mission. Meanwhile, Lorna steps up and organizes her elderly father-in-law’s move and offers her support to Jack’s daughter in a crisis with baby Joanie. Too bad those classic “irreconcilable differences” appear to doom the pair, even as their kids are beginning to warm to the marriage.

Maybe sharing a couple of romantic dances on the night Jack launches his Blue Sky Nostalgia Music Festival can bring this “opposites attract duo” together again. Will Jack and Lorna decide they can find a way to make peace with their dueling quirks and have some fun with their second-chance romance?

Excerpt

Lorna inched to the edge of her bed, but before sliding out, she glanced over her shoulder to watch the even rise and fall of Jack’s back under the sheet. If she rolled toward him she could reach out and rest her palm against his bare shoulder and soak up the warmth of his skin. No. The man’s warmth—on all levels—got her into this trouble in the first place. That and moonlight, and okay, since she’d started a list, she might as well add the long nights of delicious slow dancing.

BookCover_JacksOfHerHeart copyOnce out of bed, Lorna tiptoed to her reading chair in the corner, retrieving her bra and panties from the floor along the way. Then she pulled the throw off the back of the chair and wrapped it around herself like a towel. Only dim light seeped through the closed blinds, but she felt around the floor and came up with the silk shirt and slacks she’d worn on the flight home the night before. With her clothes draped over her arm, she stepped around the open suitcase blocking the way to her bedroom door. She reached for the doorknob, ready to escape, but took a last look at the scene she was about to leave behind.

A trail of jeans, a sport jacket, and a dark blue shirt led straight to the mound in the bed named Jack Young, age fifty-two, noteworthy only because, by coincidence, she and Jack were mere months apart in age.

Loathing messes as she did, it took all Lorna’s strength not to grab the two half-empty glasses and the champagne bottle that sat as accusers on her nightstand. She slipped into the hallway and shut the door behind her. Home free—more or less. Leaning against the wall, she closed her eyes and exhaled a long breath to quiet her jittery stomach. It worked for a second or two. Next step, get to June’s house as fast as her legs would carry her there.

Lorna brushed her teeth and dressed quickly in her guest bathroom before grabbing her winter jacket off the hook in the kitchen. She escaped through her back door and jogged down the slope of her yard that led to the footpath bordering the lake, the fastest route to June’s house.

She maneuvered around the muddy patches and pools of water left behind from last night’s rain. The dampness left the April morning air fragrant with the promise of spring. Lacking a breeze to disturb it, the lake perfectly mirrored the trees and houses lining the water’s edge. In the stillness, the sounds of a barking dog and children’s voices carried across the water from the opposite shore. A mere day ago, she’d been more than a thousand miles away, tilting her face toward the sun and sighing from happiness as sultry tropical air caressed her skin. She and Jack had made love to the nearly imperceptible rhythm of the cruise ship, dodging any talk of what they’d do when they arrived back home in Wisconsin.

What a disaster. Maybe she’d try to make light of their escapade. After all, Jack was a decent man, a really great guy, if also thoroughly unsuitable for her. He also had a terrific sense of humor. Maybe they could have a good hoot over their silly mistake. “Isn’t this the funniest thing?” she could say while trilling in a charming sort of way. Ha ha, titter titter. She could hold out her hand in a gesture of friendship. “What do you say? We figure out the easiest way to put this embarrassing little episode behind us?” More light-hearted laughter.

At last June’s white frame cottage came into view. Lorna hurried up the stone path and through the picture window spotted her friend standing at her kitchen table with a tall pile of laundry in front of her. Lorna waved to get her attention and when June looked up her face broke into a welcoming smile.

“Come in, come in,” June said after she’d opened the door and with a sweeping gesture invited Lorna inside. “I hoped you’d come over this morning. Help yourself to coffee and tell me all about your exciting cruise while I make my way through my boring laundry basket.”

Shrugging out of her jacket, Lorna peered around the corner of the kitchen into the hallway looking for any sign of June’s nine-year-old. “Is Bonnie gone?”

“The school bus picked her up a little while ago. Why?”

“I want to be sure we’re alone.” Lorna surveyed the table, with the laptop and a pile of fat file folders and legal pads at one end and the heap of laundry at the other. A full basket of clothes sat on the floor. “You’re really busy. I could come back later.”

“Don’t be silly,” June said, shaking out a crumpled bath towel. “This is laundry, not legal analysis.”

Lorna filled a mug from the carafe and went back to the table. Then she drew in a breath. “I’ve done something really stupid.”

June’s eyes narrowed. “Sit down and tell me about it.”

Lorna made a fast decision to blurt it out. “I got married. To Jack Young. In the Dominican Republic…”

With coats collected, the kids filed out the door to the driveway. Jack and Lorna watched out the window as the four climbed into their respective cars and drove away.

Lorna laughed. “Good grief, what have we done?”

Jack slipped his arm around her waist. “We’ve earned ourselves some time alone, you beautiful redhead.”

“Such sweet talk.”

“And there’s more where that came from,” he whispered.

“I’m counting on it.”

Pushing worries about the future—and Goldilocks—to the back of her mind, she turned and grabbed Jack’s free hand and guided it to the other side of her waist. With conga-style steps and rhythm, she led the dance to her—oops, their—bedroom.

Leaving the river and Dubuque behind, they entered a landscape not much different from the farms and small towns around Capehart Bay. Beige and brown fields were broken up with patches of snow left over from the violent spring storm that swept through Iowa a week before, narrowly missing southern Wisconsin. Charcoal clouds gathering ahead of them in the west signaled more bad weather on the way.

About the Author

AuthorPhoto_JacksOfHerHeart copyA lifelong writer, Virginia McCullough has coauthored or ghostwritten over 100 books for doctors, therapists, lawyers, professional speakers, and many others. Her other award-winning novels include Amber Light, Greta’s Grace, The Chapels on the Hill, and Island Healing. The Jacks of her Heart is Book 1 of her Capehart Bay series. Asked to sum up the themes of her fiction, she says her books are all about hope, healing, and plenty of second chances.

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