Marci Thompson always knew what life would be like by her 30th birthday. A large but cozy suburban home shared with a charming husband and two brilliant children. A celebrated career as an established writer, complete with wall-to-wall mahogany shelves and a summer book tour. A life full of adventure with her friends and family by her side.
Instead, Marci lives alone in 480 square feet of converted motel space next to a punk rock band, hundreds of miles from her friends and family. She works in a temporary accounting assignment that has somehow stretched from two weeks into nine months. And the only bright spot in her life, not to mention the only sex she's had in two years, is an illicit affair with her married boss, Doug.
Thirty is not at all what it is cracked up to be. Then the reappearance of a cocktail napkin she hasn't seen in a decade opens a long-forgotten door, and Marci's life gets complicated, fast. The lines between right and wrong, fantasy and reality, heartache and happiness are all about to get very blurry, as Marci faces the most difficult choices of her life.
At thirty-three, Suzanne Hamilton has it all. A successful party-planning business with an elite client list. A swank condo in a hot Atlanta neighborhood and a close group of friends – especially her longtime best friend Marci. A list of men a mile long who have tried to win her heart and failed. Plus, she’s just landed the event that will take her career and social status to the next level. What could she possibly have to regret?
Then a freak accident changes everything, and Suzanne discovers that her near-perfect life is just a few steps away from total disaster. She is humiliated and at risk of losing it all… except the surprising support of her newest celebrity client. With nothing else to go on, Suzanne follows him into an unexpected job and unfamiliar territory. Soon she will question everything – her career, her past, her friendships, and even her own dating rules.
But when her catalog of past relationships turns into a list of criminal suspects, she is faced with the horrifying possibility that she may not live to regret any of it…
At thirty-five, Rebecca Williamson is surrounded by happy endings. Her friends Suzanne and Marci are living out their own personal fairy tales in Atlanta, Georgia. But despite Rebecca’s best efforts four years ago, her adorable college friend Jake Stillwell has officially slipped through her fingers and broken her heart. Even though her job as a flight attendant fits perfectly with her orderly nature, and brings her into contact with lots of eligible men, she can’t seem to find a man who is Jake’s equal.
Then a frantic phone call from her mother in Oreville, Alabama turns Rebecca’s structured life on its ear. She will find herself back in the tiny town she worked so hard to leave behind, and thrown together with Deputy Alex Chen, a face from the past who’s made it clear he thinks of Rebecca as more than just an old friend’s kid sister.
But Alex is nothing like what Rebecca had in mind; and in the meantime, she has other battles to fight, including her painful family history. Can she navigate the chaos and get her life back to normal? Will Alex prove himself to be the friend she's always needed? Or will she discover that the door to Jake is not as tightly closed as she thought?
Thank you, Mrs. M.J. Pullen
Why do we read romance books and why do you write them?
I can’t speak for all romance readers, but I love reading and writing stories that allow me to escape into another world for a while, and I love satisfying endings. Romance is a wonderful genre because it takes us through flirtation and conflict to the moment of falling in love, or maybe realizing that we’ve been in love with someone for a long time. If you’ve had that feeling, you know there’s nothing like it – it’s electric and powerful and changes you forever. Obviously, there are limits on how many times we get to have that moment in real life, but in fiction we can live it over in over, hundreds of ways, with characters we might never encounter in real life.
Marci Thompson is 30, Suzanne Hamilton is 33 and Rebecca Williamson is 35. Why did you choose these ages?
Great question. Aside from the fact that Marci’s pact with Jake required her to be thirty to make the story work, I really enjoyed writing about the friends as they navigated this period of their lives. For one thing, I was in my mid-thirties when I started this series, so these are ages I could call upon my immediate experiences to understand. Beyond that, people are different at 30 than they are in their early 20’s; there are different pressures and opportunities. No offense to the younger crowd, because there are plenty of great novels with young, ‘blank slate’ protagonists; but I think women in particular are more interesting at thirty and up, when they’ve had a few bumps and bruises and failed relationships. No matter what the age, I always try to write characters with interesting histories and some emotional baggage. It feels more real to me that way!
There are many essential differences between the contemporary women at 30 and Balzac’s model woman from “A Woman of Thirty”?
I haven’t read Balzac’s work, but now I’m intrigued to do so! I will say that I think our standards for what women “should” be and do at various ages is constantly in flux, and the result is a complicated mix of standards that none of us can achieve all at once. It’s a fascinating, sometimes harrowing, time to be a woman. I try to infuse that theme into all my novels. Or maybe I don’t try, and I just can’t help it.
It’s generally agreed that the basic definition of a “romance” is that there is a central love story and a happy ending (or at least an ending that includes justice, mutually requited love and optimism – even if the main characters don’t drive off into the sunset). The novels in this series meet that definition, though I would say there’s some overlap with Women’s Fiction, especially in Baggage Check, where the love story between Rebecca and Alex is intertwined with Rebecca’s complicated family and personal history. For me, however, what’s essential for a good romance is depth of character. I’ve never been a sucker for a square jaw and a cowboy hat alone, though I’ll admit I’ve fallen for both in the past. What turns me on is interestingness. Give me a heroine who hates high heels and has a photographic memory, or a hero who’s afraid of heights and knows how to hotwire a car. It’s the little quirks that we love in our real-life partners, and I feel the same about my characters.
You wrote “educational materials for parents and couples”. Will we find some advices hidden between the lines? If yes, why, if no – why not?
Well, no. And maybe a little bit yes. J In my role as a therapist, part of the job was to provide a structure or a new way of looking at things to help people heal their relationships. Even though that’s technically “educational,” the goal was still to allow clients to come to their own conclusions, but the teaching of the perspective was certainly a form of advice-giving. In fiction, the writer’s job is not to judge or to draw conclusions, but to tell the story and let the reader take it from there. My characters often learn lessons as they go, though, and many of those lessons are ones I learned the hard way, or am still trying to teach myself. There is a little bit of overt advice-giving, for example, when Marci’s dad calls her out for her behavior late in The Marriage Pact. That advice is not really intended for the reader, though – I think Marci’s dad is saying what most readers were thinking anyway!
M.J. (Manda) Pullen studied English Literature and Business at the University of Georgia in Athens, and later Professional Counseling at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She practiced psychotherapy for five years before taking time off for writing and raising her two young boys. Since high school, she has also been an executive assistant, cashier, telemarketer, professional fundraiser, marketing guru, magazine writer, grant-writer, waitress, box-packer, HR person, and casual drifter.
She reads and writes across many genres, and learns something from everything she does. No matter what she’s writing, M.J. believes that love is the greatest adventure there is, and that hopeless romantics are never really hopeless.
She loves to hear from readers and other writers – so drop her a line!
One set of autographed paperback copies of the Marriage Pact trilogy (winner can choose a custom inscription for the first book). US Only, Ebook International
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