The Real Crystal Cove

Does Crystal Cove Exist?

The question I am asked most often about the Crystal Cove books . . . is the town based on a real one? The answer is yes!

In 2013, I had just finished my YA paranormal romance series, The King Quartet, and I planned to write a spin-off series of those books next. However, one spring day, I was driving home from one of our frequent trips to the beach and suddenly, inspiration struck.

As I made the hour-long trek, the entire story of The Posse unfolded before me. I joked later that it fell into my lap, and that is honestly how it felt. I could see Jude, Logan, Matt, Cooper and the rest of the Posse as though we were old friends.

And it’s not surprising that where I saw them was in the quaint beach town I’d just left. New Smyrna Beach had won my heart over the year that had passed, once we’d moved from the west side of central Florida to the east side. I loved being able to drive onto the beach, and one of my favorite places to eat was a beach-front bar and grill called Breakers. I’d noticed, too, that a bed and breakfast was under construction on the main street. All of these factored into the story.

I’ve been blessed to spend many happy hours in New Smyrna since writing The Posse. Later, we stayed at the Riverview Inn, and that inspired parts of Abby and Ryland’s story.

So is Crystal Cove exactly like New Smyrna? Of course not. It is, in many ways, the skeleton upon which I hung the story and characters of that fictional town. I’ve never lived in New Smyrna Beach, so I see things from a very privileged outsider’s point of view. I’m sure that like any community, it has its troubles and drawbacks.

But if you want a taste of the Rip Tide’s famous burgers and atmosphere, check out Breakers. They don’t offer live music on Fridays and Saturdays the way Jude’s place does, and I added a deck on the outside, just because they needed it, but otherwise, it’s a close match. And if you want to know what the Hawthorne House is like, visit the Inn on the Avenue. Again, the bed and breakfast originally run by Abby and now managed by Cal and Alex isn’t quite the same. I’d described the interior before I’d ever seen the real-life component. But there are elements that are oddly close to its fictional component.

And if I had the chance to take my readers on a tour of New Smyrna Beach, I could show you the house upon which Jude and Daniel’s home was based, the area in which I envisioned Cooper’s house and workshop, the neighborhood where Emmy and her kids live. I could point out Matt’s surf shop and take you to the Riverside–eh, I mean the Riverview Inn.

I’ll admit, too, that whenever I visit NSB now, I feel as though if I turned my head just quick enough, I might catch a glimpse of Jude or Alex or Emmy or Logan . . . for me, this town and these people are as real as any other.

The Starfish Room at the Inn on the Avenue (Crystal Cove’s Hawthorne House)

The Riverside Hotel, which is known as the Riverview Hotel in Crystal Cove. The Cove version is actually set on a lot more land alongside the river.
The Inn on the Avenue (The Hawthorne House in CC)
Flagler Avenue (Main Street in CC)
Breakers (The Rip Tide in Crystal Cove)
Ahhhhh . .. the beach!!

Yes, I am a Nana!

I’m thrilled to announce that our first grandchild, Delia Joy, was born on Sunday, January 13th. She weighed in 8 pounds and is gorgeous!

A few pictures of her being welcomed to the family . . .

Why football romance?

 

Not everyone is aware of this, but until recently, sports romance was not considered a viable literary genre. In the old days–think ten years ago–the thought was that women didn’t want to read romance that featured men who played sports or women who loved sports.

That, of course, is ridiculous. These days, more than half of the viewing audience of any given NFL game is female–and advertisers know that. Just look at the demographics of most ads that run on TV during Sunday games, not to mention Monday and Thursday Night Football.

So why NOT football romance is probably the better question!

For me, personally, football has always been a passion. It was something I shared with my dad. He passed down to me a love of Army football, in particular. My dad and my husband both graduated from West Point. Army is my one constant in college football love; I’ve been cheering on Army as long as I can remember, and no matter what, I’ll be an Army fan until I die.

#GOARMYBEATNAVY

And there’s just something about a romance that happens against the backdrop of football that gives me an extra thrill. I’m not alone. Sports romance as a genre is h o t.  We like the teams, the ambiance of the game, the thrill of competition–oh, and we love the players.

I always knew I wanted to write football romance, so tackling the Keeping Score series was a pure labor of love. The story began with Leo, Quinn and Nate and then continued with Tate, Gia, Tuck and Zelda. Next will come Gideon and Sarah–and then a spin-off college football series.

Your Wildest Dreams, which releases tomorrow, is the book only peripherally related to the game, even though football plays a huge role in the story line. Eli Tucker might not be on the field anymore, but football is still a constant in his life.

Right now, the entire Keeping Score series is on special at Apple Books. The prequel, Young, and Book 1, When We Were Us, are both free this week. Hanging By A Moment, Book 2, is only 99 cents. Days of You and Me, Book 3, is $1.99. And finally, Not Broken Anymore, Book 4, is $2.99.

Of course, Your Wildest Dreams releases tomorrow!

So go get your football romance on! The Keeping Score series page is right here.

 

A Thanksgiving Favorite: Onions Eclaste

The photo above shows some of my oldest and most favorite Thanksgiving recipes. The typewritten paper is from my mother, with the instructions she sent me in Hawaii the first year that I prepared Thanksgiving dinner myself. The top left card is my Nana’s pie crust recipe, and the one with carrots is from Aunt Eleanor–for my favorite side dish, Onions Eclaste! And here’s the recipe.

Two large white onions
2 tbs butter
Swiss cheese slices
Cream of celery soup
1 cup of milk
Bread (you can use french bread or just plain sandwich bread, sliced and with the crusts removed–I make my own homemade bread the day before and use that. It’s amazing!)

Slice onions into rings and saute in the butter.  When the onions are soft and translucent, transfer to a casserole and place the cheese atop them.

In the same pan used to cook the onions, heat the soup and milk, blending together.  When it’s thick and bubbly, pour over the onions and cheese in the casserole.

Top with slices of bread and bake in 400 degree oven until bread is toasted and sauce is hot and bubbly. YUM!! (This is great as a leftover, too. I love it better the next day.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

THE MEANT TO BE GIRL (A Sneak Peek!)

The Meant To Be Girl is my contribution to the Christmas romance anthology THE 12 NIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS, available everywhere now! This is a little peek at the magic . . .

“Hey, Ashley. Did you get drafted, too?”

The smile that curved my lips was completely involuntary, but I had trouble ignoring the spark of pleasure and want that tingled up my spine. Zane was sitting on the floor near me, surrounded by evergreen.

“Ohhhhh . . .” I grinned. “So, you’re the someone who got roped into putting the tree together.”

He shrugged. “I think Darlene overestimated my abilities. It looks like a pine tree murder and dismemberment back here.” Zane glanced over his shoulder and lowered his voice. “It might have helped if they’d saved the instructions. I’m totally winging it here.”

I sighed, and for a happy moment, I simply gazed at him. In the months since Zane had first wandered into my salon looking for a quick haircut, he’d become not only a loyal client but a friend. He had a standing appointment every three weeks, and I’d be lying to myself if I’d said I didn’t look forward to his visits. There was just something about this man . . . between his self-deprecating humor, his kindness, and his charm, I didn’t stand a chance. And that wasn’t even touching on the body that made regular appearances in my dreams.

“Huh.” Tori came up to peer over my shoulder. “Hey, Zane. Yeah, you’re in over your head, I’d say.” She gave me a little shove. “Ashley here just happens to be an expert at Christmas tree assembly. And she’d be happy to help you.”

I glared at my friend. “I thought you and I were supposed to be untangling lights.”

Tori shrugged. “I got that by myself. You should go where you’re really needed, Ash.” She gave me wide and suggestive eyes, and I prayed that Zane didn’t notice.

“Thanks for throwing me into the briar patch,” I hissed to her.

She giggled. “Looks more like a pine forest. And you’re welcome. Because you know, that’s what friends are for—to remind you about what’s important and to kick your ass when you forget.”

There was nothing like having my own words quoted back at me. I was well and truly stuck now. “Fine. But you better make sure I get some of those fries when Darlene brings them out.”

Tori held up one hand, as though taking a pledge. “I promise.”

Still wearing a scowl, I picked my way among the thick wire branches covered in green plastic “needles” and cleared a space to sit down on the floor.

“You’re really going to help me? God bless you. I thought you might just stand over me and direct what I should do.” He gestured to the piles.

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” I sighed. “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. We should find the base first, and then the center poles.” I began to root around the branches. “Sheesh, they all look the same. How’re we supposed to know what goes where?”

“Trial and error, I guess.” Zane frowned and picked up a green-covered stick. “Hey, this might be part of the trunk. I think.”

“Is it longer and harder?” Even as the words tumbled out of my mouth, I heard what I was saying and felt my face going red.

Zane quirked one eyebrow. “Not yet. But there’s potential.”