|Love From A to Z is the book I swore I’d never write.
I’ve never been a big fan of Romance cliches. You know the ones I mean, right? The secret babies, the evil twins, the prince or princess in disguise and, perhaps worst of all, the use of amnesia as a plot device. So, imagine my horror when I first came to realize that—gasp!—I’ve actually used most of them already...albeit in my own somewhat twisted fashion.
My ‘evil twin’ was not so much evil as she was misunderstood. Like Jessica Rabbit, she’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way. My ‘secret baby’ turned out to be, well frankly, not that much of a secret after all.
But...amnesia? Oh, hell, no. Never, never, never was I going to write about that! And yet...Oh, yeah. I lied.
Love, From A to Z (book two in the LA Love Lessons series) features a heroine, April Valenzuela, who just happens to be an heiress. Heiress—that’s just one small step removed from princess, right? And while April is, technically, not in disguise, she does spend a good three-quarters of the book hobnobbing with the common folk from whom she learns to appreciate the three Bs—beer, bowling and BBQ.
“Here,” I heard Tony say. “On the house. Maybe it’ll help cheer her up.”
A minute later, Zach placed a large glass filled with foamy, amber liquid in front of me. He seated himself on the other side of the table and watched as I sniffed cautiously at the glass. Once again, a little of the fragrance mystery was resolved. Whatever this was, its aroma was heavy in the cool air. “What is this stuff?”
“Ale. Tony’s answer to all life’s problems.” Zach grimaced slightly. “Look, I know it’s early, but just try and drink a little of it, okay? Otherwise, you’ll hurt his feelings.”
I took a sip. It tasted cold, crisp, slightly yeasty. “Not bad. I like it.”
“You like beer?” Looking almost as surprised as he was pleased, Zach leaned back in his seat and smiled at me. “Well, all right then. My kind of woman.”
That smile of his had a way of messing me up, big time. From some hidden, inaccessible corner of my mind came the thought that I was not his kind of woman—not even close. But, ooh, when he smiled at me that way, I so wished I was. “What was I drinking last night?” I asked, partly out of curiosity, partly just to have something to say. But, man, was that ever the wrong question to ask!
My stomach did a funny little flip when his smile powered up another notch or three and turned wicked into the bargain. “Baby, all’s I know is it had a straw. And the way you sucked that thing—damn.”
Of course, the common folk are unaware of her real (and so unoriginal) poor-little-rich-girl identity. But, then again, April doesn’t know who she is either because—dum-dum-dum—in an effort to get their hands on her fortune, she’s been drugged (right there in the prologue, too—imagine!) by her evil uncle and cousin.
George Venezuela was furious. “You did what?” he bellowed in his most stentorian tones as he paced around his office, eyes bulging, neck veins prominent, causing his only son to wince in pain.
“Papa, please.” Slumped in a chair in front of his father’s desk, Richie clutched his aching head. It wasn’t enough, was it, that he’d had to spend all of last evening bouncing from bar to bar in an effort to establish the premise that April had been drinking heavily--and contracting the Mother of all Hangovers in the process. No, on top of that, he’d also been forced into performing a variety of criminal acts, into consuming too many revolting drinks, and now--Did he really have to endure his father’s yelling at him, as well?
“You lost her?” his father continued, taking no notice of Richie’s distress. “How is this possible? This is your cousin we’re talking about, not some stray Chihuahua that slipped off its leash! How could you lose an entire person, someone you’d taken out for the evening? Explain this to me. From the beginning.”
Richie sighed. “I already told you. It didn’t work. The plan didn’t work. I gave her the scopolamine, just like you said to do, and... nothing happened.” The drug, which one of his father’s friends had procured for him in Ecuador, was supposed to have rendered April temporarily docile and compliant; submissive enough to do whatever was asked of her. Under its influence, she was supposed to have willingly put her signature to whatever papers George needed her to sign--and then retain no memory of any of it ever happening. It had failed to affect her. “Compliant, my ass. I couldn’t even get her to leave the bar.”
Hey, c’mon, it could have been worse. I could have given her a stepmother and stepsister to contend with but...oh, wait, never mind, I’ve already done that before, too.
When April wakes up the next morning— smack dab in the middle of Cliche City and in bed with a Greek-god-gorgeous, stunner of a stranger—she has no memory, no ID and no clue.
I took a moment to assess the situation. I was naked in a strange bed, under a navy blue sheet whose depressingly low thread count begged the question, what was I thinking?
A fabulous question that, by the way. One I wished I’d had the sense to ask myself the night before.
Wow. And what was I thinking? Well, I guess I was thinking that these particular characters would never get together as long as they were both in their right minds. Once that little problem was out of the way, the rest of the book just flowed...
He shook his head. “Hey, it’s like I told you at breakfast. This doesn’t have to be so bad. The fact that you can’t remember... well, that just makes things more interesting, doesn’t it?”
“Then maybe you’re looking at it the wrong way. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, a chance to discover who you really are--not your name or your address, but the important stuff. It’s the perfect time to play, to experiment, to try things.” He leaned in even closer, captured my hand and held it tight. “I want to watch as you experience that; as you learn about yourself. I want to help.”
“How? How can you help? How can I...” How can I even begin to learn... anything about myself.
“Come back home with me,” he urged. “Give me until Monday. I bet, by then, we can find out more about who you really are than you ever knew before.”
The weirdest thing about this book is—I ended up loving it. It’s turned out to be one of my very favorite books to date. Go figure.
I think that’s partially because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and the same can be said of the hero of the tale, Zach Harris, who first sprang to life in my previous book, Waiting for the Big One.
Zach doesn’t take anything seriously other than his music, perhaps, and his love of having a good time. I tell ya, if Peter Pan had grown up just a little bit more—just enough to be legal and dangerously enticing—he’d have grown up to be Zach.
By the time the story opens, Zach has pretty much resigned himself to being deemed ‘not commitment material’. Or, as he puts it... it was something he’d heard repeatedly from just about all the women he’d dated: he was nice, good company, sexy, he was a great lay and one helluva guitar player. But no matter how much they liked him, loved him, enjoyed spending time with him; he just wasn’t the kind of guy any one of them would ever choose to settle down with.
Peter Pan had been referenced. Several times, as he recalled. As well as his fondness for games and lack of a steady paycheck.
He couldn’t support a family with his music; that seemed to be the general consensus. And even if he could, even if he found a way to prove them wrong on that count, as the wife of a musician, what kind of life would they lead?
A lonely one, stuck at home with the kids while he was off on the road. An unpredictable one, given the fickleness of fame, the preponderance of drugs, the ubiquity of groupies. A thankless, unfulfilled one, a life lived in his shadow—and, honestly, Zach, who would want that?
It had long since ceased to bother him, however. Life was good, women were plentiful, he had his music and, if honesty was really what they wanted to hear, he’d yet to meet the woman he’d be willing to give that up for.
Aww, poor baby. Perhaps this might be a good time to mention that, as an author, I occasionally find myself channeling Cat Woman. I definitely like to play with my characters (for which read: prey) before I dispatch them. Zach and April suffered beautifully (another thing I loved about them) as can be seen from this scene which occurs after April’s identity is finally revealed:
“Look around you,” he said spreading his arms. “This is never gonna work out. One of these days you’re gonna regain your memory, and then you’ll figure out that you don’t belong with me. Then what’ll I do, huh? Forget it. It’s better to end it now.”
No, no, no. I stared at him in dismay. No, please... “It’s just a house, Zach.”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “You’re right. It’s just a house. And you’re just a girl, I’m just a guy and all this stuff...” He glanced around again. “Is a whole lot bigger than both of us.”
Bigger than both of them, huh? Well, I guess that’s the key. Some stories demand a larger-than-life, fantasy backdrop. And that’s where cliches come in. They’re there for a reason, and the reason is: they do the job.
PG Forte is the author of LOVE FROM A TO Z. You can visit her website at http://www.pgforte.com/
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