Sharp-witted, always-organized Keira Graham has traded in her high tech career as a systems analyst for the whirlwind world of event planning. As she builds up her fledging business, she learns that her widowed mother has news of her own – she has a serious gentleman caller! Is Keira ready for mom’s new romance?
When she gets a game-changing opportunity to organize a major event on a luxury Caribbean cruise, Keira turns to best pal chef Alexandria D’Agostino to help recruit famous chefs who will offer classes for foodies looking for fun in the sun as they gain cooking know-how. The cruise becomes a rollicking adventure for Keira, her sassy assistant Juliet, the entire D’Agostino clan, Keira’s mother and other surprise guests. And has Keira meet her match in charismatic Cruise Director Brennan McAllister, who could have something more than keeping everything shipshape on his mind?
I picked up the phone and punched in a number I would never forget.
“Maeve Graham,” answered the familiar voice.
“Mother, it’s me.” My mouth curled into a smile thinking of my mother probably just getting back from a charity breakfast, slipping off her impeccable heels to put on the comfy pink slippers I had knit for her when I was eight and going through my crafts phase.
“Keira, my sweet”—I heard the love in her voice— ”I was just thinking about you. Can you come over for tea and let me show you the new mare we’ve gotten in?”
My mother lived on the 35-acre estate that my father had inherited in tony horse country right outside the city. It was where I grew up, and the word home to me always conjured up the sounds of horses in the background. The stables were not as full as they once were, but she still had a number of our own horses as well as some that she boarded.
“Sorry, Mother, but I am slammed with work.”
“Oh.” I heard the disappointment in her voice. Then she brightened. “That’s okay, I’ll see you at the Witheroe wedding this weekend, won’t I?”
“Mother, you’ll see me there but as the event planner, remember? Not as a guest.” Although she had been the source of most of my first leads when I started my own event-planning service in Denver, my mother sometimes forgot that I was the hired help now.
“Of course, dear,” she paused.
“Mother, is something wrong?”
“No, no. I just haven’t had time to visit with you in awhile. I’d like to chat … you know … girl to girl.” What? Girl to girl? Had she been reading magazine articles on mother-daughter togetherness? We’ve al- ways had a good relationship, but if she suddenly decided to follow some strange trend in family togetherness—eek!
Readers’ Favorite Award™ Winner Barbara Oliverio is the daughter of Italian immigrants and grew up in North Central West Virginia with a love of reading and a passion for learning. Following a career path that included being a teacher, journalist, and marketer, she has lived as far away from home as Italy where she practiced her family’s native tongue as well as took advantage of living near to other European countries to travel extensively. A rabid Pittsburgh Steeler fan, she lives with her husband, an equally committed New York Giants fan, in suburban Denver where off-football-season dinner conversation is calmer and is usually accompanied by a meal she cooks from one of her mother’s treasured recipes. Other interests include New York Times crossword puzzles, good movies, and travel. She volunteers extensively for her parish and writes for its publications. She also teaches part-time for the St. Catherine of Siena Institute.
I had the supreme privilege of interviewing the author recently. I was quite pleased with her answers, and here they are:
Describe a typical day in your life when working on a book.
I once read a novel about a writer, and one thing in her character development resonated: the fact that writing is NOT sitting and waiting for that elusive muse and generating an entire book from start to finish in one day. That stuck with me, so I do know that I need to keep a fairly un-romantic schedule and treat this as a job even though I write romance. My best creative time is in the morning so that is what I set aside as writing time. I wake up fairly early, set aside prayer time or time to go to daily Mass, have breakfast, then sit down to my desk. I like to catch up on social media, but then I concentrate on writing with no other distractions. I give myself a deadline of words per day, which sounds pedestrian, but in reality works very well for the creative process. On days when the “muse” strikes, those words – and more – flow endlessly. On days when the muse has taken a break, at least I still am productive. Those words may get completely revised or eliminated the next day, but the flow of the book is maintained. After my writing time, I take care of real world activities such as my volunteer work, grocery shopping, etc. By the time my husband returns from work, I will have dinner ready or we will be ready to go out to eat, then a check of social media, some time to read or one of my favorite TV programs and bedtime. I generally keep an abbreviated schedule of that on Saturdays, and rarely write anything on Sundays because that is family time. Variations during the week might include leaving the house to write at the local café, but I’m pretty consistent.
What inspired you to write this book?
This book is the sequel to my debut novel Love on the Back Burner. Together they form a story of two best friends in today’s society who are fun and witty and seeking love and career happiness while maintaining their values. I thought the cruise ship setting would be fun because it is like a small community where everyone has the opportunity to visit with each other in an enjoyable setting. Keira’s story in Love on the Lido Deck is multi-layered and one of her stories is how to learn how to deal with the fact that her widowed mother has now found love again.
Describe any research that went into the crafting of this novel.
Although my husband and I have been on cruises before, when I outlined the story for this book, we took a cruise on the largest cruise ship sailing and I looked at it from the perspective of research rather than just a vacation. I interviewed crew and cruisers, and of course had to eat in the various on-board restaurants! In addition we participated in activities that I thought that the characters might put on their “to-do” list. I do need to emphasize that I did fictionalize a bit for the flow of the story. Back on shore, I interviewed people on the aspect of adult children and their reaction to their widowed parents with new romances.
What is your favorite genre to read? Least favorite? Why?
I read so many different books that to pick a “favorite” genre is the same as picking a favorite child. What I read rotates with my mood. At any given time I will be reading a bestseller at the same time I’m reading history, followed by theology, and re-reading Jane Austen. It’s easier to say what I don’t read. I stay away from true crime, explicitly gruesome horror, or any books classified as erotica that actually objectify women.
When you were growing up, what did you aspire to be?
When I was very young, the actual job was always unclear in my mind, but I knew I wanted to live in the big city and have a fabulous wardrobe and have fabulous friends. Because I always had high scores on standardized tests in high school, and participated in so many varied activities, I still couldn’t narrow it down when I enrolled in college: Lawyer? Newspaper editor? Professor? My studies in college didn’t help much. I majored in mathematics and journalism, then studied comparative arts for my MA. Today, I know that in all of that knowledge-gathering, I was just preparing to be novelist.
If you could have dinner with three people living or dead, who would you choose and why?
Thomas Aquinas – He was the most brilliant theologian and a brilliant man in general
Flannery O’Connor – She was an amazing writer and not appreciated in her time.
Stephen Colbert – He’s very smart, funny, and quick. I think it would be an evening full of intelligent conversation and laughter.
Barbara will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn host. Be sure to check out the entire tour (dates can be found here) because the more you comment, the more chances you have to win.