Blog Tour | Excerpt and Q&A – Meant to Be Yours

Posted November 4, 2019 / Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Friends, I’m excited to highlight the latest release in the Happily, Inc series by Susan Mallery! This is exactly my kind of book. It’s a companion series focused around a “destination wedding town founded on a fairytale.” Like, if that doesn’t sound like a Lauren-book, I don’t know what does. It’s no secret I love small town companion series, especially when there’s a fun theme of the town and series. The Happily Inc website states that it all started when the owner of the local bank made up a tall-tale about the town helping people fall in love. It caught people’s attention nationally and thus became a hot wedding destination. The seven daughters of the original banker got married, had a lot of kids, and now this book series focuses on each of them finding their forever loves. Y’all, this website is ADORABLE. It has photos of what the townspeople look like, maps of the town, and more. Because I’m a completest about series, I plan to read the whole Happily Inc series in order. Today, I’m highlighting book number five: Meant to Be Yours. Check out the Q&A with Susan Mallery and an excerpt below!

Meant to be Yours – Happily Inc

I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.

Blog Tour | Excerpt and Q&A – Meant to Be YoursMeant to be Yours by Susan Mallery
Series: Happily Inc #5
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Published by Harlequin on October 22nd 2019
Format: eARC (464 pages) • Source: Publisher
GoodreadsAmazon Barnes & Noble

In Happily Inc, love means never having to say “I do”…

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.
Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love?

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About the Author

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.

Social media links: Author Website | Twitter: @susanmallery | Facebook: @SusanMallery | Instagram: @susanmalleryGoodreads


Q&A

What was your favorite part about writing Meant to be Yours?

Ohhh, that’s a hard question! I love everything about writing romance. The first kiss is still magical to me. The passion, the emotional intensity. It’s a moment that changes the course of a person’s life. When you fall in love, your life is bisected into before and after. Love is transformative, and the greatest pleasure of my life is to write about it.

Jasper and Renee in particular were a lot of fun to write because Renee is just such a mama bear when it comes to protecting her brides. She’s a wedding planner at Weddings Out of the Box, a theme wedding venue in the town of Happily Inc. Jasper is a bestselling thriller writer who wants to set his next book at a wedding. Renee’s response made me laugh so loud that I’m pretty sure I scared my pets.

Jasper continued. “I thought I could follow you around for a few weeks, learn about the business and—”

“No,” she said firmly, as all thoughts of them having another close encounter faded from her mind. “You’re not getting your serial killer cooties on my weddings. I’m a big believer in keeping the energy positive and flowing forward. Do you know what a serial killer would do at a wedding?”

He stared at her, his gaze intense. “That’s what I was thinking. I want the serial killer to be a wedding crasher.”

“No,” she said firmly. “Just no.”

When Jasper goes behind her back to get intimately involved with one of her weddings, Renee vows to keep him from bringing darkness to her bride’s special day.

I also adored the animals in this book. In the beginning, Jasper doesn’t trust himself to let a woman into his heart. His simple but profound act of kindness to a dog who needs a home leads to him finally being ready to fall in love. The dog, Koda, is based on a reader’s real-life dog. I gave Koda the same adorable quirks and characteristics that make him special—and I gave Renee the reader’s last name in her honor.

Did you find out any funny or interesting facts about wedding planning when writing this book?

I have learned that brides and wedding planners are some of the most creative people in the universe. I can’t tell you how much time I spent on Pinterest, looking at pictures from theme weddings. There are some really beautiful themes, and some that are charming and humorous. Every theme uniquely reflects the bride and the groom in the most beautiful way. In Meant to Be Yours, Renee designs several lovely theme weddings with beautiful touches I think readers will enjoy. Here’s a snippet from one:

Jim and Monica Martinez were a sweet couple with a fun firefighter theme for their big day. There was a long tradition of firefighters on both sides of the family and plenty of cute touches in the wedding and reception.

Monica’s dress laced up the back and instead of white ribbon to cinch her gown, she’d used bright red. The centerpieces were ceramic boot vases painted to look like firefighter boots, filled with red, orange and yellow flowers. There was even a walk-through fountain at one end of the reception area, created with fire hoses, a pump and a lot of engineering.

Pay attention to that last sentence because I also discovered that a lot can go wrong when you invite a few hundred people to a party. Imagine a room filled with people who aren’t used to dressing up, plus a fountain made with fire hoses, and a wedding planner who will do anything to protect her bride.

Did Renee or Jasper surprise you while you drafted this novel?

They did! When I started this book, I thought Jasper was the more wounded of the two. But as I wrote, I discovered that Renee’s scars went deeper than I thought. She’s been keeping a secret from her friends in Happily Inc, a secret about her mother that has cost her jobs, friendships and romantic relationships. Just when she starts to feel safe and accepted in her new home, her mother comes for a visit. . .

Can you share about what you’re working on right now?

I’m working on revisions on the next Happily Inc book, a Christmas book that will be out next year. No title yet. It has all of the humor and heartfelt emotion readers love in my books—plus Christmas! I invited members of the Susan Mallery All Access group on Facebook (www.facebook.com/groups/susanmalleryallaccess) to suggest random items for me to incorporate into the story. When the book comes out next year, I’ll share a scavenger hunt list with my readers so they can find the objects as they read. It’s just a fun way for me to stay connected to my readers as I write. 

Who is an author you draw inspiration from?

Years ago, the fabulous Debbie Macomber suggested to me that I stop writing series about families, and start writing series about people who live in the same town. That advice was the inspiration for my Fool’s Gold series, which led to my Happily Inc series, as well. I’ll always be grateful to Debbie for that.

What is your favorite place to read a book?

At home with my feet up on the sofa and a cat curled in my lap.

Who is a book character you’d be best friends with?

Each of my heroines is someone I’d be friends with—after all, I spend months with them, so I want them to be people I enjoy hanging out with. As for best friends, I’ll go with Ellen Fox, heroine of The Friendship List, which will come out next year. Ellen had me laughing all the way through the book. She’s blunt and smart and would drop everything to help someone she loves.

She’s a single mom who got pregnant in high school. She had sex one time, got pregnant, and then… nothing. She’s basically a virgin with a kid. But when she discovers what she’s been missing, she has no inhibitions. Her lack of filter was a source of constant amusement for me. Every day, I was excited to get back to work so I could spend time with her again. Such a fun book to write!

Pen & Paper or Computer?

Computer. I couldn’t keep up with my thoughts with paper and pen. I type about 120 words per minute, so that’s easier for me. Hard on my wrists and hands, but easier on my brain.

Favorite decade in fashion history?

The 1980’s.

KIDDING!!!!!

I am enjoying the fashion of today. I like that there really aren’t any rules anymore, it’s all about self-expression.

What is your signature drink?

A Starbucks latte. This time of year, pumpkin spice. Even though the baristas cannot, for the life of them, spell Susan.

What do you hope readers will experience or gain when reading Meant to Be Yours?

I hope Meant to Be Yours will be a happy escape for them, an entertaining break from the stresses of their daily lives. This is a book for readers who like to feel the sharp pings of emotion—and the release of laughter with a guaranteed happy ending.

How did you get into writing?

I was in college studying to be an accountant. It wasn’t exciting, but it was practical. I honestly didn’t know that regular people could be professional writers. It seemed so exotic, somehow. I thought writers had to live in France and wear turtlenecks. I think I must have choked to death in a previous life because I can’t stand wearing turtlenecks.

One day, I got a flyer in the mail from an adult education center called The Learning Tree, with evening classes people could take. These classes were not for credit and therefore were very impractical for a young woman carrying a full course load of university classes, and a newlywed trying to learn how to cook. But one of the classes caught my eye: How to Write a Romance Novel. Still, I thought, no time. I threw away the flyer. Eight weeks later, it came again. I threw it away again. Eight weeks later, there it was again, and I realized the woman wasn’t going to teach the class forever.

So I signed up for the class, and I immediately fell in love. By week six, I knew this was what I was meant to do with my life. I made a deal with my then-husband. I gave myself two years to sell a book. If I didn’t, then I would have to get a job. That was in May, and I sold my first book in August of that year. Best decision ever.

What inspired you to write Meant to Be Yours?

I loved the humor inherent in the idea of a thriller writer wanting to research weddings, and a wedding planner who wants to keep his darkness away from her bride’s special day. Jasper is the kind of writer who does his research in tangible ways. Before he writes a fight scene, he blocks it out with his buddies—weapons and all. He wants to get the details right.

So when he decides to set his next book against the backdrop of a wedding, he’s determined to get those details right, too. And the only way to do that is to be involved with a wedding from start to finish. But Renee is determined to keep any hint of darkness away from her bride’s special day. It’s not an intellectual exercise to her—it’s someone’s wedding day, and that means something.

It’s just a humorous conflict that I thought would be a ton of fun to write. And it was!

Oh, and by the way, Jasper also decides that his detective character needs a love interest…so he needs someone to block out the kissing scenes with him, too. (Full confession: I do occasionally ask my husband for help with my research. 😉 )

What drew you into writing romance?

I’ve been a romance reader since I was in middle school, and they’re still the books I enjoy the most. I love everything about them. I still get that intake-of-breath feeling when the characters first kiss. And when they finally overcome their obstacles and admit that they’re meant to be together—there’s just nothing happier or more life-affirming.

If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I would love to sit down with Verity, Renee’s mother. But I can’t tell you what I would ask her or why without spoilers, so I’ll just leave you with this: Verity has a very special talent that gives her an insight few people can claim. I would love to have this talent. Since I don’t, I’d love to ask Verity to tell me what she knows.

What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I’m active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter—but mostly on Facebook. I share book news on my main page, www.facebook.com/susanmallery. In the Susan Mallery All Access group, www.facebook.com/groups/susanmalleryallaccess, I share personal anecdotes and pictures, hold contests and play games. It’s a lot of fun, and everyone is welcome to join! (Unless you’re some weird spammer guy who wants me to marry you. Ew.)

What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Stick with it. The writers who succeed are the ones who don’t give up. Write every day. Experiment with different methods and techniques to find what works for you. Analyze successful books and try to figure out why they work, and then incorporate those lessons into your own writing. I found that screenwriting classes helped a lot with developing story structure.

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

Always something new on the horizon! In 2020, I’ll release four brand new books: Sisters by Choice (a Blackberry Island novel), The Friendship List (a standalone), A Fool’s Gold Wedding (a Fool’s Gold romance), and the yet-to-be-titled Happily Inc Christmas romance.

Excerpt

“It might just be okay,” wedding coordinator Renee Grothen murmured softly to herself as she surveyed the wedding reception. She wouldn’t risk admitting everything had turned out as planned until the last guest had left, but four and a half hours in, things were going really well.
Jim and Monica Martinez were a sweet couple with a fun firefighter theme for their big day. There was a long tradition of firefighters on both sides of the family and plenty of cute touches in the wedding and reception.
Monica’s dress laced up the back and instead of white ribbon to cinch her gown, she’d used bright red. The centerpieces were ceramic boot vases painted to look like firefighter boots, filled with red, orange and yellow flowers. There was even a walk-through fountain at one end of the reception area, created with fire hoses, a pump and a lot of engineering.
Renee walked around the perimeter of the indoor reception space, looking for problems. So far, so good, she thought with cautious optimism. The cake had been cut, the bar service was about to end and the tone of the party had faded from raucous to comfortably tired—exactly as it should. With a little luck, things would wrap up on time and without a crisis. This was Monica and Jim’s day—Renee wanted it to be as perfect as possible. While she always took care of her clients, she tended to unleash her mother bear instincts for her special couples and Monica and Jim certainly qualified.
She spotted Pallas Mitchell, her boss, walking toward her. It was nearly ten on a Saturday night and Pallas, a pretty brunette only recently returned from maternity leave, yawned widely. When she spotted Renee she held up her hands, palms up.
“What can I say? I’ve been home with an infant. These wild late-night hours are going to take some getting used to.”
“No one’s judging,” Renee told her. “As I said at seven, at eight and again at nine, go home. I can handle this. You’re barely back and you need to give yourself time to adjust to the schedule.”
“You’ve been running things for nearly six months. You need a break.”
In truth, Renee was a little ragged around the edges, but she’d loved handling Weddings Out of the Box while Pallas had been gone. She’d enjoyed the challenges each unique wedding presented and watching all the details fall into place on the big day.
“I had lots of help,” Renee pointed out. “Hiring college students on summer break was a good idea.” And what they’d lacked in experience, they’d made up for in energy and enthusiasm.
“Now that I’m back, things can return to normal,” Pallas said, covering another yawn.
“Go home,” Renee urged. “Please. I can handle things here. I promise.”
“Okay. I will. Thanks. Don’t you dare come in tomorrow.” Pallas’s voice was firm. “For once, we don’t have a Sunday wedding. Enjoy the break.”
“I will.” Renee would probably pop in to do a little paperwork, but she wouldn’t stay long. “Are you coming to The Boardroom on Monday night?”
In a wedding destination town, the rhythms of the residents were determined by weekend weddings. Happily Inc’s workweek started on Wednesdays as the businesses geared up for the dozens of nuptials that occurred in multiple venues. Which meant the town’s Friday night was actually on Monday.
The Boardroom, a local bar, hosted game nights on Mondays. Board games ruled and tournaments were heated and fun as friends crushed each other at everything from Candy Land to Risk.
Pallas shook her head. “I’ll admit to being a bit of a worrier. When we went a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about Ryan. He’s only five months old. It’s too soon to leave him at night.”
Renee held in a smile. “Sure. I get that.”
“I know you don’t, but thank you for pretending. Have fun for me, too. Oh, Jasper’s back, so tell him hi, if you think of it.”
Jasper was back? Renee hadn’t heard. She liked knowing he’d returned from his big book tour. Not for any reason in particular, she amended hastily. Sure, he was nice, but there were a lot of nice guys in the world. There was just something about Jasper. Maybe it was because in addition to being good-looking and just a little dangerous, he wasn’t a forever kind of guy.
“I saw that!” Pallas grinned. “I totally saw that. You did the predatory smile thing I was never good at. You want to use him for sex! Did I know this?” She stomped her foot. “Did this happen while I was on maternity leave? What else went on while I was off having a baby?”
Renee laughed. “You’re reading way too much into my smile. I’m happy he’s home from his book tour. That’s all.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Jasper and I are not involved. I doubt we’ve had more than a three-sentence conversation.”
Not that it took many sentences to ask Your place or mine? And while the description of predatory was nice, it gave her too much credit. Would she stalk him and pounce? Not even on her best day. Would she say yes if the man asked? She smiled again. Oh, yeah, she would. Definitely. Okay, probably. If she was feeling brave. Because while she worked her butt off to give her couples their perfect happily-ever-after day, she knew it was never going to happen for her. Those who could—did. Those who couldn’t became wedding planners.
Avoiding relationships might be the smart choice, but it was also a lonely one. She knew Jasper was into the long-term, monogamous, not-serious kind of thing and she was pretty sure she could handle that. Assuming she was his type and he was interested. They could have some laughs, lots of sex and walk away completely unscathed in the heart department. Where was the bad?
“There’s something going on and you can’t convince me otherwise,” Pallas said. “You have depths. I’m very impressed. Okay, use Jasper and then tell me the details because hey, he’s got to be great.” She yawned again. “I’m such a lightweight. I’m leaving now.”
“Good night. Hug Ryan for me.”
“You know I will.”
Pallas walked out of the reception hall. Renee continued to circle the space, looking for any forgotten handbags or phones, and noting how long it would take the cleaning service to return the huge room to order. Doing her job and not thinking about the fact that Jasper was back—that was her.
A loud whoop got her attention. She turned and saw three teenaged guys running through the fountain at the far end of the big, open room. Each of them jumped, trying to touch the arc of water dancing overhead.
The younger brother, she thought as she made her way toward them. And his friends. No doubt they were bored after so many hours with not very much to do. Regardless, she was not going to have them disrupt the reception when it was so close to being over.
As she approached the running, jumping teens, she saw both sets of parents, along with the bride and groom, still dancing. They swayed in time with the music, oblivious to the fountain and the idiots messing with it. Then several things happened at once.
The younger brother started an extra long run toward the fountain. Jim let go of Monica and spun her out the length of their arms. Monica bumped her mom, who stumbled a little. Dad grabbed Mom, moving all of them closer to the fountain and the younger brother running, who had to swerve suddenly to avoid them. As he swerved, he lost his balance and slipped, tumbling into the fountain mechanism. One of the hoses broke free, wiggling and spraying water everywhere.
Renee saw it all happening and knew there was no way she was going to allow her beautiful bride to get soaked. She lunged for the hose, caught it and held it tightly against her chest as the bride’s father rushed to turn off the water to the hose. It took only seconds, but by then the entire fountain had spilled over and Renee was drenched, shivering and had water up her nose even as she wondered if she looked half as ridiculous as she felt.
The new Mrs. Martinez hurried over. “Renee, are you all right?” She turned on her brother. “How could you? This is a wedding, not a water park.”
Aware that end-of-wedding exhaustion could easily lead to emotions spiraling out of control, Renee quickly faked a smile.
“Monica, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Keeping you and the rest of the wedding party dry was my only concern.” She glanced at the water draining onto the floor and realized part of the fountain was still pumping out water. That couldn’t be good. If she couldn’t get everything turned off, she was going to have to call in one of those companies that took care of disasters like flooding. “Really. It’s no problem.”
“You’re dripping and the water’s rising. My dad went to find the main shutoff.”
Renee wrung out her hair and hoped her makeup wasn’t too badly smudged. Then she realized the water level in the reception hall was indeed climbing and hoped Monica’s father found the shutoff soon.
She was just about to go help him when he returned.
“All turned off.” He glanced at the mini flood. “Sorry about this.”
“It’s fine,” Renee lied, her tone soothing, because that was part of her job. To pretend all was well even when they needed to be figuring out how to build an ark.
The rest of the guests were heading out. Nothing like the threat of an unexpected flood to get people moving, she thought, trying to find the humor in the situation.
“I’m so sorry,” Monica told her as she held her dress out of the water and slipped out of her shoes.
“Don’t be. You had a wonderful wedding and reception. Why don’t you and Jim start gathering your things? I have a spare set of clothes in my office. I’ll get changed, then help you make sure you have everything.”
As she spoke, she noticed the water seemed to have settled at about the six- or seven-inch level. Yup, she was going to have to call someone. No doubt she would be here all night. Oh, joy.
“I’m really sorry,” Jim said. “We thought we’d planned for every contingency.” He glared at his new brother-in-law. “Except for stupid.” He turned back to her. “Let us know the cost of cleanup. We’ll pay for it.”
“Thank you. I think the deposit should take care of it but I’ll let you know if there’s a problem. Now if you’ll let me go get changed, I’ll be back with you in ten minutes.”
Monica nodded.
Renee slipped out of her shoes and walked through the ankle-deep water. When she reached her office upstairs, she carefully closed the door behind her before undressing, then slipped on jeans and a T-shirt. Not exactly professional, but she wasn’t going to worry about that right now. Before she returned to her bride and groom, she looked up the local disaster cleaning service. The number was in her files, but wasn’t one she had had to use before.
They picked up on the first ring.
“Happily Inc CleanUp. This is Hilde. How can I help you?”
“Hi. I’m Renee Grothen at Weddings Out of the Box. We had a firefighter wedding tonight with a big fountain. There was an accident with one of the hoses and now our main reception hall is flooded.”
There was a pause. “Um, did you say firefighter wedding? Never mind. How much water?”
“About six inches.”
“That’s a lot.”
“It was a big fountain.”
“Give us thirty minutes and we’ll be there.”
“Thank you.”
Renee hung up, gave herself a second to catch her breath, then headed back to deal with the bride, the groom, the flood and anything else that might happen tonight. Because with a wedding, it was always something.
Excerpted from Meant to be Yours by Susan Mallery, Copyright © 2019 by Susan Mallery, Inc.. Published by HQN Books.

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