Libraries are one of those secret addictions I have had since childhood when my mother first introduced me to them. Every week I'd visit the town library and check out one or two books. No matter what city I lived in since then--from Denver to Los Angeles/Burbank to San Diego and Seattle-- I have always had a library card wherever I lived.
Today's guest in My Writing Corner, Linda Griffin, got my immediate attention when she told me about her profession as a librarian. I have had the good fortune to feature two of her other books, Love, Death and the Art of Cooking and Bridges. Now she brings us a collection of four novellas called Reluctant Hearts. Let's turn it over to Linda to learn a little bit more about her and hear about her latest book.
I was born and raised in San Diego, California and I would never want to live anywhere else. I retired from the San Diego Public Library, where I had the pleasure of managing the Central Library’s fiction collection, in order to spend more time on my writing. Although I also enjoy reading biography, memoir, and history, fiction remains my first love. In addition to the three R’s—reading, writing, and research—I enjoy Scrabble, movies, and travel.
My earliest ambition was to be a “book maker” and I wrote my first story, “Judy and the Fairies,” with a plot stolen from a comic book, at the age of six. My stories, in every length from short shorts to novellas, have been published in numerous journals, including Eclectica, Thema Literary Journal, and Avalon Literary Review, and most recently, Willow Review.
Reluctant Hearts, a one-volume collection of four contemporary romance novellas, is my sixth book from the Wild Rose Press.
Four stories, four couples. None of them are ready to love again. Can they overcome their personal challenges to find unexpected romance?
The original title of “No Regrets” was “The Reluctant Heart,” so when I decided to put the four stories together, I entitled it Reluctant Hearts. I chose “No Regrets” as the new title for the first novella when I realized that my story “Regrets Only,” which was published in The Binnacle in Spring 2015, could have been a prequel. The story can be downloaded from my website: Regrets Only .
Darien Francis has a small business, Errands on Call, and Richard Li is a bank guard with a small daughter he rarely sees. They meet when he saves her during a bank robbery and become friends, but she’s afraid to love again after a previous relationship ended badly.
“Well, you are too good to be true, aren’t you?” She grinned, and then she sobered, and their eyes met. They stopped walking. The dogs tugged at the leashes and strayed from the path, sniffing at everything they could reach. Richard tossed the remains of his lunch in a trash container and put his arms around her. The sounds of traffic grew distant, muted. Manning walked in a circle, wrapping the leash around their legs. They both laughed, and they kissed quickly and then not so quickly. “In a public place,” she said in mock disapproval.
The inspiration for this story was a TV show bank robbery. I noticed that the bank guard might have been able to stop it if he’d acted quickly enough. Maybe he was distracted…by a woman?
Shane Kenniston is working in a factory after his life was upended by a false accusation. Beth Parker is a recent widow who had a crush on Shane when he was her sister’s youth orchestra leader. They meet again when Beth moves into the same apartment building, but neither is ready for the complications of their relationship.
“So, you don’t smoke, you don’t drink, and you don’t do Halloween? What do you do?”
“Whatever you’ll let me do, I guess,” he said. He hadn’t used that old line since college.
She was surprised, but she didn’t seem upset. She gazed at him speculatively for a few seconds and then leaned towards him. He didn’t want to take anything for granted, so he waited for her to kiss him first, but he responded without hesitation. She tasted of beer and cherry-flavored lip gloss. “Oh, gosh,” she said. “Wait till I tell Patty I kissed Mr. Kenniston.”
A scene in the movie, “Social Contract,” made me reflect that a man who slept with a woman who claimed to be 24 would have his life implode if she turned out to be 15. It was a story I had no interest in writing, though, until I read a newspaper article about registered sex offenders not being allowed to give out candy at Halloween. The character of Shane was partly based on the leader of the San Diego Youth Symphony, which holds public rehearsals in Balboa Park.
The Shape of Life
Contractor David Early and lab tech Kate Howard meet in the Laundromat, but her life is consumed by the needs of her disabled child, and David isn’t ready for the responsibility.
Kate,” he said, into a pause that had unexpectedly lengthened into a silence, and she turned toward him, smiling a little.Without knowing he was going to, he kissed her.
She was warm and willing, and then she murmured, “David,” half in protest, and pulled away. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s not you. You’re a very nice guy.”
“It’s all right.”
“I can’t do this right now. My life is complicated enough.”
“I wasn’t trying to complicate your life.”
“No, I know.”
“It’s all right,” he said again. He took her hand. “Relax. There’s no cost or obligation.”
The inspiration here was nothing more than a meditation on the shape of life, but the history really begins with my childhood, when “Karen,” by Marie Killilea, who founded the Cerebral Palsy Association, was my favorite book.
Realtor Frank Ellison meets speech therapist Kayla Barnes at an open house, and Kayla’s roommate Gia draws Frank into their circle. Unfortunately Frank’s mistaken first impression of Kayla derails any chance of romance, and Kayla has given up dating after a broken engagement.
Her shape had never bothered him before. But right now, it was distracting him to know she had that lovely, decidedly female body under her jeans and sweater. He turned his head toward her, and she looked up at him, and he leaned in to kiss her.
“Don’t,” she said, but she kissed him back. The gesture was more friendly than passionate, but her lips were soft and sweet all the same. He knew it wasn’t supposed to be happening, but he couldn’t remember why, and he liked it—more than he liked the Canaletto.
I’m a fan of the TV show, “House Hunters,” so a romance that began with an open house was a natural for me. I also enjoyed poking a little fun at the show itself. Kayla’s job was borrowed from a Wheel of Fortune contestant.