Fiction Vixen is pleased to welcome author Jillian Neal today.
Recently, my mom had minor surgery that left her foot in a cast. My mother and I both share a love of reading. Naturally, I showed up at her house with a bag full of books. I knew just what she needed to recover and to stay off of her feet. Neil Gaiman brilliantly stated, “Books make great gifts because they have the whole world inside of them.” Truer words may never have been spoken. If ever things aren’t going my way, I long to slip quietly between the pages of a book. I love literary worlds created with the bricks and mortar of fiction so much I decided to become an author and create my own.
When my eldest son was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was eight, one of things that devastated my husband and me was that our precious little boy was always going to struggle with reading, the thing that brought both of us so much joy. When I realized that 757 million people around the world couldn’t read or write a simple sentence, I dug in my heels. There were ways to help my son and there are ways to help fight this global pall of illiteracy. We can fight this together.
It was obvious to me that people living with illiteracy needed a voice. They needed their stories told, stories they would need help to read. In that realization, Brock Camden from Gypsy Hope was born. I sought to show the world that illiterate doesn’t mean unintelligent, unlovable, or unattractive. There is only one power that can conquer all of those feelings of inadequacy that illiterate people so often feel – love. As Brock and Hope learn to navigate their relationship, the lies that have consumed his entire life, and his pushing her away when she gets too close, we can all learn a little bit about living with illiteracy and quite a bit about love.
By making a purchase of Gypsy Hope you can help, too. For every purchase I will donate $1 to the ProLiteracy organization. They provide materials, education, and help globally to help fight illiteracy. This is your opportunity to enjoy the gift of reading and to share that gift with those that haven’t yet experienced the joy of slipping between the pages of fiction to relax and to heal.
From the time a car accident took her parents lives when she was a child, Hope Hendrix has lived in perpetual fear of most everything. Tired of always chickening out, she decides to grab onto life and really live it. For Hope, that means finally telling her best friend, Brock Camden, that she’s been in love with him since high school.
Misplaced cowboy and the town’s famed football star, Brock Camden, has lived a life of lies for so long all he knows is regret. It was never the life he wanted, but the past can’t be undone. Now, Hope, the one girl he’s always longed for, admits she wants him, too. Can he escape the web of deceit thrust upon him when he arrived at the shores of Gypsy Beach and have a real life with Hope, or will all the lies and uncertainty ultimately be their undoing?
Hope Hendrix needed to have sex. Not the epically disastrous sex she’d already had, either, but the mind-blowing sex her every-other-Thursday night book club friends were presently raving about. The kind the romance novels she loved to devour proclaimed possible. The kind that sizzled on the pages of the erotic novel the book club was reading. Somewhere between attempting to style her hair exactly like Tiffani Thiessen’s—from the 90210, not Saved by the Bell years—killing herself to get outstanding grades, trying to take care of her sister, Skye, minding her aunt’s archaic ideas about proper decorum for girls, getting through college in three years, and opening her own bookstore, she’d somehow forgotten to have good sex.
Now, she was 26, and quite possibly the least experienced person she knew. She’d finally come to accept that her stringy blonde, baby-fine hair was never going to do that sexy, shoulder-length, edgy thing, but never having an orgasm, or any fulfilling bedroom experience at all—she just couldn’t accept that.
“Okay, you all know that I love Arley Copeland’s books as much as you do. All I’m saying is that her heroine got to have more orgasms in this book than I’ve had all freaking summer. I’m jealous. It’s getting to me,” Sophie DePriest huffed before downing another gulp of Sauvignon Blanc.
Hope joined her friends’ laughter, but didn’t comment. Sophie may not have had many orgasms in the last few months, but at least she’d had some. Her dry spells would be some kind of bountiful harvest for Hope.
With a sigh, Hope stood and headed to the storeroom of her beloved little beachside bookstore, Bandana Books. She returned with another bottle of wine, Pinot this time, and settled into the worn tweed sofa she’d picked up off of Craig’s List so patrons to her store would have a place to get lost deep between the covers of a book. That had been the idea, at least. Unfortunately, most of them used the sofa to flip through a book or magazine without ever making a purchase.
Discreetly, Hope slid to her left to cover the slight tear in the fabric with her thigh while she refilled a few of the empty glasses. She couldn’t afford to recover the sofa. She couldn’t really even afford the wine and snacks for her book club, but she hated to complain. She loved books and authors of all kinds. Her own bookstore was where she belonged … she hoped.
“Okay, but what did you think of the silk robe belt as a tie-up scene?” Hope felt her pale cheeks begin to heat from the wine and the discussion. “I’ve met Arley. I always wonder if she and her fiancée do that, or if she just comes up with it off the top of her head when she writes.”
“That scene is responsible for me attacking Kevin in bed four times in the last three days, so I’d say he’s a big fan.” Julie Morgan laughed hysterically, letting everyone know she wasn’t exaggerating.
Hope grinned. Kevin and Julie always made her wistful. They’d been married for five years, had adorable twin boys, and were still hot for each other. They had most everything she longed for. As always, whenever Hope considered marriage, she reminded herself that maintaining a decent dating relationship would be an excellent first step, and that always meant her next thought was going to be … Brock Camden. She’d just had breakfast with him that morning at Mac and Molly’s Surf, Turf, and Coffee shop, but she already missed him. Lately, he’d been busy helping Ryan McNamara with the new hotel that was going in on the other side of Gypsy Beach, the tiny, bohemian, North Carolina, beach town that had raised Hope. The hotel was a big job, and Brock was Ryan’s go-to roofer and framer.
She’d been swooning over him since ninth grade when he’d actually asked her to be his lab partner in biology. Hope always took advanced courses. She was one of the only freshmen in the class. Brock was a year older.
She could still recall the dumbfounded awe that had worked through her puberty-laden body when the star receiver for the Wellsley High football team asked if she’d like to sit with him at that lab table. The cool black laminate top that she’d clung to as she’d taken the seat had likely been what kept her from spontaneously combusting when he’d winked at her. No one like Brock had ever noticed her before that moment. And yet now, all these years later, they were still great friends. If Hope were being honest, as much as she adored the women seated around her in her book club, Brock was her best friend.
“Well, you brought it up, Hope, so what did you think of it?” Sophie demanded, effectively ripping her out of the past and thrusting her firmly into the present.
Grinning, Hope set her wine glass down on the table and considered. “Honestly, that’s the thing I love most about Arley’s writing. She’s able to put so much emotion into her work that you’re onboard with whatever the couple is doing. He was tying her up, and honestly, I thought the whole thing was very intimate and loving. If an author can’t effectively capture the emotions of both of the people involved, it comes off as cold and abusive, but hers never read that way. She’s my favorite erotic writer. In fact, I’m not reading any more BDSM books unless the relationship is healthy. It can be healthy and seductive, and should be for all parties involved not just the creepy, control-freak, sadistic guys.”
“Hear, hear!” Jana Evans, the fourth member of the Guilty Pleasures book club, lifted her wine glass. Julie and Sophie nodded their agreement as a wicked glint lit Sophie’s sky-blue eyes. “I’m taking a group poll. Who here has either tied up a guy and had their way with him, or has let some guy tie you down and banged your brains out? Obviously, our little Hope-y hasn’t, but how about you two?”
Hope tried not to let the comment get to her. She often exaggerated her experiences when talking to her friends, but they all knew she read about sex a lot more than she actually had it. That problem didn’t just cover sex. It pretty much applied to her entire life. She read about everything, but never did anything.
Rolling her eyes, Julie laughed. “How the heck do you think I got Kev to sleep with me again after we birthed twins? We were terrified to touch each other. Two is enough. He has Superman sperm or something. At that point, we were certain we’d never sleep again, so I finally had to tie him down, show him the paperwork I made Doc Thompson sign swearing that he’d tied my tubes, and rode him cowgirl-style until we both temporarily forgot how freaking exhausted we were.”
The group cracked up, but Hope doubted Julie had to work quite that hard to get Kevin in bed. He always seemed to be drooling over her. Kevin was a baseball coach at Wellsley High, the high school they’d all attended. Julie had been the cheerleading coach right up until the moment they’d gotten pregnant with twins and she could no longer see her feet.
Before anymore confessions could be made, thunder rumbled out over the Barrier Islands that buffeted Gypsy Beach from the stronger tides. A streak of lightning fractured the sky.
“Oh, no.” Hope groaned as she frantically raced to the large plate-glass windows and tried to determine how long it would take the storm to reach them.
Jillian Neal is a Romance author that manages to blend her imagination, Southern sass, and loving heart in every novel she pens. She showed her talent for weaving intricate plot lines and showcasing dynamic characters in her seven-book, urban fantasy, series, The Gifted Realm. Her skillset continues to shine in her contemporary series, Gypsy Beach, which will leave you with a longing to pack your bags and move to a tiny beach town full of bohemian charm.
She lives outside of Atlanta with her husband and their children.