<Sigh> I want to finish the Art of Love series (2 more books), and a single title (1 book), and I have a draft of another series of three divorced women friends making themselves over (3 books), a YA for my 13 yr old niece (1 book, but she wants 6--sheesh), and some others that sound like fun to do now (paranormal vs contemporary). I actually wrote paranormal romances (not vamps and weres, but everything else) before I ever wrote contemporaries. I just haven't published any. When I get to a point of doing nothing but this for a living, I have a lot of plans.
So please know that I simply had to wrap Allen's story up inside this one because I didn't want to leave him broken up from Jenna and hanging with no love in his life. He was such a great guy.
What was the inspiration for Allen's character?
Well, at first I wanted to give Casey someone else in the military to interact with in the books. I made him young enough to have a more modern view of military service and wanted to show how he transitioned to a non-military life. A soldier serving as a military policeman has to be able to subdue those with equal training, but also has to have the emotional maturity not to abuse his physical power. I also liked that Allen was walking the line of what is readily accepted as masculine (MP service, security guard, weight lifter) and typically feminine (working as an assistant to a woman, working in a lingerie company, designing clothes). I hoped Allen came across as a guy's guy enough that it would be believable that the uber-macho Casey, as well as the "metro man" Seth, could relate to him. That said, here is an example of his obvious macho side.
Allen Stedman stood outside the door of the luxury duplex thinking that letting Seth Carter talk him into meeting a woman he refused to tell him anything about was a bit like unwrapping a present from your grandmother at Christmas. It could be an ugly sweater she made for you or something she knew you really, really wanted. He savored the anticipation a few moments more, took a final deep breath, and then rang the doorbell.
While he waited, Allen moved the clipboard to a single arm where it covered the discreet company name on his polo. He fished his security badge out of his wallet for identification as he heard someone on the other side of the door. When the door opened, Allen stood almost nose-to-nose with an exotic fantasy.
She had straight black hair drawn up into a long pony tail, a tight fitted T-shirt that stretched taut across both breasts, and short yoga pants that barely covered her knees. The clothing revealed curvy hips and long legs which drew so much of his attention that he had a hard time meeting her gaze again. When he did, he saw dark lashes and brows framing dark chocolate eyes, which looked surprisingly relieved to see him.
“Talia Martin?” Allen asked, hoping like hell the woman said yes.
“Yes. Thank you for coming quickly. The condo office said you left several boxes against the building. They’re throwing a bloody fit. I can’t go get the boxes myself right now, so please retrieve them for me. I’ll leave the door unlocked for you,” Talia said, waving a hand at the ID in his hand. “I don’t need that anymore. You look enough like a mover to me. I trust my instincts.”
“Well, actually—I,” Allen stopped. She just blinked at him, looking impatient, and he found himself getting turned on at the idea of arguing with her. Then he saw a little boy in braces walking toward them. His attention swiftly shifted.
“Hey,” Mason told Allen, “you guys forgot stuff and Mom was talking ugly on the phone. You’re not s’posed to make her mad. Seth said you were to be nice to us.”
Allen smiled at the mention of Seth’s name. It had been sneaky of Carter not to tell him anything about the woman in advance.
“I’m sorry,” Allen said, apologizing for the missing movers, who he promptly decided needed their asses kicked for not treating this family right. “Will you watch my clipboard until I get back?”
Allen held out the clipboard to the boy, who took it eagerly, studying the writing on it intently like it was secret code. Allen supposed that was what it was like when you couldn’t yet read.
“These words are all too big,” Mason said sadly. “You should use small words.”
“I’ll tell my boss you said that,” Allen said. “Let me get the boxes and I’ll be right back.”
After he left, Talia took the clipboard from Mason and read the paper it contained.
“Security checklist,” Talia read, biting her lip even as she laughed at herself. “Uh-oh Mason. He wasn’t a mover after all.”
And Allen is that kind of guy who literally could talk any female into sinning because he is both hot AND nice. Of course, he's not really as safe as he seems, but he makes Talia feel safe with him. It's a delicate balance. A woman with a man like this would think "Oh, doing this with him is okay. He'll stop if I want," which might be true, but then she'd also be saying "Bring it on," just like Talia because you want to go just that little bit more with him, right up to the danger point.
Most love scenes I write spring from my often wishful thinking for my characters combined with scholarly research, collected stories, and many other resources. Just this once I admit that I purposely patterned Allen's lovemaking after my first serious boyfriend now 37 years ago in my past. What can I say? The boy (17 to my 16 at the time) was unforgettable. He taught me french kissing and how to do some really fun things without removing a single stitch of clothing. If he'd had a better sense of humor, I might have. . .no, probably not.
What was the inspiration for Talia's character?
My UK, Canadian, Australian, and other world-wide fans. Several of my UK fans and readers write me with such wonderfully descriptive praise that it lifts my creative soul to heights I'm sure only Shakespeare and scores of dead poets have known. It's been a long time since I visited Europe. I would like to go again someday. In the meantime, I created the lovely Talia Martin who was brilliant, from Boston, and also originally from England. I have American friends that live in Scotland now. It is possible to be from two places and love them both. I have a jet setting nephew who teaches English to grade school children around the world who just recently came home from a teaching stint in Poland. He misses the US when he's gone, but also is sad when he has to come back. I understand this love of all things geographically strange because I too have wanderlust. I like to walk on new ground. I want to go to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, England, and my list is very, very long. Travel feeds my creative mind in a way nothing else does.
The other thing I wanted to do in Talia's character was to show a sexy mom. I often didn't feel sexy when I was a mother. It took a lot of flirting and validation from the man in my life to get me there. I wanted Allen to see Talia's mothering abilities, but also the rest of the woman package. I was very pleased when he did. Maybe not quite as much as she was, but probably a close second.
Am I planning to write more in the Never Too Late series?
No. Sorry. I am not. But I do plan to write another series that is as full of humor among friends as this one turned out to be. The one I have in mind is not too far in the future. I just had some slightly more serious stories I had to get out first.
Am I planning to write more books?
I plan to write for as long as the stories keep rolling out of me and readers keep buying them. I figure it's a win-win. Readers pay for my food through sales and I spend my time creating something new for them. I always make sure I offer sampling of new work in the 20-25% range so readers can decide if they want to take a chance on a particular storyline or not. I understand the need to laugh. I do. Trust me. I really do. Life is hard. Life is short. And I have decided it is to be my remaining life's work to entertain every one of you I can.
For all that I write, I have no words adequate enough to communicate to each and every reader how honored I am that you read this last book and the others in this series. You have made my dreams come true. It seems like it's the least I can do to return the favor a few thousand words at a time.