Author: Jen Doyle
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 29, 2017
Jack “Ox” Oxford is used to being alone. Granted, when you screw over your friends, being alone isn’t always a choice. Playing for the Chicago Watchmen is a last-ditch effort to save his career…and right some of his past wrongs. He’s not expecting a warm reception, but he’s also not expecting a flat tire to change everything.
Recovering control freak, single mom and semiprofessional chaos wrangler Lola Deacon McIntire doesn’t need an arrogant ballplayer to swoop in and save her from anything, much less her flat tire. And she definitely doesn’t need her body to betray her and decide this is the guy to wake up her rusty libido. She isn’t about to upset her sons’ lives for any man—much less one who so clearly doesn’t think he’s dad material.
Jack never thought he’d find someone who wanted to build a life with him, but the more time he spends with Lola and her boys, the more it starts to feel permanent. Even tough-as-nails Lola concedes there just might be a future here—the big, beautiful, messy future neither of them was looking for—but only if Jack will accept he deserves it.
The only person who didn’t seem to notice was Jack. She didn’t particularly expect any special treatment, and it was clear he wasn’t interested in a long, happy life together any more than she was. But when he pushed his plate aside and started to say his goodbyes, she did have to turn her back to make sure her face didn’t betray her disappointment.
When he did finally come up behind her to say goodbye, it was without leaning in and whispering in her ear, and he kept his hands far away from her. It was clear that whatever had happened between him and Deke—and Lola could read a room enough to know that something had happened—meant things were about to come to an end.
Lola was okay with that. She hadn’t really expected anything after the other morning anyway. Still, it was an effort to plaster a smile on her face, especially when he nodded his head toward the hallway. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
Lola sighed. “Cover me?” she said to Mary. And then she turned to move past him and walked straight ahead.
“So,” she said when they got to the back hallway. She didn’t think it counted as breaking up when they weren’t together, but she’d never actually been broken up with before so she wasn’t sure. And although she wasn’t willing to make it easier for him, she wasn’t about to make it hard.
“So,” he said. He was nervous. This was going to be worse than Lola had thought.
Well, it wasn’t going to be worse than having Tuck show up in his police uniform the night of the accident, or spending all those long lonely nights when Dave was deployed wondering whether he was still alive.
“Obviously,” Jack said, “we have two very different lives.”
Yep. Lola nodded for him to go on.
“And we both know I am not by any means a catch.”
It kind of depended on how you defined it, but this wasn’t the time to agree or disagree. She clasped her hands behind her back.
“This is probably a really, really bad idea.” He ran his hands through his hair and Lola tried not to think about how cute he was. How cute it was, to have the big, bad Iceman be so nervous because of her. Even if it was because he was about to tell her that he never wanted to see her again.
“But how would you feel about seeing me tonight after you get off?”
“I’m sorry?” That was not what she’d expected him to say.
He closed his eyes and shook his head. “Not get off. That innuendo was not intentional. I meant after you’re done with your shift.”
Wow. He wasn’t even making double entendre jokes. This was seriously strange. And not how she’d expected this to go.
He started pacing.
“I, uh…” He cleared his throat. “Jules mentioned the babysitter puts your kids to bed and stays over on the nights you work late.”
“She did?” Jules was so much more of a troublemaker than she led anyone to believe.
Jack nodded. “I was thinking maybe I could pick you up and take you to dinner somewhere.”
And now Lola was irritated. Never mind that ten o’clock was too late to have dinner. “Seriously? We’re doing the dating thing?” She may have had her breakdown earlier, but it didn’t change her overall goal. “What part of ‘fuck me against the wall’ did you not understand?” Lola was fairly certain she’d been clear on that.
Jack tensed before straightening up to his full height. Then the Jack she knew was back and in front of her—crowding right up against her, pinning her between him and the wall. This time his grin was natural and easy and entirely carnal—just the way she liked it. “I never said fucking against the wall was off the table. I just thought maybe you’d like to grab a bite first.”
Resisting the impulse to say that she would, actually, like to take a bite out of something first, she set her lips in a grim line. Was this truly what he wanted? Or was it just what he thought she wanted, despite what she’d said? Trying to keep the frustration out of her voice, she said, “I don’t want to go on dates, Jack. I don’t want a boyfriend. I don’t want another thing to add to the list.” She wasn’t pulling punches. Not today.
Although he winced and said, “Ouch, babe. That was harsh,” he didn’t seem overly upset. Especially not as he slid his thigh between her legs, looking entirely as if he were going to eat her up. “I don’t want to go on dates, Lola.” He brought his hand up between them. “And I really don’t want a girlfriend.” Though he seemed utterly calm, she could feel his heart beating as rapidly as hers was. “But I do have a list, and it includes fucking you repeatedly, and not just against the wall.” Then his hand closed over her breast, and he pinched the increasingly sensitive tip, and to her annoyance, she couldn’t hold back her gasp. Right here in the hallway of her family’s restaurant.
“I do, however,” he said, “have higher standards than an unheated, unfinished farmhouse.” Her breath hitched as he rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger, twisting just enough for a moan to make its way out of her throat.
“Hey,” she managed to say. “That’s my unheated, unfinished farmhouse you’re talking about. Be careful what you say.”
He smiled but didn’t reply. Unless you counted taking her earlobe between his teeth and giving enough of a tug for her to feel it shoot down to her core.
“Okay.” She needed to work at not being quite so easy. “I suppose that could be added to my list, too.”
“Great.” His voice low and raspy, he didn’t pull back. “So what do you say?”
She let her head fall back against the wall as she closed her eyes. Dorie was right. The date itself didn’t matter. She had no illusions about Jack and she wasn’t looking for a replacement for Dave. But she was a thirty-six-year-old woman who had a whole lot of living left to do. She took a deep breath as she opened her eyes, “Okay.”
In a startlingly gentle way, he brushed her cheek with his thumb as he smiled. “I’ll be back at ten to pick you up.”
Keeping the wall at her back, she nodded. “It’s not a date.”
“Not a date,” he repeated, bending down and touching his lips to hers, giving the slightest of reminders as to what his mouth was truly capable of. Then he backed away, keeping his eyes on her until he disappeared from sight.
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Every time. Every single time I’m back to Inspiration a new series of delights await me. My love for small town romances knows no bounds, but this particular small town secured its place among my favorite fictional places to be for sure.
The rules of series reading is that if you’ve read the previous ones you know what you’re in for, which is a wonderfully emotional, sweet and sexy romance as the case is here, but if you haven’t, then I reserve the right to tell you to do it. Just go back to the first book, pick it up, clear your schedule for a lovely time and enjoy. And envy. Only a little, I promise. These are all great people and you’ll want them to be happy after all.
Single mother of four, all around kickass Lola was the stuff of legends I gotta say. With her no nonsense attitude, and her ability to manage just about any situation with finesse, her energy was contagious. Sure, she was human so she needed her moments, but she was the kind of strong, compassionate, loving heroine I’d love to read in my books. Her endless supply of love and understanding, I think, was what finally melted the ice around the Iceman- though I can never have the heart to call him that. His past and the reasons for his behavior were only hinted at, but they were enough for me to feel for him and see the progress he made. He was a wonderful man with a big heart. A true romance hero material.
Since I loved the previous stories oh so much, I wasn’t sure-okay, scratch that cause I knew I was expecting something really really good– but this book sort of exceeded my expectations on the emotional side. Not only small towns and men playing sports, but I also have a soft spot for children in romances. And this one had many. And they integrated into the story so well, it was impossible not to fall in love with this family. So frankly, can’t blame Jack for falling so easy and so hard.
Contemporary romance, small town, children, sports, whatever’s your poison in romance, if you haven’t read this series, do so. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the emotional rollercoasters, the sexy times, the sweet moments, and melt only a small amount each book.
I’m adding five big spoonfuls of this story into my hodgepodge. And okay, fine, perhaps I need a big slice of chocolate cake too cause who wants a man who loves to do laundry and takes care of your kids while you sleep off a night of sickness and exhaustion when you can have cake, right?
*Reaches for the bottle of vodka to wash all the chocolate down*
- Welcome to my humble kitchen Jen! It’s a pleasure to have you here. Before we start though, for the sake of being a good hostess, do you prefer tea or coffee?
Why, thank you, Lady Muslin! Tea, thank you. English breakfast, if you don’t mind. I’m a huge fan.
- Let’s dive right in. For those who may not be familiar with the series, can you tell a bit about the Inspiration gang?
I would love to! Inspiration is a small town in Iowa that, a little over fifteen years ago, was nearly destroyed by a tornado. A photographer snapped a picture of two high school boys resurrecting the basketball hoop out of the rubble from the high school, making them a national sensation. When those two boys led their from-out-of-nowhere basketball team Hoosiers-style to the championship, they captured the hearts of the entire country thanks to their story of hope and renewal.
One of those boys grew up to be superstar Major League Baseball catcher Nate Hawkins. The opening scene of book #1 in the series is of him returning to his hometown after a six-week, self-imposed exile thanks to “NateGate,” a scandal of epic proportions. Although he maintained close relationships with his family and close friends for much of his career, he’d drifted away entirely over the past two years. The Inspiration gang is made up of some of those original friends from the basketball team—Max “Deke” Deacon, Wash Fairfield, and Jason Pike—as well as his baby sister (half sister, actually), Fitz. Rounding out the gang is Deke’s sister, Lola; Nate’s sister, Jules; and newcomer to town, Dorie. Oh, and we can’t forget Mama Gin, Nate’s mom and also the mayor of Inspiration.
It’s an incredibly close group of friends and family whose ties run deep due to some of the experiences they’ve shared—including dealing with the rise to fame during their high school years—which set them apart from their peers and drew them closer together.
- Now about Lola and Jack. I know we’ll get to know them better in the book, but is there any quirky characteristics that you imagined for them that didn’t make it into the book?
When I originally thought of Lola, she was much more frazzled and frantic then she turned out to be. She’s the single mom of four young boys, and in my, um, frazzled and frantic not single mom of three kids life, I couldn’t imagine how she would handle it. But it turns out she’s got quite a handle on things and has absolutely no doubts about how she wants to move forward—which, incidentally, is not with Jack, LOL.
With Jack it was the opposite. When I did the series proposal way back when, he was much colder and arrogant. And, as Lola mentions fairly early on in the book, he definitely keeps himself more removed from the adoring public than, say, Nate. But from the moment I began writing him I realized that didn’t describe him at all. It turns out he’s pretty damn funny and borderline charming—to Lola’s dismay on both counts. He’s cocky, yes (pun intended, of course!), but it’s more about him knowing exactly where he fits in the baseball hierarchy. Or, at least, where he used to fit and where he wants to get back to.
- Have you had any struggling moments writing Lola and Jack’s story?
Actually, to my incredible surprise, no. This book was written over a very difficult few months in my personal life and I thought it was going to be nearly impossible to do. But once I began writing both Lola and Jack just flowed from the page. Part of my theory was that it was an incredible escape. It might also have been because it’s the first book I had fully plotted ahead of time, LOL. (Yes, I’m a total pantser.) Whatever it was, though, I’ll take it!
- What does the future hold for you? Can we hope for more Inspiration books?
I very much hope so! I do have a novella coming out in the fall called HOLIDAY HOUSE CALL and although it isn’t officially part of the Calling It series, it does take place in Inspiration. Fans of the first two books may recognize my hero—Tuck, the police officer who is also a fairly regular fixture in Inspiration, although not a full-fledged part of the group.
And, of course, I do have a vision for more books in this world, both in Inspiration as well as a spin-off series involving Dorie’s brothers in Boston. Not to mention some more baseball players somewhere down the line. But those are all a bit off in the distance.
I also have a completely unrelated series, the Hansons of St. Helena, which is part of Marina Adair’s St. Helena Vineyard Kindle World. I have two novellas out already and am looking forward to maybe add to that collection. 😉
- Speaking of Inspiration, Iowa, what was your inspiration for writing this series?
Nate Hawkins, hands down. I pretty much had a vision of him driving down the road…and so it began.
But in terms of the overall series…I have a very close extended family myself, and we tend to draw in everyone’s friends as well. That feeling of a community—not a town so much as this interconnected group of people—really, well, inspired me. It all sort of went from there.
- And last but not least, what is your favorite food? We are in a kitchen after all 🙂
< shoves aside the Doritos >
If I could choose just one food, it would be spaghetti. (You wouldn’t know it from the name, but I’m Italian. Dorie’s ‘gravy’ —known as tomato sauce to most of the world—is actually a family recipe passed down to me from my grandmother on my father’s side. I also make a mean rainbow cookie. (That’s just a figure of speech, of course. They’re not mean at all. 🙂 )
- Thank you so much, Jen, for coming over and being my guest. I enjoyed being back in Inspiration and seeing the gang again. And it was a pleasure having you here!
And thank you! It was such a pleasure! If you’re ever in Boston, look me up. I’ll make you spaghetti and we’ll make my uncle’s meatball recipe and then we can have rainbow cookies for dessert. And tea, of course!
A big believer in happily ever afters, Jen Doyle decided it was high time she started creating some. She has an M.S. in Library and Information Science and, in addition to her work as a librarian, has worked as a conference and events planner as well as a Communications and Enrollment administrator in both preschool and higher education environments (although some might say that there is very little difference between the two; Jen has no comment regarding whether she is one of the “some”).Connect with Jen: