Are you a Sweet Harte? If you’re a fan of Jenna Harte (which I happen to be) then indeed you are a Sweet Harte. Jenna is the author of the Valentine Mystery series and the upcoming Southern Heat series which will be published through Penner Publishing. I’ve read the first installment of the Valentine Mystery series, Deadly Valentine. See my review.
Author name: Jenna Harte
Book title: Deadly Valentine; Old Flames Never Die; With This Ring, I Thee Kill; ‘Til Death Do Us Part, To Love, Honor, and Kill, Death Under the Mistletoe (novella) – All are part of the Valentine Mystery Series
Tell us a little about yourself and your background: I didn’t grow up reading or wanting to write, so it’s a bit odd to find myself in middle-age wanting to do both. My background is in social work (mostly adoption), but when I had kids, I wanted to work from home, and eeked out a career online in freelance writing, entrepreneurship, and writing non-fiction.
I’m a die-hard romantic with a particular fondness for passionate couples who get into trouble (think Nick and Nora Charles, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, Jonathan and Jennifer Hart). I started writing fan fiction as a way to put characters I loved into new situations. I developed a fan base, and I had one story stolen twice. At that point, I wondered if maybe I had some talent and decided to write an original story. Deadly Valentine was the first in a planned series about a committed, passionate couple who gets into trouble a lot.
My other interests are chocolate, coffee and Disney. Although California born and raised, I’ve lived in central Virginia for 22 years. I have an extremely supportive husband, two kids in college (when did I get that old??) and a fat cat.
Tell us a little about your novel: Deadly Valentine is the first book in the Valentine mystery series, which I refer to as a “sexy cozy” so romance readers know they’ll get a series with a passionate couple, but die-hard cozy readers who don’t like intimate scenes can avoid it.
The story starts three years after Tess had a life changing event (revealed in the book) and is confronted by a man from her past, Jack Valentine, while at a party where the host is murdered. Jack is accused of the murder, and Tess, a lawyer, agrees to represent him. During the course of the investigation, they learn a 30-year old secret that changes Jack’s life forever. Along with a murder investigation, Tess has to learn to trust and possibly love again.
The following books also include a murder mystery that sometimes puts a wrench in Tess and Jack’s relationship, but through it all they grow individually and as a couple. The stories are light, romantic, filled with banter, and yes, as a loving couple, they do the things that loving couples do.
Have you written anything else (including novels, short stories, novellas, etc.): I have two out of three romances written for Penner Publishing due in 2016. The first, Southern Comfort is a straight romance, and the second, Southern Persuasion is a romance that includes a mystery, and pays homage to of my all time favorite books, Persuasion by Jane Austen.
The Delecoeur stories are novellas involving a slightly older couple (40’s) that get into trouble. While the stories were previously published, they’re currently not available as I work out what I want to do with them.
Q & A
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk: My family says I make faces when I write, probably because I’m trying to figure out how to describe an expression.
Is there a specific time of day that you enjoy writing the most: I do my best writing first thing in the morning.
What romance books would you recommend to readers who will love your books: The closest are JD Robb’s In Death Series, although my stories are lighter and less gritty. The Thin Man is light and has the same banter, and Agatha Christie’s Partners In Crime stories involve a crime-solving couple, although they’re not highly romantic.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them? If so, which one did it the most and what did they do: Interestingly, most of my character development happens during the writing, so I follow them wherever the heck they want.
Who’s your most memorable book crush: Well, the obvious choices are Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) and Captain Wentworth (Persuasion), but going with more current books I’d say, Rafe MacKade (The Return of Rafe MacKade by Nora Roberts), Jack Boudreaux (Cry Wolf by Tami Hoag) and of course, Roarke (In Death books by JD Robb – Nora Roberts). For the most part, they’re all the same guy (dark, dangerous, sexy). Interestingly, most my male protagonists aren’t that guy.
What other types of stories do you have in the works: I have a marriage of convenience story which will be the third book in romance series for Penner Publishing. I’m also in the middle of writing a traditional cozy involving an underemployed Harvard grad and an airplane repo guy. I have notes and a few scenes written on a paranormal trilogy (I know, we have enough of those), possibly a cozy paranormal mystery and opening scenes for a YA time travel.
What’s the biggest challenge in the writing process: Right now I’m having trouble because the characters making the most noise in my head are not from the story I want to write at this time. But since they’re talking, I guess their book is the one I’ll work on. The biggest challenge, though, is getting unstuck or not having the mental energy to write.
Do you have any pointers or advice for aspiring writers: Write a lot. Make it a part of everyday like going to work or brushing your teeth. If you want to sell your work, start building your author platform now.
Favorite song: Today, it’s Sugar by Maroon 5. I love old R&B, particularly Marvin Gaye.
Favorite movie/tv show: Persuasion (Amanda Root version) (movie)/ Hart to Hart TV show. Today I like Bones and Castle (notice all are couples who get into trouble…LOL).
Chosen superpower: Force/Magic
Toilet paper: over or under: Either
Real book or tablet: Both
Star Trek or Star Wars: Wars
This takes place in Chapter Four of Deadly Valentine. Tess has had a hard night. She’s got the flu, has run into Jack Valentine, a man from her past, and found the host of the gathering she was at murdered. In this scene, Jack has brought her home after being questioned by police, and is putting her to bed.
Jack’s one hundred percent electric sports car, which he said was a Tesla, drove nicely. So nicely that she fell asleep and only woke when he lifted her from the car.
“Whoa, what are you doing?”
“I’m taking you to bed.”
“Not to make love. Not tonight, anyway.”
Tess felt her jaw drop to her chest.
He laughed. “That’s what I love about you, Tess. You’re clueless to your own appeal.” He shifted her slightly as he slipped her key into the door. “I got your key from your purse.”
She wanted to be annoyed. She was a little bit. But a part of her liked being coddled. Being in Jack’s arms brought her back to three years earlier. He hadn’t carried her then, but he’d held her when her world crumbled. He promised he’d stay with her, help her. He hadn’t been able to keep that promise. Remembering the events following that fateful night reminded Tess why she hadn’t wanted to see Jack again.
“You don’t need to carry me around. I’m not that sick.”
“Where’s your room?”
She pointed towards the short hallway that led to one of the two bedrooms in her small home. He carried her in, setting her on the bed. “Do you have pajamas or something?”
“Yes, I have pajamas! Not that I’m going to let you put them on me.”
“I’ll get them for you. I promise not to look.”
“You can go now. I can take care of myself.” She slipped her hand under her pillow to pull out a pair of faded flannel pajamas. There was nothing like flannel to make a man turn and run, she thought. But Jack stood his ground, determined to keep watch over her.
“Get settled. When I know you’re okay…”
“Then you’ll leave?” she asked.
“Maybe.” He turned his back to her, but didn’t leave.
Tess sighed. She was too tired to argue. Her black dress was cut low enough in the back that she could reach the zipper. She slipped the sleeves from her shoulders and stood to let it drop to the floor. As she reached for her pajama top she heard a quick hitch of breath. Looking up, she caught Jack’s eyes watching her through the reflection of her dresser mirror.
Her first thought was that she wanted to poke his eyes out with a stick. But then she was struck by how he was looking at her. A woman could live her whole life and not have a man look at her like that. So her second thought was how glad she was that she wore the black Carine Gilson bra with matching panties. Despite her attempts to live a modest life, she hadn’t been able to give up her love of fine lingerie.
Her third thought was that although Jack wasn’t a stranger, after three years apart, he wasn’t in a position to be allowed to ogle her, even if the awe in his eyes stirred something inside her she’d thought long dead.
Their eyes caught and she was pleased that he seemed as off guard as she was. She was sure he blushed as he gave her a sheepish smile and stepped to the side, effectively cutting off his view of her.
Tess finished putting her pajamas on and tossed her clothes on her treadmill, promising herself she’d hang them up in the morning. She slipped under her covers telling herself that when she had her energy back, she’d get mad at him. For now, she just wanted to rest.
“Okay,” she said as she pulled the covers up to her chin.
He turned to her. “I suppose I should apologize.”
“But I’m not sorry.” He sat on the side of her bed as if he’d done it a hundred times before. It should have annoyed her, but it didn’t. Despite the years apart, there was still a connection. What did bother her was the effect his nearness had on her hormones. Apparently, they weren’t as dormant as she’d hoped.
“I’d like to tell you what I’m really thinking, but I don’t think you’d appreciate it.”
“How unusual for you to hold your tongue.”
He grinned. “It’s difficult.”
“I appreciate your restraint. Are you going now?”
He frowned. “Why is it so disturbing for you to see me again?”
She sighed. That was a topic she didn’t want to get into. “It’s been a long night. Seeing Asa like that…” She let her words trail off.
He nodded. “It’s been a difficult night. But you were upset about seeing me before that.”
“I have a new life now.”
“You talk like I’m a secret you don’t want anyone to know about. Is that why you want me to think you and Deputy Dan are an item?”
“What makes you think we’re not? Daniel loves me.”
“That’s painfully obvious. Poor sap.”
“Jack!” She nearly laughed because it was true. But she didn’t want to encourage Jack. “I care for him too.” That wasn’t a lie. She did care for Daniel. He and his parents were like family. They were the only people she connected with at an emotional level. They had been there for her as a teenager and again three years ago when her life unraveled and she needed a safe place to fall.
“Maybe. But you aren’t in love with him. Why did you want me to think you were?”
“I never said I was.”
He gave her a chastising look. “You didn’t correct me when I asked. Why is that?”
What could she say? Because I didn’t want you to think I’m available? He hadn’t cared when she was available. He would laugh at the idea that she thought maybe his flirtation meant more.
“That part of my life when we knew each other is over. I’ve moved on.”
“Moved on.” The tone in which he repeated her words let her know she hurt him.
Jenna Harte is a die-hard romantic writing about characters who are passionate about and committed to each other, and frequently getting into trouble. She is the author of the Valentine Mysteries, the first of which, Deadly Valentine, reached the quarter-finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2013. She entered into a three-book deal for a romance series with Penner Publishing in 2015, with release dates in 2016.
She has a bundle of stories filled with romance, mystery and even time travel rattling around in her head and is eager for the day when a device is invented allowing her to download what’s in her brain onto her computer.
When she’s not telling stories, she works by day as a freelance writer, author, blogger and online entrepreneur. She lives in central Virginia with her husband, two college-bound children and a fat cat.