Tonya’s holiday turned bittersweet after George thwarted her plans to spend it Mike. However, her other friends have a special Christmas surprise in store for her that is guaranteed make her smile.
A Christmas scene from the contemporary romance novel Aquamarine
Tonya spent the next few days jamming with Shawn and helping Jacque with her last-minute shopping. Christmas Eve was spent baking pies, and on Christmas morning the three drove to Arlington to have breakfast with Shawn’s family. Returning to the apartment, Tonya and Jacque prepared a lemon chicken dinner, but both Shawn and Jacque were acting strange over the meal.
“C’mon you guys,” said Tonya. “I can tell you’re hiding something, so you all can stop acting innocent. What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” said Shawn.
“Uh-huh,” said an unconvinced Tonya as someone knocked at the door. Shawn hopped up and answered.
“I see you finally made it.”
“Yeah,” said a familiar voice with a southern accent. “Although we had a slight delay getting out of Birmingham.”
Mike had barely stepped inside when Tonya rushed up to him. As they wrapped their arms around each other she suddenly burst into tears.
“Hmm…this isn’t quite the reaction I was hoping for.”
“I’m fine,” said Tonya as she squeezed him again. “I just wasn’t expecting this.”
“Don’t worry, Mike. It’s happened before,” said Shawn. “The last time was right after she threw a bra into Becca’s soup.”
“The little bitch had it coming,” said Tonya. “I’ll fill you in later.”
Shawn smiled at the memory. “It was an unforgettable moment. We also saved you a chicken leg and there’s plenty of other fixings, so go grab yourself a plate while Jacque and I pack our bags.”
“What’s going on?” asked Tonya.
“Jacque and I booked your room at the Westin Galleria after you cancelled it. She and I are going to enjoy a little quality time together before I leave. You and Mike will be safe from the public here.”
“I’ll only be here for thirty-six hours,” said Mike. “Then I have to leave for New York. I’m appearing on a New Year’s Eve special at Times Square.”
“I know you are,” said Tonya, “and Shawn and I have a gig in Beverly Hills.”
Shawn and Jacque excused themselves to pack their bags. Ten minutes later they were out the door.
“Are you okay?” asked Mike after they left
“I’m doing as well as can be expected. How ‘bout you?”
“The same.” He stopped and gave her a smug grin. “So what’s this about a bra throwing incident?”
Of all of my contemporary romance novels, The Reunion will always be my personal favorite. It’s a story of hope and second chances. As the story begins, Gillian, and her assistant, Rosemary, are on the way to a Denver art gallery. It’s Gillian’s opening night, but Rosemary can’t shake the feeling that something is about to go terribly wrong, in spite of Gillian’s reassurances.
Rosemary McGee had the next traffic light perfectly timed until a car from the other lane suddenly cut in front of her minivan. She slammed on the brakes, narrowly avoiding a collision as the light turned yellow. Keeping her foot on the brake pedal, she came to a stop as the signal turned red. Her knees were shaking as she looked at the woman sitting in the passenger seat.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she said.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“I sure hope that wasn’t a bad sign. It’s your opening night and I want everything to be perfect for you.”
“It’s not a bad sign, Rosemary,” she said, trying to reassure her. “These things happen, especially in rush-hour traffic. Don’t worry. We’re okay. We’ll get there in plenty of time, so try to relax. You’ve been on edge ever since we left the hotel. You’re about to give yourself an ulcer, and me a screaming headache to go along with it.”
“Sorry, Gillian. It’s not like I know my way around Denver, and these idiots on the road certainly don’t help.”
“Which is why we have a GPS device. Like I just said, everything is fine.”
They waited for the light to change. Once it turned green, the minivan lurched forward.
“You know,” said Gillian, “just before that happened, I was thinking about my father, and how convinced he was that I’d have no future whatsoever if I became an artist.”
“And when I first met you, I knew you were much too talented to be wasting your time laying out ads for weekly supermarket specials. You’ve come a long way, Gillian. I’m sure your father would have been proud of you.”
“I hope so.”
Gillian Matthews making a name for herself in the art world, and now she had a new gallery to add to her collection. All the risks she had taken to get herself where she wanted were finally paying off.
“Right turn ahead,” said the electronic voice.
“Thank you, Bill,” said both women in unison. Bill was the name they had given the GPS.
“It’s too bad you never got to meet my father, Rosemary. I’m sure you and he would have found one another, interesting.”
“I met your mother.”
“Only once or twice, and it was after she’d gotten so sick she really wasn’t herself anymore. Trust me, there was no way my parents were ever going to allow any daughter of theirs to become an artist. It was way too beneath them. I’ll always remember when Cynthia first went off to college. She was studying to be an elementary school teacher. As far as they were concerned, that was an appropriate career, and I was to follow in her footsteps.”
Rosemary sighed as she turned the minivan to the right at the next stoplight. “I don’t know why, Gillian, but for some strange reason I’ve had a bad feeling about tonight’s show. It started about the time we drove over Raton Pass and crossed the Colorado border.”
“I don’t know why you’d feel that way. It’s not like this is my first time having an opening. You brought all our paperwork, didn’t you?”
“It’s in my briefcase.”
“And we already know my paintings arrived safely. When did you last speak to the people at the gallery?”
“About an hour ago,” said Rosemary. “They said everything was just about ready to go.”
“Have you spoken to your family today?”
“Lou called this morning. He and the kids are managing just fine.”
“Then I’d say we have all our bases covered. You’ve probably just have a case of opening-night jitters, that’s all.”
“I hope you’re right,” said Rosemary, “but for some reason I just can’t shake this feeling.”
Bill announced that they had reached their destination, and the minivan turned into the gallery parking lot. Anthony Sorenson Fine Art resided in a large, single-story office building which had been converted into an art gallery. A catering truck was parked nearby. Its crew was busy unloading boxes and carrying them into the rear entrance.
“See, Oh Worried One, we have arrived. In one piece, and in plenty of time,” said Gillian with a grin.
Rosemary shut down the engine and the two women emerged. They stopped for a moment to smooth the wrinkles from their dresses before Rosemary grabbed her briefcase. Walking toward the front door, a passing car honked at them.
“You’ve still got it, girlfriend,” said Rosemary as she opened the door for Gillian. “I told you that yellow outfit would make you look hot.” Entering the art gallery, they came upon a reception area in the foyer. Beyond it, the building was divided into two sections. The main gallery was on the right, with the smaller changing exhibit gallery on the left, where final preparations were being made for Gillian’s opening. At the back was a hallway leading to the administrative offices.
Rosemary stepped up to the receptionist’s desk and introduced herself. A minute later Tony Sorenson, the gallery owner, entered from the hallway and greeted them, but he appeared to be a bit out of character. He looked uncomfortable in the stiff, three-piece suit he was wearing, and his thinning, curly gray hair appeared as though it had been hastily pulled back into a ponytail. Gillian guessed his typical work attire was probably a well-worn pair of blue jeans with a tie-dyed shirt. As they made their introductions, a harried-looking young man, whom Tony introduced as his assistant, Paul, quickly joined them.
“What we need to do now,” said Tony, “is take a little tour and make sure everything is absolutely correct.”
“Of course,” said Gillian. “Rosemary, do you have copies of our inventory sheets?”
“Right here,” she said as she retrieved them from her briefcase.
They stepped into the gallery and proceeded to go over every detail, inch by inch. Gillian’s favorite subject matter was architectural and outdoor scenes as well as the occasional still life. She worked mostly in acrylic and watercolor, and she was known for using big, bold, brightly colored shapes. Mounted next to each painting was a small descriptive paper plaque, but they discovered one plaque with a minor error. Paul ran back to his office, quickly printed out a corrected copy, and remounted it next to the painting. Once everything passed inspection, they went to Tony’s office to go over the last-minute details.
“Okay,” he said as he seated himself behind his desk. “We sent out the media releases two weeks ago. There was a mention of you, Gillian, along with a photo, in last Sunday’s paper, and, as I already told Rosemary over the phone, a reporter and photographer from The Denver Centennial, one of our weekly papers, will be coming here tonight. They’ll want to interview you and take a few photos, and they said they’d be here sometime between seven and seven-fifteen. Our friend, Paul, will position himself near the front door so he can watch for them, and he’ll let you and Rosemary know the minute they arrive. We don’t want to keep them waiting.”
“Understood,” said Rosemary. “I’ll keep an eye on the clock myself, so I’ll know when to watch for Paul.”
“Good,” said Tony, “then it sounds like we’ve covered our bases on that one. We’ve sent announcements to all of our regulars and we’ve had a good response. We’ve also updated our website and social media pages, so between that, and last Sunday’s paper, we hope to have good turn out from the general public as well. I have a feeling this will be a very good evening for all of us.”
Tony and Rosemary went over the rest of the last-minute details before the meeting broke up. Stepping back into the gallery, they walked past the caterers, who were almost finished setting up.
“See Rosemary, everything is fine,” said Gillian. “I expect tonight will go flawlessly. Tony and his staff are pros. You have nothing to worry about.”
“I know, Gillian, but I still have a feeling that something’s about to go terribly wrong.”
Tonya Claiborne is a young music student who plans on becoming a music teacher. Her well-to-do grandmother was helping her through college, but it all came to a sudden halt when her grandmother unexpectedly passed away. Determined to continue her education, new employment opportunity has come her way, but once Tonya accepts the offer her life will take another unexpected turn.
A preview of Aquamarine by Marina Martindale
Tonya Claiborne scanned the room as she finished her guitar solo. Her college jazz ensemble was performing at a Dallas church, and so far everything had gone smoothly. She glanced at the music director, who nodded his head in approval. As the other musicians resumed playing Tonya turned her attention back to the audience. The blonde woman sitting in the front pew gave her another smile. She had been watching Tonya intently for some time. It began while Tonya was singing, “The Girl from Ipanema.”
The audience members were mostly family and friends of the student musicians, along with jazz enthusiasts from the greater Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Tonya wondered if perhaps she had met this woman before. She appeared to be friends with the woman sitting next to her, and both appeared to be enjoying the concert. Tonya shrugged it off and refocused her attention on her music. As the chords faded, the audience once again burst into applause.
Their director returned to the microphone. Their next song would be the final one for the evening. As he stepped aside they began playing, “Caravan.” The mystery woman whispered something to her friend as she nodded toward Tonya and took another photo of her. Her actions made Tonya even more curious. Once the concert was over, she would have to find out who this woman was.
The audience rose to their feet and gave them a standing ovation as they finished. The music director thanked everyone for coming and motioned for the ensemble to stand and take a bow. As the crowd disbursed some headed for the exits while others approached the musicians. Tonya looked toward the back of the room. A young man stood from his seat in the last row and made his way towered the front of the church while the woman in the front pew, along with her friend, walked up to one of the trombone players. He greeted Tonya with a quick kiss a moment later.
“Good job,” he said.
“Oh, Evan, you always say that.”
“Hey, just because I’m your fiance-to-be it doesn’t mean I can’t be your biggest fan too.”
“I know, and I love you for it.” She nodded toward the two women, who were still talking to the trombone player.
“I’m wondering who the lady in the blue sweater might be.”
“Which one?” He stepped back to get a better look.
“The one with the shoulder length blonde hair. She kept her eye on me for some time and she acted like she knew me. We must have crossed paths somewhere, but I can’t recall when.”
“Maybe she’s sizing you up,” Evan said jokingly. “But don’t worry. I can handle her if she tries to make trouble.”
“Thanks, Evan. I know I can always count on you.”
As if on cue, the woman walked up to Tonya and extended her hand. “I wanted to stop by and introduce myself. My name is Melissa Atkins. I’m here tonight with a friend whose nephew is also in the band.”
“Nice to meet you”
“Likewise, and at the risk of sounding too forward, I’m also with the Angela Carson Modeling Agency. The reason I was watching you so closely is because you have the perfect look to be a model. You’re tall and thin and your hair is gorgeous. I snapped a few photos of you with my phone, and you’re certainly photogenic. So, have you ever thought about modeling?”
Tonya brushed a strand of her long, dark hair away from her face. “Well, I’m certainly flattered, but to be honest, I’ve never really thought about it. I’m more focused on my music.”
“I see.” Melissa looked disappointed as she handed Tonya one of her business cards. “Well, you’re certainly a talented musician, and you’re going to a top-notch school, but we do a lot of print modeling here in Dallas, and it pays really well. If you think this is something you might be interested in doing to help with school, then please give me a call.”
The other day I read an article about the classic John Steinbeck novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Along with a synopsis of the story, it went on to describe the various symbolic meanings throughout about the book. Some authors like to use fiction as a metaphor, and there were certainly political undertones in Steinbeck’s work. However, not all fiction writers do this. What I find amusing, however, is when people think there is a hidden meaning in a story when, in fact, there isn’t.
Sometimes blue simply means blue
I recall a meme on social media poking fun at how people assume authors always include hidden meanings in their work. It talked about an author mentioning blue curtains because blue symbolized blah, blah, blah. The punchline, however, was that the author simply liked blue. There was no hidden meaning.
I don’t include a lot of symbolism in my work. My genre, contemporary romance, is pretty straightforward. Boy meets girl. They fall in love, but they have obstacles to overcome before they can get to happily ever after. However, there are no political undertones or hidden messages in my stories. My sole purpose is to entertain the reader. That said, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a little fun from time to time.
Okay, maybe just a little, but not too often
In The Deception, Scott is a married man who presents himself as a single man to unsuspecting single women. Early in the story he takes Carrie out for a drive, so I made his car a Chevy. No hidden meaning there. Chevrolet is a popular make of car. But then, just for laughs, I described it as being bright red, to represent Scott’s infidelity. Yes, it was a veiled reference to The Scarlet Letter, and yes, it was a little corny. Sometimes I can’t resist having a little fun.
On a more serious note, those who know me in real life know I’m a very spiritual person. I also happen to know people who’ve had what they believe to be angelic encounters. My father was one of them. So, in two of my novels, a character has what some might interpret as an angelic encounter. The reason I’m emphasizing the word might is because not everyone believes in a higher power. Therefore, I wrote those scenes in such a way that readers could also interpret them as a character interacting with a compassionate stranger. I’ve left it to the readers to decide for themselves. The above mentioned is all the symbolism I’ve used so far. I guess I’m more of a what you see is what you get kind of storyteller.
We’re all unique individuals. No two people see the same thing the exact same way. It’s all subject to our own life’s experiences. However, before jumping to conclusions about hidden meanings in a story, particularly if it’s something negative, remember what I said before. Maybe the author brought up the blue curtains simply because it’s the author’s favorite color.
I began writing contemporary romance novels out of a desire to write books I would enjoy reading. I wasn’t concerned about how many books I would sell. My goal wasn’t to become rich and famous. (Not that I would mind becoming rich and famous.) I simply wanted to write stories that I could lose myself in. For me, it’s about the joy of storytelling. I write out of my own love of reading. I also thought if I wrote books I would enjoy reading, others would enjoy reading them too. It turns out, I was right. I’m getting some wonderful feedback from my readers. It happy to know that people are enjoying my books.
How it all began
I consider myself lucky. I grew up in a house full of readers. Both of my parents enjoyed reading. Dinner table conversations were oftentimes about the books they were currently reading. They liked spy novels. They read the entire Ian Fleming James Bond series, but they also read mainstream fiction.
I loved horses when I was a kid. I must have read the entire black stallion series. Marguerite Henry, however, was my favorite author. I read Brighty of the Grand Canyonfrom cover to cover many times over. I also loved her Mistyseries. Beverly Cleary was another favorite. Beezus and Ramona are timeless.
As I became an adult
I took English lit courses throughout high school. This introduced me to many different genres. Of course, some were more interesting than others. Oftentimes, however, my biggest challenge was putting the book down. Sometimes I wanted to keep going to the end, but I couldn’t get too far ahead of the rest of class.
As an adult, if you’ll pardon the pun, I fell in love with the romance genre. Like my parents, I also enjoyed mainstream fiction. So, from time to time, I borrowed one of their favorite novels. Like Jaws. Great read. I think this is why my romance novels are somewhat similar to mainstream fiction. Authors such as Arthur Hailey and Peter Benchley most certainly have influenced my writing.