Today’s guest is historical romance author Allison Merritt. Our feature is her new novel The Wrong Brother’s Bride.
A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she's not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.
Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that's gathering dust after it was determined that she's better at writing fluff than hard news.
Welcome, Allison. Please tell us about your current release.
The Wrong Brother's Bride is about a man and a woman who always believed they were too different to be a couple. August O'Dell's brother fell in love with Loyal Redfearn when they were children and vowed to marry her. It wasn't until sometime later that August himself developed feelings for Loyal, but his drunken and often absentee father influenced his life for the worse and eventually August realized if he was ever going to make something out of himself, he had to leave Wilson township. Years later, he receives a letter from Loyal, stating his brother died in a farming accident and if he can come, Loyal needs his help running the farm. No matter where he went or how he tried to move on, he never forgot her, so he doesn't hesitate to go to her. When he arrives, she drops a bombshell on him—they weren't married yet, but she's carrying his brother's baby. He proposes to help her save face and she reluctantly agrees. Years away from Wilson township has changed August for the better and he only hopes he can prove to Loyal that he's a better man than the boy who left. Just when he's won her love, an incident from the past comes back to haunt him and it might destroy everything he's worked for since returning.
What inspired you to write this book?
The Wilson's Creek area in southwestern Missouri is near my home. Wilson's Creek National Battlefield has long been a fascinating place for me. It was the first major battle of the Civil War across the Mississippi River and it interrupted the lives of many families living in the area. One of the original houses stands on the property and it was the inspiration for the house where my hero and heroine get married and make their family. I love visiting the house and thinking about what life would have been like in the 19th century (hot and hard mostly). The setting had been in my mind for a while, and I found the perfect characters to fit into a story there. They're both wounded by the past, but they'll find happiness in being together.
She hugged Jeremiah’s pillow, breathing his lingering scent. The aching wound left by his loss gaped wide.
In the kitchen, she heard a floorboard squeak. Loyal choked back another sob, holding her breath as she waited for August to return to his room or come to hers. The curtains fell against the window as the breeze died.
August’s soft call made her tense. She could ignore him, pretend she hadn’t heard, but too many nights she’d been alone. Grief brought with it some puzzling emotions. It had been a relief when their friends left her alone at the farm after the funeral. And so lonely she thought she’d go mad if she didn’t hear another human voice. Trying to sort through what she felt now made her long for the sleep she’d missed the last week.
“I know you’re awake. I heard you crying.”
She sniffed, wiping her eyes with the back of her hands. “I thought you were asleep. I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No. May I come in?” His voice was muffled through the door. “I’d like a word with you.”
“Just a moment.” One of Jeremiah’s flannel shirts draped across the foot of the bed where she’d left it this morning. She drew it over her shoulders and slipped her arms through the sleeves, pulling the loose ends around herself. Striking a match, she lit the lamp on the bedside table. “Come in.”
The door opened and August filled the frame. In the lamplight, his eyes seemed bluer than she remembered, like the sky after rain. Both O’Dell brothers had gotten their looks from their father, but August stood straighter than his old man ever had. His wide shoulders strained against his tan shirt. He scratched the scruff shadowing his jaw.
“I can’t sleep.”
She frowned. There must be something she could do to make him more comfortable. “Is it the bed? Do you need different blankets? Or maybe it’s because you didn’t eat.”
He shook his head. “Wandering mind. It’s partly because we got off on a bad foot. It isn’t easy to admit I’m wrong. I shouldn’t have acted like you don’t belong here. Seeing you brought back memories about the way your daddy treated us. And how Jeremiah stopped having time for me when he met you.”
August swallowed. His Adam’s apple jumped in his throat. “Even if you don’t think marriage is right, there’s a place for you here. I’d like to help raise your son or daughter the way he would have wanted. That’s all.”
Loyal couldn’t speak. Surely the world was ending if August was apologizing for his actions. His father had never admitted his wrongs in his life. Her worry that August would follow his father’s path faded.
“That’s all,” he repeated and backed into the hall.
“Wait.” She swung her feet to the floor and padded across the room, craning her neck to look at him.
“Thank you, August.”
“I heard you crying and I thought…”
He must have been sitting in the kitchen before he knocked on her door. She waved her hand, dismissing his reasoning. “I wasn’t crying because of you. Lately I can’t help it.”
He seemed a little more at ease, though he would probably grow sick of her tears before a week had passed. She had.
She reached out, slipping her hands beneath his arms. He didn’t move for a moment, even when she clasped her hands behind his back. Her cheek pressed against the soft material of his shirt and she closed her eyes. August wrapped his strong arms around her shoulders, and his breath stirred her hair.
She clung to him as though she was a leaf and he was the root, an anchor in the storm.
For a moment, everything was alright. She had the farm, a child growing beneath her heart, and a strong partner to care for her. She stepped back, knowing what she had to do now.
August’s arms fell at his sides. His face changed and she was sure she saw the briefest flash of disappointment.
“Good night, Loyal.”
A knot formed in her throat. Jeremiah was gone, but his brother was offering to take his place. She inhaled, catching a faint whiff of leather that clung after his long ride and a scent that was all his own.
He stood unmoving, watching her with a bemused gaze.
“August, I’ll marry you. For the baby. As long as we’re clear that Jeremiah is the father and we’re just friends.” Her throat scratched as she forced the words out.
“In name only.” His face was guarded.
“Alright. Is your daddy—”
She dug her fingernails into her palm. “He won’t perform the ceremony, much less come.”
He nodded. “I’ll ask someone else.” For a moment he was quiet. “It’ll be alright, Loyal. I’m here.”
When he turned, she didn’t stop him. Tears rolled down her face. He couldn’t know Jeremiah had said almost the same words when she told him she was pregnant.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm currently working on two books. One is a contemporary western romance that takes places in Oklahoma and focuses around a makeup artist and a cowboy who is the star of a reality show kind of like The Bachelor. Of course, he falls in love with the makeup artist instead of the girls he's supposed to be wooing. The other is a historical romance that's also set in the Wilson's Creek area about a woman who finds a ticket and boards a train to Springfield, Missouri. She pretends to be the hero's proxy bride after a tragedy strikes.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I made up a lot of stories when I was young, but think it really struck me that I wanted to write and keep writing in junior high school. I have a slew of really bad writings from back then. I stopped writing for about 5 years after my dad died and it wasn't until late 2008 that I decided to get back on the writing pony. I started writing romances in a couple of different genres and haven't looked back.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I wish I could call myself a full-time writer. I have a day job that eats up 8 and ½ hours Monday through Friday, but it's in a cozy office, heat in winter, air in the summer, so I can't complain too much. I've never been a morning person, so I usually writing in the evenings after work or on weekends. I try to get 1,000 words minimum per day and often go over, but sometimes I just can't hit the mark.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I always said I was never a plotter, always a pantser, but the more I look back on what happens when I finish a first draft, the more I think I'm just a really detailed plotter who has to write a 60,000 word plot first.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A ballerina, a doctor, an oil baron, a ranch owner, a jockey, a paleontologist, and a writer.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I'm really happy to announce that a follow-up book to The Wrong Brother's Bride will be coming out next year. I just signed the contract at the end of March, and I'm excited to say that Loyal and August make a little appearance in it as well.
Oooh, congrats! Thanks for being here today, too!