My guest today is H.C. Bentley and we’re chatting about her debut contemporary romance novel, Her Last Love (Book 1 of the Small Town Hearts Trilogy). Chapter 1 can be read here for free!
H.C. Bentley is a veteran of the U.S. Army, as well as a part-time professional photographer. Her life is filled with books -- she is not only a writer and an avid reader, but she is also surrounded by books in her job at her local library. She is currently working on her second novel, and resides in Kentucky with her husband and two daughters.
Please tell us about your current release.
Her Last Love is a book about second chances, friendship, and following your heart. Lieutenant Lynn Johnston returns to her small Kentucky hometown with a secret to keep and a desire to find peace. She discovers Carter Mathis, her ex-fiancée, is also living there, along with his two sons and a soon-to-be ex-wife who hates Lynn. Lynn has to decide whether or not she wants to overcome obstacles in order to follow her heart and get the life she's always wanted, or if she has to walk away once and for all.
What inspired you to write this book?
The idea for this story brewed in the back of my mind for about a year before I ever picked up a pen to write it. Having been away from everything I knew when I was stationed overseas, I understood the longing and angst of being away from the person you love. There are also the lifelong friendships, such as Lynn has with Bethany and Kari. Her Last Love comes from all of that.
An excerpt from Her Last Love:
It had been much too long since Lynn had enjoyed a girl's night with her two closest friends. She realized how much she was looking forward to it as she approached the front door to Kari's cute little house. Lynn took a deep breath, she gripped the bottle of promised wine in one hand and rang the doorbell with the other, preparing to surprise one of her oldest and dearest friends with the news of her homecoming. The door opened slightly, and Kari peered through the narrow crack.
"Oh, good, it's you." Kari hissed as she reached out and grabbed Lynn by the arm to pull her into the house.
"Were you expecting someone else?" Lynn laughed quietly as she closed the door behind her.
"No, no. I'm just so excited to see the expression on Bethany's face when she sees you!" Kari turned to Lynn and smiled. "We're in the kitchen. Give me a ten second head start before you come in?"
Lynn smiled, nodded as she watched Kari make her way through to the kitchen. She heard Bethany ask who was at the door as Kari came back into the room.
It took all Lynn had to keep from laughing out loud as she made her way to join them. When she reached the doorway, she took a second to study them, these two women who had been more like sisters than friends. Kari, the bubbly blonde, stirred something in a pot on the stove. And Bethany, the sweet brunette, sitting at the breakfast bar, leafing through a magazine while she chatted with Kari.
"Got room for one more?" Lynn asked, holding up the bottle of wine. Bethany looked up from flipping the pages, tears welling up in her eyes and a look of stunned disbelief on her face. "Oh, my God! When did you get here?!?" She hopped off the stool, rushing to wrap her in a hug.
"Yesterday," she replied, squeezing her friend. "Been getting settled in at Mom and Dad's or I would have met up with you sooner."
"Doesn't matter." She sniffed, pulling back to look at Lynn. "You're here now, so that's what counts." She whirled around, pointed an accusing finger at Kari.
"You!" She scolded, walking towards the stove. "You knew she was here and said nothing??"
"Yes, and yes." Kari looked at Bethany, before glancing over at Lynn. "To be fair, I just found out this morning, but I thought it would be fun to surprise you. And it was. Besides, you're happy she's here, I'm happy she's here, and she's happy she's here, so you can't be mad."
"You're right." Bethany sighed. "I hate when that happens." She did a little dance in place before going to Lynn, putting her hands on her hips.
"How long are you here for this time, missy? A week, maybe two? I hope your leave isn't too short because the girls would love to see you."
"Well, here's the thing." Lynn exchanged glances with Kari as she walked over to set the bottle of wine on the bar. "My leave doesn't end. I'm home for good." She turned and faced Bethany, who pointed the finger her way this time.
"Don't you tease me. Don't you dare tease me!" She shook her finger. "Are you really? Truly?"
"Really and truly. It’s gonna be hard getting rid of me now."
"Oh, yay!" Bethany bounced before hugging Lynn again. "I'm so glad! Those goodbyes when you had to go back always sucked."
"Yep, major suckage." Lynn laughed as Bethany pulled away again. She peeled off her jacket, hung it on the back of one of the bar stools and rolled up her sleeves.
"So, what can I do? Chop something? Get out dishes? Put me to work."
"Nope." Kari shook her head. "Tonight we're celebrating your homecoming. The only thing I want you to do is open that bottle of wine and pour us a round. Corkscrew is in the silverware drawer, and the glasses are up there," she said, pointing to a cabinet by the sink.
"I can handle that." With deft hands, Lynn pulled the cork from the bottle, gathered and poured three glasses of the cool, clear liquid.
"I'd like to make a toast." She handed out the wine, raised her glass. "Here's to two of the best friends a girl could want. I couldn't ask for a better welcome home."
What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm actually in the editor/beta portion of the second book of the trilogy, When Love Comes Home, which is scheduled for release in November. I've been working on it pretty much non-stop since before Her Last Love released, so I'm welcoming the break!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when I was in middle school. I'd entered several short stories in a national contest and won, meaning my work was published in the contest's magazine. I think my parents still have multiple copies of those somewhere...lol
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?
No, as much as I'd love to write full-time, I don't. I work full-time as the cataloging librarian at my local library, where I also lead our book club. Plus, I play chauffeur and personal assistant to my two teenagers. lol Typically, I'll write for an hour or so at night after the kids have gone to bed. I also take advantage of my lunch breaks and down time at work, and my one weekday off (especially when the kids are in school).
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I only get to pick one? lol Let's see...I rarely write in chronological order. If I had to, I doubt I would get very much done! I tend to bounce around to the scenes or chapters that are pulling at me the hardest, then when everything's down in writing, I go back to make sure they flow together and make any necessary adjustments.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I decided pretty early on that I wanted to writer in some way, shape, form or fashion. I remember the summer before high school, sitting down with my mother and mapping out all the classes I would need to help me be a journalism major in college. I went into the Army with the express purpose of going into the journalism field, but there were no positions available. After that, I set writing aside and didn't pick it back up until a couple years ago.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I love hearing from people and getting to know readers. I encourage them to follow me on social media (where I probably spend entirely too much time, but that's beside the point. lol). Instagram and Facebook are the best places to find me to say hello!