Ella Boudreaux has a lot to prove to her family, friends, and foes—and to herself. So when her marriage ends she decides to invest her energy and money into a place that brings back some of Ella’s happiest memories: the Abbott brothers’ garage. Maybe, if she puts her mind to it, she can teach skeptical, stubborn Mack Abbott how to make the business a true success. Which would be a lot easier if the hunky mechanic didn’t make her motor run quite so fast…and hot.
Mack was furious when his brother, Ford, sold his share of the business. He’s in no rush to team up with a wealthy divorcĂ©e who shows up to the garage in stilettos—and the longest, sexiest legs he’s seen in forever. But Ella’s grit and determination won’t quit…and soon Mack can see that she’s been down a few rough roads herself. Neither Mack nor Ella can deny the fierce attraction that’s revving up between them. Could it be that true love has been in the back seat all along…and they’ve finally found the key?

“How the—” Mack caught the curse in his hand. “You’re not a mechanic, Ms. Boudreaux.”
“Call me Ella.” At his stony stare, she shrugged and continued. “You don’t need another mechanic. You have plenty of mechanics. What you need is someone to market you.”
“And you know enough about cars to do that?” His skepticism hit her like a kid pulling her pigtails behind the monkey bars. Annoying.
She shouldn’t rise to the bait. Unfortunately, her mouth was less mature than her mind, and she reeled off facts her brother had recited with pride.
“That Datsun 240Z you were under? It’s a seventy-three with a 2.4-liter straight-six and side-draft carburetors. It can hit sixty in 8.2 seconds with 151 horsepower. Top speed is a hundred twenty-five miles per hour. Not that anyone should be driving that fast on parish roads.”
He looked . . . stunned. She confined herself to a small self-satisfied smile. She had a feeling nothing much surprised Mack Abbott, or if it did, he made sure the world didn’t realize it.
“How did you . . . How do you know all that?”
“That’s not important. What is important is that I can help you.”
“We don’t need help.” He shook his head and re-chinked the breaks in his wall of grump.

Cottonbloom. A beautiful, faraway place where a woman can escape her past—and find reason to stay forever. . .
Willa Brown never planned to stay in Cottonbloom. She was on the way to somewhere else when she landed there and found work at the Abbot brothers’ garage. . .and a sense of comfort and safety that she had never known. The same holds true for Jackson Abbott himself. With one glance in her direction, he can make Willa’s heart melt. But what begins as an unrequited crush turns into something far more powerful than Willa could have ever imagined. . .

Jackson’s most meaningful relationship has always been with his car—and he’s not afraid to admit it. Still, he can’t help but become emotionally entangled with his new star mechanic Willa, who is definitely hiding some dark secrets of her own beneath the hood. Jackson desperately wants Willa to trust him, and to seek protection in his arms. But even as the two slowly surrender to their shared attraction, the danger lurking in Willa’s past remains a stubborn obstacle. Can she open up enough to give them both a chance at having real and lasting love?

“I’ll have a pork plate and sweet tea to go.” Willa did a mental calculation for tax and pulled out two fives. More than she should spend, but her stomach vetoed any protest.
Now not only was she saving to fix her car, but she needed a cushion. If she had to move, money was a necessity. Any decent place required a deposit for rent. Not to mention utilities. And how long would it take her to find another job that didn’t require her Social Security number or real name? The thought made her stomach hurt from something other than hunger.
“Make that two for here, Rufus, and I’m buying.”
Willa spun around. Jackson Abbott’s chest filled her vision. The animallike noises her stomach was making must have drowned out his approach.
“Sure thing, Jackson.” Rufus favored them with a grin and turned to dole out barbeque, baked beans, and slaw.
She tucked her hair behind her ear, feeling intensely vulnerable without her steel-toed work boots, coveralls, and ball cap. Her flip-flops, worn-out jeans with a rip at one knee, and a black T-shirt with the emblem of a band she’d never listened to were from the thrift shop down the street.
“You don’t have to pay.” When she found her voice, it was breathy.
“I want to.” His words were low and rumbly and sexy, and she resisted the urge to lay her cheek against his chest, desperate to have someone, anyone, to lean on, even for a moment. Obviously, hunger was impeding her mental faculties.
In the two years, she’d lived in Cottonbloom, she’d never run into Jackson outside of the garage. Her forays to secretly watch him race didn’t count since he’d never noticed her. The only place she was a regular was at the library because it offered free Internet and entertainment—two things she couldn’t afford to waste money on.
Her mental faculties slipped further away as she allowed her gaze to wander over his shoulders before rising. He’d showered, his damp hair darker than its usual rich brown, but hadn’t shaved, his stubble even more pronounced from the afternoon. The scent of soap and clean laundry was mouthwatering in a different way than the barbeque was. The butterflies in her stomach did a slow bump and grind. God, she was hungry for so many things.

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel-toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small-town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, won the Stiletto Contest for Best Long Contemporary and finaled in the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and was a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. LEAVE THE NIGHT ON, the latest Cottonbloom book was named an iBooks Best Book of the Month and a Recommended Read from NPR.
When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she's shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.
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Rad-Reader:  How did you pick Minnesota to be the location of the Story?

Lauren: My primary career is as a classical music radio DJ and when I was in my late twenties, I had the chance to work for a nationally syndicated service called Classical24—which happened to be based in St. Paul, MN. Even though I’d lived all over the east coast, I knew the Midwest was a whole other world, so I was pretty scared when I got there. But the Minnesotans welcomed me with open arms and helped me weather (pun totally intended) my first winters, buying and maintaining my first house and my ongoing struggle with depression. I had friends almost immediately and was totally enamored of the quirky, cool community around me. The polka mass at the local Catholic church, the obsession with hot-dish, and the state fair—where everything is on a stick and Princess Kay of the Milky Way reigns supreme were some of my favorites. Honestly, had I not met my husband and moved back to New York, I’d probably still be there now! 

Rad-Reader:  Was it always your intention with this book to do it about a sister and then two brothers?

Lauren: Yes. We first see Jameson in book one, Blame it on the Bet and it’s clear that her marriage to Win is in trouble. Knowing that her book would be next, I was already concocting scenarios for her to find love after divorce and by having someone who’s been away for so long, I was able to use him to reintroduce the readers —who may or may not have read Blame it on the Bet—to the whacky town of Mayhem and its quirky residents. Plus, I knew it would make Win craaaazy! And that’s always a bonus :^)

Rad-Reader:  Was it always your idea to have different issues like stroke, adoption, working in foreign countries a part of the story or it just came as the story flowed?

Lauren:   It all came as the story unraveled under my fingers. My characters often tell me what their stories are, believe it or not! I start off with a very basic idea of who they are and then the events just kind of unfold.  

Rad-Reader:  Being adopted, the part of the search brought back memories of mine, was that something you researched or did you know someone who went through that?

Lauren:  I have two uncles who were adopted—the youngest of whom is two years younger than me. He and I grew up more like brother and sister and we’re still very, very close today. And, while I didn’t purposely set out to write a story about adoption, it was easy to paint that kind of attitude that we were raised with—family is family is family, blood or not. In the case of my elder uncle, my grandparents had to fight for him when, mid-adoption, a “white” family was interested in taking him (my grandparents are Latino). Those were totally different times—even though it was just in 1961—and it was a battle but they never backed down. So this idea that Big Win and Marjorie would do whatever they had to do to adopt that child and keep him—and his identity—safe wasn’t foreign to me.

Rad-Reader:  Was the county fair always part of your original story?

Lauren:  Ohhhhhh yeah… I’ve never seen anything like the Minnesota State Fair. The food is all deep-fried and on a stick, the rides are amazing, there are people walking around in bee costumes for the honey judging. And, of course, there’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her royal court— the inspiration for my Princess Mary of Midwestern Dairy. They really do make a butter bust of her! How could I NOT include that?! Although, I have to admit that the float catastrophe was all mine. 

Rad-Reader:  Do you have a process that you come up with when you are choosing names and personalities of your characters?

Lauren:  I’ve run through most of the guy names I like so I sometimes use a name generator for help with that. I’ve got a ton of girl names, though. Sometimes I consult a baby names book. The personalities just kind of unfold as I write. I had a good idea of who Jameson, Win and Big Win were based on Blame it on the Bet. Scott was a mystery to me—I had to figure out what it was about him that kept him coming home and confronting his past for a full decade. Oh, and then there’s little Jackson…God help us all. He was the most fun of all! I’m at a loss for what I’ll do with him as he gets older in the upcoming books!

Rad-Reader:  The scene that had Jameson painting one of the guy's toenails – reminded me of something my daughter would do when she was younger.  Do you use daily events sometimes as your inspirations?

Lauren:  Oh, sure, all the time! The character of Bryan, Hennessy’s boyfriend, is basically me when I first moved to Minnesota. I was the fish out of water—especially when it came to things like winter preparedness and regional foods like lutefisk (yuck!) and cheese curds (yum!). But more than events it’s people I know who inspire my characters. Janet Lahti, the pie-making mystic is actually an aunt of mine. She’s a bit of a psychic and has had some really spooky occurrences over the years. Julie Freddino, aka The Knitty Kitty, is a girlfriend of mine who took up knitting and gave me a pussyhat last year. It gave me the idea for her business and she picked out her own purple hair.

Rad-Reader:  Did you always have big Win getting sick at the beginning in your draft?

Lauren:  Oh, yeah. In the absence of the late “Pops” O’Halloran, Big Win is the paternal figure here. So when his life is in serious jeopardy, it’s a crisis that sucks them all in—the sisters, Win Jr, Scott—even Jackson is affected by the fall of his “goppa.” So it’s a good thread to bring them all together in shared fear and stress and grief. And with his life on the line, it was an opportunity for me to explore the kind of man he’d been when he was younger—when Scott and Win came along. It was also a chance to really see his incredible strength and the love that comes with that.

Rad-Reader:  Was that scene considered the hook to the story?

Lauren:  Well, it was the hook to the "book"—which is a different thing. I’d say that the “prodigal son” angle was the hook of the "story"—Scott returning home to face his past. But I’m big on starting things right smack in the middle so that the reader is immediately thrown into the deep end. And that image of Big Win on the floor with Jameson giving him CPR and little Jackson wailing in the background—well, it doesn’t get a whole lot more high-stakes than that.

Rad-Reader:  When you began to write this book did you know it was going to be a romance and a mystery?

Lauren:  Bringing Scott home was easy—his father’s health crisis put him in an impossible position. He had to come back. But that begs the question—if he’s such a great guy, why did he leave in the first place? So, yeah, it was kind of a mystery for me as well while I sorted out what kind of demons might make someone run away from their family—from their life—for a decade.

Rad-Reader:  When do you know that the time in the story calls for humor, like the float scene at the fair?

Lauren:  Honestly, I didn’t even know I was funny until the reviews came in for book number one—Blame it on the Bet. So it was pretty scary approaching Mischief and Mayhem thinking I HAD to be funny. But I found my way. There were a couple of early drafts that were just way too dark and my editor helped me find my way back to a more lighthearted, funnier place—like Princess Mary showing up at the pub and the iguana on the plane. Of course, there’s always going to be something around the Knitty Kitty. But, yeah, that float scene—it was totally organic and it STILL cracks me up! 

Rad-Reader:  Do you use an outline when you write or do you just start writing?

Lauren:  I have a very vague idea of where I want to start and where I want to end. Then I kind of work my way toward the middle. But all along different plot points occur to me and I start to assemble a roadmap as I go.

Rad-Reader:  Do you get to pick your own boos to write or are you under contract and are told what you need to write?

Lauren:  I write what I want, pretty much. That being said, I often focus on what my publisher is looking for— like when Entangled was looking for more “sweet” romance, I came up with the Whiskey Sisters. But I write plenty of things just because I want to.

Rad-Reader:  Was there anything special you did for yourself with your first royalty check?

Lauren:  I bought my husband dinner at the diner. He had to kick in for the tip ‘cause it was a pretty small check!

Rad-Reader:  If your book was made into a movie who would you have play…

Win Jr.:  Alex Pettyfer

Lauren:  Yikes! I was SO not prepared for this one…uh…okay, let’s see…

Jameson: Rose Leslie

Scott: Theo James

Win Jr. : ... I’m with you on this one, Alex Pettyfer

Win Sr. : ...and this one, too: Treat Williams

Rad-Reader:  What song or songs best describes your couple or book as a whole?

“In Case You Didn’t Know – Brett Young”

Lauren:  “Make You Feel My Love – Adele”

Rad-Reader:  Where do you do your best writing?  Where everything just seems to flow for you?

Lauren:  Interestingly enough, at Panera. It’s been that way for years. I used to drop off my mom for dialysis and then go wait in the Panera across the street. I had some of my best ideas there and it’s where I go when I’m stuck. I’m also a big fan of my local Dunkin Donuts.
Rad-Reader:  My wife-Char likes writing there too.

Rad-Reader:  What do you use to do your writing?  Pen, Pencil, Computer, Typewriter?

Lauren:  Pretty much always my laptop—mainly because I can take it anywhere. I love to hang with writer friends and just kind of be in their “orbit” as we work on our own projects, but in the same space. I do keep a notebook and pen with me all the time, too, because I’m a big brainstormer. If I’m stuck for an idea, I work it out on paper with a word cloud or doodles or free-association. It looks like a bunch of nonsense when I’m done, but it definitely jump-starts the mind!

Rad-Reader:  What are three things you can’t leave home without?

Lauren:  My phone. My laptop. My notebook and pen. The first just so I can stay connected…and the other two because I like to grab any and every opportunity to write… waiting in a doctor’s office, at the coffee shop, in a parking lot with some time to kill.

Rad-Reader:  What is your favorite type of food?

Lauren:  Breakfast food, no question! I could eat eggs, waffles and especially French toast any time—day or night. In fact, I try to work it into my books wherever I can!
Rad-Reader: Char likes French Toast too.  Anytime!  ; )

Rad-Reader:  What is your next project and when is due out?

Lauren:  The Whiskey Sisters series continues with a wedding novella—tentatively titled Christmas Chaos, due out in time for the holidays, followed by a baby novella—tentatively titled Baby Bedlam. 2019 will also see books for the remaining two sisters, Walker and Bailey.

I’ve also got a couple of non-Whiskey-related novels in the pipeline!

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers buy your books?  Links

Rad-Reader:  Where can our readers find you on the Web?  Links


Twitter: @TheLaurenRico

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions as well as time away from your current writing.  We know how hard it can be for all our writers.  Come back when your next book comes out and let us know.  As my wife always says you are now a 1 Rad-Reader Misfit and are welcome to use our Shout-Out: An Author's Place page to let our readers know too.


COMING FRIDAY 7 PM PST. LAURA TRENTHAM AUTHOR OF: Ella Boudreaux has a lot to prove to her family, friends, and fo...