"Enticed" and the series it belongs to are based on a standalone book I wrote in 1995. This was a life-changing year for me in a lot of ways. Much of the early 1990s had been tumultuous and chaotic, and probably the very reason I tend to write angst the way that I do. Those were dark days back then as I dealt with everything from homelessness to domestic abuse and marital infidelity. I understood what it was like to love two very different men at the same time, while juggling the responsibility and challenges of being a young mother. I was navigating life selfish and flawed and weak and confused and battered, but also determined, tenacious and relentless in my desire to make things better for everyone, including myself, but especially my kids.
So I was wounded and battle fatigued going into 1995, but that January would rock my world in ways I never saw coming. Which was surprising, because by the age of 25, my world had been rocked A LOT. I thought I had experienced every conceivable trauma known to man, but Fate - bitch that she can be - had yet another surprise up her sleeve. I would go from the highest high to the lowest low in less than ten days' time, right in the dawn of the new year.
I gave birth to my youngest son, Brandon Joel Rutherford, on January 6, 1995. He was a robust nine pounds and eleven ounces, with a sweet disposition that made me fall immediately in love the minute I laid eyes on him.
He was my calm in the storm, and I desperately needed one at the time. I will spare you most of the dirty details, but suffice it to say I ended up having to move to L.A. to live with my mom in order to take care of my kids (and myself) while my husband stayed behind in Texas to take care of some serious legal matters. I thought that I had hit rock bottom when I was forced to pack whatever I could fit into my 1977 Buick and travel across three states eight months pregnant with two young children in tow.
Like most of my young adulthood, I was simply struggling to keep my head above water, bouncing from wave to wave at the mercy of my circumstances. That most of them were my fault didn't help matters at all, and this particular period of my life rendered me my most helpless.
We were still trying to work things out when Brandon was born more than a week past his December due date. And even though I didn't have a pot to piss in or much of a window to throw it out of, this angelic creature brought joy and hope back into my life for nine remarkable days.
I didn't know it at the time, but nine days was all I was destined to have with my son. Brandon had been born with a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which went undetected until I found him early January 15, 1995, lifeless and purple, where he had lay napping on his grandma's bed.
He died two days before his first pediatrician's appointment, one that might have uncovered his heart defect and possibly saved his life.
I was destroyed. All the drama that had driven my life before that moment seemed trivial and meaningless in a world where I couldn't watch my baby boy grow into a man. If it weren't for my other two kids who needed me just as much, I might have slipped away with him. God knows I wanted to. Life had broken its unspoken promise to me, betraying me in the cruelest way possible. And I knew that the moment I left a piece of my heart in a Los Angeles cemetery.
Since I couldn't give in, I did what I always did when life knocked me to my knees. I struggled to my feet and kept swinging away, fighting even harder to save the only thing worth saving...my family.
For my own sanity, I found myself lost once again in my writing. This was a pretty big deal because I hadn't written for many years prior to Brandon's passing. Around 1991 I sent my first manuscript in to an agent, thinking that my lifelong dream of being a published writer was finally destined to realize. All those dreams dashed when she sent the manuscript back, every single page dripping with red ink, with a "thanks but no thanks" that stripped me of any self-confidence that I had the goods to cut it as a professional writer.
But I wasn't writing for anyone but myself in those dark days and sleepless nights following Brandon's death. I entertained no illusions of grandeur. I wrote for no other reason that I might have gone crazy if I didn't. I felt literally haunted by the demons that drove me, and ended up writing two books that year as a major source of self-reflection and therapy... and comfort. That's what writing is to me. I can face any challenge, rise above any obstacle, take any situation and make it fit the way it makes most sense in my brain at the time. Fiction I could control offered me a blessed escape in that bleak dark period of my life, where I could also slay these dragons that crouched hidden in the shadows of my crushing grief. I could face every monster, whether fear or regret or even anger, with a cast of characters whom I loved to walk beside me every step of the way.
One of those books was titled "Entangled," a contemporary romance full of drama and plot turned up for effect, so that my reality didn't seem to suck so bad.
This became the skeleton of this new series I have revisited and rewritten for publication at last.
I bled onto the page as I worked through these overwhelming feelings of loss, betrayal, confusion, yearning, and the ceaseless will to fight on for nothing more than the lives of my children. I resurrected Brandon in the character of Jonathan Fullerton, and then allowed my heroine, Rachel, to give him all the love and support, friendship, guidance and devotion that I couldn't give my baby boy.
It is, at the end of the day, the heart of this love story.
Several readers have sent me messages, telling me that ultimately they are rooting for this young boy's Happily Ever After most of all. This touches me more than I can ever say. I was sure readers would be torn between #TeamDrew and #TeamAlex. It never occurred to me that there would be a #TeamJonathan, which shows love and support for my angel who inspired him.
Needless to say this time of year can be extraordinarily difficult to navigate. There is no loneliness I've known that can match losing my child, because there is perhaps no greater intimacy I've known than pregnancy, birth and motherhood. So it is no small coincidence I have thrown myself - once again - into the writing (and now publishing) of this series at this time of the year. I needed these characters to break free of my dark and broken past. These books are my babies now, and it was finally time to give birth after nearly twenty years of gestation. That you can love them, root for them, laugh with them and cry with them has shown me that I do not walk this path alone anymore. You're right there with me, feeling every high, every low, every tear and every triumph.
After two decades of becoming a virtual hermit for nine days a year, a raw, open wound too afraid to venture far outside my own heart and mind, this has been revelatory.
In essence, you've lifted me up on strong shoulders without even knowing that was what you were doing. And I reached out to you, without knowing that was what I was doing.
So to all who have purchased, reviewed and/or contacted me personally to tell me how this story has affected you, I want you to know how much it means to me that you are a part of this ongoing healing process. You have helped me give my baby boy immortality almost two decades after I lost him. And there are no words significant enough to properly communicate my gratitude for that. He lives because Jonathan lives, in the hearts and minds of those who read the books and love his story. You have reminded me again that the dance, even though it often ends much sooner than we might want it to, is worth every step we take... as long as we can take it together. <3