Saturday, February 11, 2017

Valentine #11: Jonah Riley, pure Southern Comfort

What is the name of today's Valentine?

How old is he when we meet him?


What stands out most about him?

He's a solid, stand-up guy. He says what he means and means what he says.

Nice guy or douche?

He's one of the nicest guys I've written. But he has his douche moments. He's young. He's got a temper. It gets the better of him sometimes.

Favorite moment with him?

My dad died when I was eleven. He pretty much filled my world as my caretaker back in the day, so losing him tore a gigantic hole in my life. Thanks to my aunt, his sister, who took care of me in those dark days that followed, I had a never-ending stream of books to read. They were Harlequin romances she used to get four at a time, those thin little white-cover novels that a fast reader could demolish in a day. There were stacks and stacks of them and I inhaled them, clinging particularly to the men I read about since I was suddenly without any strong, male influence in my life. No brothers except older stepbrothers I barely met and hardly knew. No grandpas. All my uncles lived out of town. But within those books I could feel protected again. I could step into those romances, the wide-eyed ingenue, and the hero could save me from my loneliness and despair.

Most ran together, quite honestly. The books were formulaic. I knew what I could expect. Pretty soon I got burned out on generic happy endings. They no longer rang true to my ear. Bad things happened. Things weren't perfect. Right around that time, I found my first Janet Dailey book, "Six White Horses." I remember the name of the book and I remember the story, which is more than I could say for dozens I read around the same time. One, it was one of her Americana series, so it was set in the South. Being a proper Southern girl, this pleased me. Two, the hero was a gigantic ass and the heroine was true Oklahoma grit who wasn't going to take ANY of that mess. They HATED each other, but man there was some serious heat between them.

When I set out to write a Southern Romance of my own, I dug DEEP into this dynamic. It is my personal ode to a story that changed forever how I look at romance.

Thank you, Janet.

I headed out to my truck by ten-thirty. Before I could turn the key, I spotted someone across the parking lot kicking and screaming at a POS special with its hood up.

That someone was wearing ripped blue jeans and a hoodie.

I started the truck and drove slowly over to her section of the darkened, mostly abandoned parking lot. Most of the crowd, including those who were giving her the most grief, was inside getting their buzz on, listening to the next act.

I rolled down my window as I got to her. “Having trouble?”

She whirled around to glare at me. When she saw my face she rolled her eyes. “I’m fine,” she said as she turned around to the stalled vehicle.

I stopped the truck and slid out. “You may be fine but your car is on its last leg.” I glanced down at the engine, which looked to be about a hundred years old. “Let me give you a ride.”

She glanced me over with disdain. “Yeah, no thanks.”

“Fine, then how about a jump?”

“How about get lost?” she snapped. “Go play Boy Scout somewhere else.”

She was clearly pissed, but I would have been too after what happened after her gig. “I’m just trying to help.”

“I don’t need your help,” she spat.

“Look, I know it’s been a rough night…” My comment was cut short when she whirled around, a tiny, fiery bundle of fury.

“Don’t you understand English? Get lost!”

My blood started to boil. “Fine! Stay here all night. See if I care.” I turned toward the truck, but before I got to the driver’s side I stopped myself. I tried to remind myself that she wasn’t angry with me. It had been a shitty crowd, with a bunch of drunk assholes ready to jump all over her like they deserved to. I couldn’t very well leave her there, not with all the aggressive jerks who had tried to ambush her in the club. They wouldn’t stop at no, and that was no kind of guy to run into in a dark parking lot. I took a deep breath before I turned back and walked over to the car.

Her eyes widened as I approached. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“I’m helping you,” I told her before I circled her waist with my hands and lifted her away from her car so I could figure out what was wrong with it. “Too bad you’re too damned stubborn to see that.”

“Fuck you!” she spat, hissing at me like an angry cat.

I ignored her as I fiddled with the engine. I sidestepped her to climb inside and turn the key. Nothing. I got out, rounding to the front of the car to test the connections. Despite the ancient car, the battery was new. I retrieved my tools from my truck and within a minute her car fired to life. She stood staring at me, stupefied.

“Connection was loose,” I told her as I put my tools back in the box. “Shouldn’t give you any more trouble.”

I put the tool box back in the bed of the truck before I hopped in the cab and gunned my own engine. She walked, reluctantly, to my window. “Thank you,” she managed.

I looked her in those big doe eyes, which were a lot more contrite than angry. “You’re welcome.”

“I’d offer you money, but…” She trailed off, looking embarrassed.

I held her gaze for just a minute longer before I said, “Don’t worry about it. Finding out there’s a woman under there and not some feral cat is payment enough.”

I left her sputtering behind me as I squealed out of the parking lot.

What do you love about him?

He's all the best part of a good Texas man. He's got honor. He's got fight. He's got a big heart. He would do anything for his sick sister or his grieving mother. He's not going to settle. He's going to meet every challenge head-on. He is the very definition of cowboy the fuck up.

What do you hate about him?

He's stubborn as a mule. He can be pushy. He's young, still, so he can be immature. Things had come relatively easy for him growing up, it takes a little adjustment to be told "no."

If you went on a date, where would you go?

A picnic in the countryside.

Who inspired him?

I grew up in Texas, so I know a little bit about Texas men. He was all the good stuff, poured into tight-fitting blue jeans.

Who might play him in a movie?

More of who *should* have played him. I've only had one perfect Southern Ideal since 1985, and that was this guy..

*Sigh*. Orry. Where do you go from there, honestly?

Do you have a special song that reminds you of him?

Like most of my music-driven stories, there are a lot of songs that crafted Jonah.

And, of course, the duets...

BUT, having said that, this is their love theme to me.

Any "Easter Eggs" planted with this book boyfriend?

You know, I can't think of anything offhand.

Where can we find him?

SOUTHERN ROCKER BOY is Jonah's story, which is free today. SOUTHERN ROCKER CHICK is Lacy's. They are told from dual perspectives because I really wanted to examine the idea, "There's his story, there's her story and the cold, hard truth." We get to see how that all plays out in SOUTHERN ROCKER SHOWDOWN. But the story doesn't end there. Jonah and Lacy become part of the Groupie Universe, so they pop up in FULL-FIGURED FLOOZIES.

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