Friday, April 01, 2011

Lisa Plumley: Single Fathers in Fiction

Okay, so I have an experiment for you. First, picture a handsome, hunky, tough-guy hero. Got him? Good. Next, put a baby in his arms. Can you picture it? Great! Now, what do we have? Well, if you're like me...instant awww! Adorable, right?
There aren't many things more appealing than a macho guy who's also nurturing and protective. I think that's why I love reading about (and writing about) single fathers. They're strong and capable (because they're romance heroes, duh!), yet they're also responsible and caring. Even if they sometimes seem a little out-of-their-depth about the details involved in taking care of children (occasionally to hilarious effect), these single-dad heroes are true heroes in every sense of the word. My newest single-father hero is a former rascally ne'er-do-well in the Old West who's doing his best to stay out of trouble for his daughter's sake. He doesn't know it yet, but temptation is right around the corner! After he wins a "bride for a week" in the town's latest raffle, he realizes he's in way over his head. Before he knows what's hit him...
Well, let me just introduce you to him, all right? After that, I hope you'll want to find out what happens for yourself!

Morrow Creek, northern Arizona Territory
June 1883

On an otherwise unremarkable day in Morrow Creek, Owen Cooper stood in the modest quarters where he lived atop his livery stable and made himself a solemn promise: he was going to learn to braid his daughter's hair even if it killed him.

It looked as though it might. Already, Owen had made more than one attempt. He'd been defeated every time. Still, ten-year-old Élodie appeared to believe he could finish the task.

With every appearance of certainty—in a braiding prowess Owen strongly doubted he possessed—Élodie stood with her back to him. With pint-size eagerness, she wiggled on her tiptoes. Then she craned her neck, trying to glimpse one of her pigtails.

"Are you done yet, Papa? Can I look?"

"Not yet. Keep holding still."

"I am! I'm pretending my feet are glued to the floor!"

Hmm. For an instant, Owen contemplated the potential merits of actually gluing Élodie's high-buttoned shoes to the floor, then allowing her to step into them like a pony in a stall. Such a tactic would doubtless make mornings like this one easier. As it was, Élodie had been fidgeting nonstop—even before she'd begged Owen, over breakfast, to take on this delicate maneuver. He squinted, newly determined to master this task.

"Remember, both braids are supposed to be exactly the same!" Élodie reminded him earnestly. "Nice and neat, too."

Nice and neat. Frowning at the twin fistfuls of coppery hair he'd been bundling and twisting in his hands for the past fifteen minutes, Owen shifted his feet. He felt his frown deepen. What he'd accomplished so far was poor, he realized. And raggedy. The horses he boarded at his stable sometimes boasted fancier plaits than the ones he'd created for his daughter.

He'd have to try harder. He could do it. After all, he'd already learned to do so many fatherly tasks that had fallen to him in the years since he'd lost Renée. Owen was proud of the progress he'd made, too. So when Élodie had begged him to braid her hair in a new fashion today, he'd thought the undertaking would be simple enough to accomplish, especially for a man like him—a man who was reasonably intelligent, occasionally clever, and always skilled with his hands.

Years ago, Owen had earned a good living with those hands. Not good in the sense of untarnished and pure, of course; those were concepts Owen had had only a passing acquaintance with until he'd met Renée, and she'd begun to reform him. What he'd earned with his hands and mind all those years ago had been a profitable living. A frivolous, fun-loving, profitable living.

The truth was, Owen had always enjoyed a talent for the disreputable. Minor thievery had come easily to him; so had running a swindle or delivering a punch or seducing a woman. These days, Owen regretted his rapscallion's past—but he saw it for what it was, too: a cockeyed blessing. If he'd been a better man, he knew, he might never have met Renée outside his favorite gambling house in Baltimore. As it was, he and Renée had taken instantly and wholeheartedly to one another…never mind that his future wife had been crusading to shut down the place.

Renée, scarcely nineteen and staunchly naïve, hadn't known then that the sizable nest egg Owen had brought to their marriage had been the result of gambling, conning, and generally charming the world at large. Owen, already a hell-raising bachelor at twenty-two, had been too smitten to risk enlightening her. She'd discovered his faults quickly enough, though—and had set out to reform him of them straightaway. Two years later, Owen and Renée had taken those savings with them from Baltimore, intending to start a new, more respectable life together with their toddler daughter in California.

Instead, his wife's journey westward had ended in the Arizona Territory, in the picturesque mountain town of Morrow Creek. After losing Renée, Owen had decided to stay there, too, with tiny Élodie. In the years since then, he'd done his best to care for his daughter the way Renée would have wanted him to.

That meant fancy pigtails and ribbons were his duty.

They were damnably difficult to master, though. Far more so than he'd imagined they would be. But Owen was not a man who entertained the notion of defeat. Not when it came to Élodie.

When it came to his daughter, Owen had to succeed. He was all Élodie had…and she was all he had. He would have died before giving up on her—even when it came to inconsequential matters like intricate braids and froufrou ribbons.

From the book THE BRIDE RAFFLE by Lisa Plumley
Imprint and Series: Harlequin Historicals - Publication Date 04/11
ISBN 9780373296354 - Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Plumley

See? Owen's doing his best for Élodie, and he's doing pretty well. But once traveling cookery book author Daisy Walsh shows up, all bets are off! I had a terrific time writing The Bride Raffle, the latest in my Morrow Creek series for Harlequin Historicals. There are seven interconnected books/short stories now, with more on the way! But if you haven't tried any of them yet, don't worry! Although all the books are set in the same Arizona Territory town and feature some overlapping characters, the individual books definitely stand alone. I hope you'll drop by my Web site to read the first chapter of The Bride Raffle today.

In the meantime, what are your favorite books with a single-father theme? Or, if you don't like books about single fathers, why not? I'm love to know. Let's dish!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lisa Plumley is the USA Today bestselling author of more than two dozen contemporary, historical, and paranormal romances. Her newest historical romance, The Bride Raffle, was awarded 4 spurs from Love Western Romances, 4 stars from, and 5 blue ribbons from Romance Junkies. Her most recent contemporary romance, Holiday Affair, was a featured selection of the Doubleday, Rhapsody, and BOMC2 book clubs and was awarded 4½ stars from Romantic Times magazine, 5 hearts from The Romance Reader, and 5 blue ribbons from Romance Junkies. You can find Lisa on Facebook or Twitter, or visit her Web site to read first-chapter excerpts from any of her books, sign up for new-book reminder e-mails, and more!

*****Leave a comment for the chance to win a book autographed by Lisa! Three winners will receive a copy of the UK edition of Mail-Order Groom. Good luck!


marybelle said...

I love Historical works. Single father & "bride for a week": I know I will be reading this. I must chase up more of your work.

Got to love blogs.

Nas Dean said...

A baby in the arms of a gorgeous man? Wow! Just my type of a read!

And the excerpt is so enticing. Thanks for the excerpt!
Definitely a book to look out for.

kaelee said...

I like single father stories. I just read the rest of your excerpt. Poor Owen certainly does need someone to take him in hand. A pregnant heroine to the rescue I hope.

Kirsten said...

by Cindy Kirk. In this book Seth is a single father after his wife died. He's great with his daughter, and like the heroine Lauren I too fel for him.

CrystalGB said...

I love single father stories. Your book sounds wonderful. :)

Lisa Plumley said...

Hi Marybelle! Thanks. I love blogs -- I can hardly remember how I found out about new books before the Internet arrived. ;)

Hi again, Nas! Thanks. I hope you'll give Owen and Daisy's story a try.

Kaelee, LOL! You're right. It's probably not too much of a spoiler to say that in the end, Owen and Daisy sort of rescue each other. :)

Hi Kirsten! I'll have to check out that book. Thanks for the rec.

Aren't you sweet, Crystal? Thanks!

desere_steenberg said...

I adore single father stories , I mean a handsome man with a cute baby in his arms asking for help who could resit!

I loved the except the books sounds amazing I must read it you have me hooked !

Take Care and all the best for the future.


Lisa Plumley said...

Hi Desere! You and me both! Thanks for your nice comment about the excerpt. I really appreciate that. :)

Lisa Plumley said...

Hi everyone!

I just got 5 coupons for FREE E-BOOK copies of The Bride Raffle to give away, courtesy of Harlequin. If you'd like one, head over to my Facebook page and be one of the first 5 people to comment.

Remember, you don't need a dedicated e-book reader to read e-books! If you have a computer, you're all set. :)

chey said...

I like single father stories. This one sounds fantastic!
chey127 at hotmail dot com

Estella said...

I love single father stories.
The Bride Raffle sounds great.

Lisa Plumley said...

Hi Chey! Thanks. Me, too. :)

Estella, thanks for stopping by! And thanks for your very kind comment, too. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Mariee said...

A recent one that I read and loved was The First Love Cookie Club by Lori Wilde. Sweet story and great single father hero.

Lisa Plumley said...

Hi Mariee! I've heard great things about that book. Now that I've turned in the manuscript for my next contemporary romance, I might have to do some just-for-fun reading. :)

Silvia said...

I really like single father stories. It takes a special man to step up to the plate and take care of his child(ren).

In the movie The Holiday, Jude Law portrays Graham, a single dad with 2 girls. I love the scene where his new love interest comes unannounced to his home and witnesses him playing Mr. Napkinhead.

desere_steenberg said...

You are very welcome and thank you to you for the coupon it is great !!!

Here is wishing you a stunning weekend and good luck to us all on a chance to say we won a signed copy of Mail Order Groom !

Take Care

Lisa Plumley said...

Hi Silvia! Aww. I remember The Holiday! Great movie. :)

Thanks, Desere! I hope you have a super weekend. :)

desere_steenberg said...

Your very welcome and thank you !

Alison said...

Ooh, I'd like to win one! The story has me intrigued already...

Lisa Plumley said...

Thanks, Alison. Good luck!

Dan.Eliot said...

“I wanted my family to run like a democracy. Pretty soon I realized that the children were running the show.”Too many single parents make this mistake either to allay some amount of guilt associated with depriving the children of a second parent or because they want to dump some responsibility.

help for single Dads