Say hello to Sherri Hayes

I’d like to welcome author Sherri Hayes to my blog today.

Why I write romantic suspense?

The simple answer to this question is that I write what I like to read. I’ve been reading romance novels since I was thirteen years old. At first it was teenage romances. I can’t remember what they were called. Dream something. Then I moved up to Harlequin’s. I used to stay up late on the weekends and during the summer, curled up in the living room chair with a romance novel until two or three in the morning. Once I got to the halfway point, I knew there was no way I was putting it down until I finished.

Getting down to the nuts and bolts of why I like the romance genre so much, however, is a little more difficult to explain. I love a happy ending. Who doesn’t? It’s more than that, however. Over the years of reading romance, I have found some things in romance novels that I love and others I don’t. I use that when writing my own romances.

I enjoy seeing relationships develop. The book needs to have a strong and believable arc. If an author is going to have the two hop into bed right away, then it had better be plausible. I love a good love scene as much as the next person, but I want there to be emotions tied to it, not just sex for sex sake. It is romance after all.

Minor characters are also a love of mine when it comes to romance novels. When used the right way, they can tell the reader a lot about the two main characters. Real people don’t live inside a bubble even though it can sometimes seem that way when love is in the air. Friends and family can also be a wonderful tool to give a reluctant character a little nudge in the right direction or shine a different light on a perceived problem.

I also enjoy a little angst in my romance, and nothing does that better than adding a little danger. Angst should be used to build tension, but I hate to see it drive an actual wedge between the two characters. Again, I’m a happy ending type. I’m rooting for the relationship, for them to finally get together. The road there doesn’t always have to be a smooth one, but I like to see progress at the same time. The best writers find a balance between the romance and the suspense element and mingle the two seamlessly.

Romantic suspense novels, if done right, leaves the reader with that happy contented feeling that real life tends to come in and squash all too often. It also provides that good triumphs over evil high so many love. We want to know that the bad guy is going to get caught in the end, that love always conquers all.

Here’s the beginning of her book,  Behind Closed Door, for your enjoyment.

Chapter 1

Elizabeth Marshall drove her red Honda Civic into the little town of Springfield, Ohio. The simple name was one of the things that attracted her. It wasn’t complicated, and that was exactly what she needed in her life right now: no complications.

She wanted a fresh start, far away from all the memories of the city she’d left behind. Away from the person everyone thought she was. A person she’d really never been, before or after. At the age of twenty-seven, she would be reborn. Reborn into someone she could be proud of again. Someone who didn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t. Someone her parents could be proud of.

Springfield was big enough to have all the basic necessities without any of the flashy extras you’d find in larger cities. It was just over an hour away from the place she’d called home for the last ten years. Far enough away that she didn’t think anyone here would recognize her, but near enough that she could visit her parents’ graves whenever she wanted. In some ways she was glad they couldn’t see her now. Yes, she missed them, but they’d also missed the mess her life had become. She felt moisture pool in her eyes as she thought of them, and knew that if she didn’t redirect her thoughts soon she’d be a bawling mess by the time she arrived at her destination.

Her destination. As she wove through the side streets, she focused on her surroundings. Springfield felt like a completely different world. No longer would she have to attend cocktail parties or ladies’ teas. Her hair and make-up didn’t have to be perfect before going outside to retrieve the morning paper. Here she could just be herself.

In her search for the perfect place to start this new chapter in her life, she’d stumbled upon an old home that had been turned into apartments. When she’d received the e-mail back from Mrs. Weaver, her new landlady, she knew this was the place for her. The three-story building had been around for over one hundred years, but it looked to be in good repair. She loved old buildings. It was one of the few things she’d enjoyed about where she’d called home for the past five years. In her new home, Mrs. Weaver occupied the bottom level, Elizabeth would be on the second floor. The third floor had an occupant as well, although she hadn’t thought to ask for details.

She felt good about having her own space. I need my independence, she reminded herself.

Even with that mantra, it was hard to block out what had led her to this small town surrounded by corn and soybean fields, but there was a new life waiting for her here in Springfield, she just knew it.

With a few more turns, she found the road she was looking for and followed it, as the houses once again became farther and farther apart. There was a line of trees to her right and a soybean field on her left when a mailbox came into view. Sitting back off the road, she could see the large Victorian house tucked between two soybean fields, surrounded by a small grove of trees.

As she drove up the long gravel driveway, she noticed someone looking out the first-story window.

“You can do this,” she said to herself, figuring if she said it enough she could make it true.

Pulling her loose, button-down shirt tighter around her, she got out of the car and went to the trunk. There wasn’t much to retrieve, just two bags. That was all her life consisted of now. All she had chosen to bring with her. The rest of her old life was either in storage, or had been donated to Goodwill. She didn’t need reminders. She had enough of those all on her own.

A woman with salt and pepper hair met her at the door and opened it wide. She looked to be in her mid to late sixties, old enough to be Elizabeth’s mother if she were still alive.

“Hello, my dear. You must be Elizabeth,” she said, reaching out to take one of her bags.

“It’s okay, I’ve got it. They’re not that heavy.” You could also use the exercise, her inner voice chastised.

The woman waved her concerns away and took the bag. “Nonsense. I may be old, but I’m not completely useless. Not yet anyway.” Then, extending her hand, she introduced herself. “I’m Janice Weaver, but you can call me Jan. Everybody does.”

Taking the offered hand, Elizabeth said, “It’s nice to meet you.”

She took a quick survey of her surroundings, noting that the pictures online hadn’t done the place justice, and followed Jan into a foyer decorated in cream and soft blue. The ceiling towered high above her, creating an open and inviting space. She loved it already, and she wasn’t even in her apartment yet.

“Over there is my apartment should you ever need anything,” Jan said, pointing to a door just to the right. Elizabeth nodded. “And you’re up here.” She continued up the stairs as Elizabeth followed, eager to see her new place.

At the top of the stairs were two more doors: one to the right and one to the left. Jan stopped at the door on the right and retrieved a single key from her pocket.

As Jan put the key into the door, curiosity got the better of Elizabeth. Looking over her shoulder she asked, “What is the other door for?”

Jan turned slightly to see what she was talking about. “That’s the staircase leading to the third floor apartment.”

Then, as if the brief conversation hadn’t occurred, Jan opened the door, motioning for Elizabeth to go inside.

Elizabeth looked around, very pleased. While there was a certain modern flair to the place, it was like stepping back in time. The architecture was beautiful with a vast wooden arch separating her living room from her new kitchen.

“Do you like it?” Jan asked from behind her.

She’d been so caught up she hadn’t even heard Jan approach. That hadn’t happened in a long time. She was usually overly aware of her surroundings. It just reaffirmed her decision. “I love it.”

Jan smiled and Elizabeth relaxed a little, but old habits were hard to break. While it might be true the danger was gone, one didn’t just forget being afraid.

An hour later, Elizabeth stepped back to admire the small air mattress she’d just blown up in the middle of her new bedroom. It was only big enough for one person, but it would do until she could get a bed delivered. She needed to pick up some sheets and blankets. Sleeping directly on the vinyl didn’t hold great appeal. Not even for one night.

Next she went to the kitchen. It was a nice size and had everything she needed, including a dishwasher, and there were plenty of cabinets lining the walls, waiting to be filled with food and dishes, both of which she currently lacked.

There’s no time like the present.

Jan had given her directions to the nearest market, so she grabbed her purse and started to leave, but just as she was about to descend the stairs, she heard an angry male voice say, “I don’t care what you have to do, Terry, just get it done.” Every word was punctuated by heavy footfalls coming up the stairs, closer to her apartment.

Elizabeth’s breathing quickened as her chest tightened, and she automatically huddled in on herself. The man’s voice changed in her mind. It wasn’t some stranger anymore; it was Jared, her husband.

She leaned her forehead against the wall next to the door, trying to push the memories away. He’s not here. He’s not here, she kept repeating to herself.

Just she was starting to calm, the door only a few feet away was wrenched opened and then slammed shut. It didn’t take much to put together that the man must be her new neighbor or one of them at least. She hadn’t thought to question Jan about the third-floor residents and felt stupid for not asking more questions.

It was too late now. She was here, and she wasn’t going to let something like a disagreeable man chase her out of her new home. She would deal with her neighbor even if he didn’t seem like a nice man. Maybe she could avoid him altogether. It wasn’t as if they really had to cross paths, right? She’d learn his schedule and then avoid him. That would work.

With renewed determination, she opened her door and ran down the stairs and out to her car, her speed of flight having nothing to do with the man upstairs. At least, that’s what she kept telling herself.

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