Behind the scenes: Deception

Deception, (Blue Moon Saloon, Book 5) was one of those stories I never saw coming. I fully intended to wrap up the series after Book 3, but then Todd came along. And in the final chapter of Book 4, along came the story of Summer, the mystery woman who saved the shifters cubs in Salvation. (Big thanks to my Plot Wizards group for pitching in with ideas on that ending!) So of course, I had to write Summer’s story, and give her an awesome mate of her own.

The characters

Summer only got a few brief mentions in Salvation, but they were enough to set my imagination spinning. How exactly did a kind-hearted young woman get mixed up with the Blue Blood rogues? Before long, I didn’t just have a side character on my hands – I had my next heroine! A heroine who is genuine, honest, and drowning in feelings of guilt. A heroine desperate for a new start.

I’m not quite sure how my mind made the connection, but the inspiration for Summer’s character comes from young people who were sucked in to the Nazi cause in Germany in the late 1930s and 40’s. Having lived in central Europe for many years, I’ve met quite a few people (now senior citizens) who regret how easily they bought into the propaganda of the era. They might not have committed terrible deeds themselves, but they became unwitting pawns in the hands of a few evil-hearted leaders. Some spent a lifetime asking themselves why they didn’t realize what was going on sooner or why they didn’t speak up.

Okay, okay – kind of a heavy subject for a romance novel, right? But that’s honestly what inspired Summer’s complex character. She’s a young woman who wants to put the past behind her, and yet she’s principled enough to know she can’t just ignore the past – she has to earn her right to breathe free. And boy, does she!

While I had Summer figured out early on, I had to mull over Drew for a while. That is, until I went out to dinner one night and spotted a waiter who was one hundred percent bear shifter. I swear! A big guy with a huge chest and a neatly trimmed beard. sigh That evening helped me decide on Drew’s looks. But what about his soul? Well, that came easily once I asked myself who the perfect mate for Summer would be. Well, who else but calm, quiet Drew Kovacs, a man as devoted to his destined mate as he is to his clan. Drew is just the man Summer needs because he’s so accepting and he understands her need to prove herself. But it takes everything he has to allow Summer to step into danger because he knows there’s no other way for Summer to defeat her haunted memories.

He’s a bear, of course, because what could be more forbidden to a wolf of Summer’s background than a bear? He’s from the Katahdin clan in Maine – another New England location I love and have long wanted to introduce shifters from. Drew is mellow enough to hang back in the wings around his powerful cousins but fierce enough to explode into battle mode when the stakes rise. And boy, do the stakes rise throughout this story, because it’s not just about Drew’s relationship with Summer. The future of the shifter world rests in their hands, in a way, too. I really enjoyed letting Drew show his hidden alpha side while staying true to his peace-loving bear soul.

One character I didn’t see coming at all was Thomas, the charismatic (and enigmatic) contender for the position of alpha at Hope Springs. I couldn’t believe how many readers wrote to me begging for Thomas to get his own story someday – he’s just that honest and that endearing once you see that his motives were pure. So, yes. Keep an eye out for Thomas’ love story! It’s on the back burner for now, but someday…!

The story

Deception pretty much wrote itself, because Summer’s story was a natural outgrowth of the earlier books in the series. The leaders of the evil Blue Bloods have all been defeated but that doesn’t mean the danger is past. It was easy to envision Gretchen as one of the hard-core supporters of the Blue Blood movement, and all too easy to imagine her not-too-intelligent sons or nephew, Mett, stubbornly hanging on to those outdated ideas.

I wanted to get this story off the ground and moving right from the start, and that’s why it moves so quickly from a quiet day at the Quarter Moon Café to full-on plotting to defeat a ruthless foe. Every good story has high tension, and that’s why I knew I had to bring Summer right into enemy territory and put everything on the line. Bringing Drew there, too, ramps the tension even higher and makes the forbidden aspect of their relationship that much immediate. That also allows Summer to face her personal demons and become a heroine in her own right.

Finally, I had a lot of fun weaving in location inspiration from places I’ve lived or visited in the desert Southwest, as well as filling the background with fun characters like the ranch hands from Seymour Ranch. Someday maybe they’ll each get a story of their own!

My favorite scene

My favorite scene in this story, and the favorite of a lot of readers, is the scene in which the wolves of Twin Moon Ranch make their dramatic entrance at Hope Springs. I get goosebumps imagining the hubbub of the crowd when Ty, Lana, Zack, Rae, and Axel come in bristling with power and a clear message to any remaining sympathizers to the Blue Blood cause. If this story was made into a movie, there would be some really ta-da music underpinning that scene! Readers have commented that they appreciate that it’s not just the men of Twin Moon pack there but the tough women, too. I couldn’t resist the chance to bring Axel, the boar shifter, along, too. No one messes with him!

Similarly, I love Drew’s grand entrance to Hope Springs, when everyone takes a step back and starts whispering, “a bear! A bear!” I love how Drew shows a whole new side of himself now that he’s called on to demonstrate his innate power rather than the softer, gentler side Summer is more familiar with. He’s a wonderful character in that sense – big, burly, and true to his principles.

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

To be honest, I started this story with a numbskull plan to write it in abridged form for a holiday boxed set and to eventually expand it to a full book later. (In that way, it’s similar to how Desert Rose developed – you can read about the making of HERE.) But I couldn’t write this story in abridged form, because how do you abridge a love story full of longing and yearning and regrets? How do you summarize so many emotions and still do them justice? Before long, I tossed that plan out the window and from there, the story just flowed beautifully.

Cross-links with Twin Moon Ranch

Like all the Blue Moon Saloon stories, this book brings in the wolves of Twin Moon Ranch - most notably in their dramatic entrance scene and their help in finally vanquishing the Blue Bloods. So you get to see Ty and Lana of Desert Moon, Tina and Rick of Desert Heart, Kyle of Desert Fate, and Axel of Desert Rose. If you haven’t read their stories yet, make sure you do!