Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Virtual Tour: One and Only by Amy Knupp

As Micah starts finding his rhythm, life throws him a different beat. 

Hale Street #7
Amy Knupp
Releasing March 7th, 2017

Drummer Micah Sullivan lost his music and his dreams when his wife died unexpectedly. In the emotional aftermath, he quit his successful country band and pushed away his family and friends. Three years later, he’s opened a music shop on Hale Street in Nashville and tells himself he’s content trying to make it a hit. What he failed to consider is that success requires connections—including the very ones he turned his back on.

Sloan McGuire is up for a new challenge…never realizing it might lead to heartbreak. When she takes a job as entertainment manager at a bar not known for its music, she doesn’t bargain for running into Micah, whose late wife was her best friend. She can tell within minutes that he’s still grieving. Out of love for her friend, she attempts to reconnect with the reclusive drummer. Falling for him isn’t in the plans, though—not only because he was married to her friend but because she’s been second-best before, and she never wants to play that role again.

As Micah starts finding his rhythm, life throws him a different beat. But with a little improvisation and a lot of courage, he just might tap into the one and only connection he needs.

“It’s not every night a girl gets an offer to spend time with the world-famous Micah Sullivan and his family.”
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.” His heart hammered in his chest and lust pounded through his veins as he breathed in her scent, a light, floral something that made him feel more alive than he’d felt in forever.
“Oh, sorry,” she said, her lids lowering halfway and her voice going quieter, more private as he slid his hands to each side of her tiny waist. “I forgot you prefer Just Micah.”
He couldn’t answer, wasn’t even sure what she’d said, because his gaze had homed in on her plump bottom lip, where there was still the hint of a sheen from her lip gloss, and he suddenly wanted more than anything to taste her.
He dipped his head down and touched his lips to hers, only intending a quick taste, but when he felt her arms go around his neck and sampled the sweetness — chocolate and a faint hint of strawberries — he couldn’t have backed off if someone held him at gunpoint. He swept his tongue over her lower lip, teased the seam, and when she pressed the tip of her tongue to his and they swirled together, he couldn’t hold back the rumble that came up from his throat.
“You’re too tall,” Sloan said, pulling away only enough to get that out before she pressed her lips to his again.
“You’re too short,” he managed, not recognizing his own voice. He braced his hands on the backs of her upper thighs and lifted her so that their mouths lined up perfectly, then took a couple steps so her back was to the wall as he sealed his mouth to hers again, angling his head for better access. Sloan’s legs wrapped around him, and he was suddenly so hot it felt like the house was on fire.

When Micah lost his wife, he let go of everything else in his life, the people in it, his place in a band, and so much more.  Now that he's opened up his own music shop, Micah still wants nothing to do with his former life and just wants to get his business up and running and move on with his life.  That is until a blast from the past, his wife's best friend, works to convince him that he can make a go of more than just his new business and that he has nothing to feel guilty about in regards to the death of his wife. 

Sloan understands more than Micah wants her to about why he's pushed her away for years and why he appears to want nothing to do with his former life, but Sloan also sees the hidden truth, that Micah isn't as indifferent to his past as he'd like to be.  She feels it's sort of her duty to help him move on in life and get back to the life that would make him happy, namely playing in a band again.  But there's also something more going on between them, and though neither really want to admit it because of what it could look like to others, a betrayal to Micah's dead wife who was Sloan's best friend, they aren't ready to put a name to the feelings.  

As Micah slowly allows his old life to seep back into the present, and decides to give being in a band another chance, he and Sloan grow closer together, not wanting to be in a relationship or cause problems, the two of them come to an arrangement; a friends with benefits sort of arrangement.  But nothing is ever as simple as that, and the sparks between these two are simply more than they expected.  

One and Only drew me right into the story, understanding the reasons for Micah's behavior and seeing just how deeply Sloan needed to help him; they'd been friends once upon a time after all.  I really enjoyed the journey these two took together, how Sloan helped Micah work through his unnecessary guilt and move through his grief.  I loved that there was a complexity to each of these characters that colored their thoughts on relationships and lent to the ease of making their arrangement in the first place.  

Amy Knupp has created an amazing small town feel with the Hale Street series, pulling you into the story with intriging characters and storylines.  Side characters that make you feel like a part of the community, that add to the blossoming love story and grab your attention just as easily as the main characters.  I enjoyed the emotions that played out throughout this story, the feelings evoked as I flipped the pages and dove deeper into Micah and Sloan's story and found myself rooting for them to find happiness with each other.  

Welcome to Hale Street by Amy Knupp

ONE AND ONLY is set on fictional Hale Street in Nashville, TN. I say fictional because most people would claim it isn’t real, but in the minds of me and my two series co-writers, Natasha Lake and Emily Leigh, it’s one hundred percent an actual place. It’s become a spot we’d all love to shop, live, and hang out in. For readers who are new to Hale Street, here are the top five things you should know:

1        Hale Street is one block long, located near downtown Nashville. Originally developed in the 1940s, the street is being redeveloped, with the goal of turning it into a shopping destination. Nick Morello, the lead contractor (who, by the way, is a treat in a tool belt) makes every effort to maintain historic details while making the buildings modern and functional. Brick sidewalks are lined with quaint, old-fashioned streetlamps, one-of-a-kind shops, and delectable food joints. Most of the buildings have apartments on the upper floors.
2        One of the cornerstone businesses on Hale Street is Clayborne’s on the Corner. With a Cheers-like familiarity for residents and a warm, welcoming atmosphere for visitors, it’s the perfect place to catch a ballgame on TV, an up-and-coming band on stage, or a tasty meal of a hot ham and Swiss sandwich, fried mushrooms, and an adult beverage. Hunter Clayborne, the current owner, is a feast for the eyes as well.
3        At the opposite end of the street is the majestic historical Wentworth Hotel, owned by Burke Wentworth, a man who does daily justice to a three-piece suit. The elegant ballroom hosts countless formal affairs, from wedding receptions to New Year’s Eve balls. The top floor houses long-term luxury suites in addition to the hotel’s impeccable regular rooms. The general manager of the hotel is Daisy Calloway, who, incidentally, used to be engaged to Burke.
4        No one can wander down Hale Street without stopping into Sugar Babies Sweet Shop. With a beautiful handcrafted front counter and a gorgeous bay window, it’s the ideal spot to savor a sinful sweet—peppermint-cocoa cupcakes, bourbon pecan pie bites, or anything with Ivy Gibson’s fluffy brown sugar icing on it, for example. An arched doorway connects the bakery to Angry Cat Books, where you can grab coffee and an absorbing book to go with your sweet treat.
5        As you meander along Hale Street, you might want to keep an eye out for the neighborhood kook, Lurlene Williams, and her leash-trained pet albino ferret. Lurlene is harmless enough, but making eye contact can subject a person to a lengthy anti-technology rant or an in-depth diatribe on pigeons. If she gets in front of you in line at Sugar Babies, prepare for her to ask the bakery girls about every single menu option before finally settling on her usual chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting.

For more Hale Street details, I hope you’ll try ONE AND ONLY or any of the other six books set there (with more on the way). For more information on the books in the series, please visit my website (www.amyknupp.com).

Q&A with Amy Knupp
How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
Micah Sullivan, the hero, showed up in my first book in the series (Sweet Spot) wanting to rent space for a music store on Hale Street. Whenever a new character is mentioned in a scene, I go to Pinterest and find inspiration for the character so I can better describe him or her. The photo I found of Micah is (of course) hot, but in it, he’s not happy, and that got my imagination going. Why isn’t he happy? (Turns out his wife died unexpectedly three years ago.) He’s also wearing a hood in it, and that led me to think about why he might be “hiding.” (In a nutshell, grief, sadness, and a little bit of guilt.) His journey drives the story, so in this case, the picture was sort of worth 75,000 words. J

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The Hale Street series is a multi-author series I’m writing with two of my best friends, Emily Leigh and Natasha Lake. While each story is stand-alone, we collaborate constantly on the setting and character crossover, and the collaboration is the very best part. The synergy the three of us have makes writing kind of magical, even on the hard days. If I’m struggling with a plot point, my girls are all over it with me because they know my characters almost as well as I do. Plus we do girls’ writing retreat weekends a few times a year and a weeklong private writing retreat in a lake cottage each summer. Not only is it great for the writing but it’s soul time.

What gave you the most trouble with this story?
It was a challenge to take Micah from a grieving, hiding-from-life man to a happy, in-love one. You can’t rush grief. Further complicating things was that his heroine, Sloan, was his wife’s best friend. That’s not the main conflict between them, but I couldn’t gloss over it either.

What 5 things should readers know about you?

1. ONE AND ONLY is my 18th published book and my favorite one (at least today!)
2. I have four cats and have told my husband he can never leave me or I’ll be a cat lady.
3. Making decisions is often excruciating for me. I can weigh pros and cons until my eyes cross.
4. I have an obsession with office products—pens, Post-its, pretty notebooks, gel pens, colored binder clips, penguin-shaped paper clips…
5. I live in Wisconsin, the cheese state, but I can’t eat dairy. Before that, I lived in Kansas, the wheat state, but I can’t eat gluten.

What do you like best about being a writer? What is the most challenging part?

This might be revealing my inner geekiness, but I love the psychology aspect of writing two people who fall in love. When two people come together with an assortment of baggage, you’ve got a lot of stuff to work through, and I love the puzzle of it all and figuring out how the pieces go together. I love it especially after the hard part’s all done!

What do you do when you are not writing?
Work-wise, I’m a full-time freelance copyeditor, so I read all day every day (and correct grammar, etc. to my OCD heart’s content). I get to read/edit just about every genre/sub-genre imaginable, though more than half my projects are romance. Tough job but somebody has to do it! I feel blessed that I can say honestly I love what I do. Between freelancing, which can mean working weekends and holidays, and raising two teenage boys with my husband, I manage to maintain a fairly high level of crazy.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I don’t know a lot yet because I’m in the early stages of writing it, but my next book, out this summer, is a novella about two characters from ONE AND ONLY. Lena Kessler is the oldest of four sisters and the only one still single. She longs for love and babies like the rest of her family has. Former NHL player Ash McGuire is the last person who could give her what she dreams of but the only one she wants.

Amy Knupp is the author of contemporary romance, a freelance copy editor for Blue Otter Editing, and a freelance technical writer. While the collection of professional hats she wears sounds a bit scattered and broad, the common thread among all of them (perhaps the little ball on top of each hat) is the written word. She loves words and grammar and meaty, engrossing stories with complex characters.

Amy lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two teenage sons, four cats, and two box turtles. She graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in French and journalism. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, breaking up cat fights, watching college hoops, and annoying her family by correcting their grammar.

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