By: Marie Force
I've always been oddly, strangely, and some would say bizarrely, fascinated with crime, cops, the law, lawyers, and TV shows about all of the above. LA Law and NYPD Blue were two of my favorites. I've never been much of a fan of the Law & Order shows because I need me some romance with my blood and gore! I also cruise the Internet and big-city newspaper websites for news about chilling crimes. I read the police reports, the indictments, and all the court motions. Sometimes I follow a crime story for years—from perpetration to prosecution. It'll probably be no surprise to hear that I've written three romantic suspense novels—the most challenging and satisfying projects of my entire life (other than the two kids I'm in the midst of raising). The idea for one of my RS novels came from cruising the newspaper crime sections.
In light of the true confessions above, is it any wonder that Love at First Flight (on sale July 1) includes . . . wait for it . . . a murder trial? My hero, Michael Maguire, is a prosecutor for the city of Baltimore, MD. When we meet him in the Baltimore airport, he's weeks away from jury selection in the first-degree murder trial of brothers tied to the shotgun slayings of three city teenagers the year before. Michael himself is under the gun with a fair but exacting boss watching his every move, a feisty teenage girl in protective custody, and defendants who'll do whatever it takes to disrupt the trial. (Michael doesn't know that last part yet, but he finds out soon enough.)
I don't consciously recall making a decision to include a murder trial in this book or to let it descend into chaos that threatens the lives of Michael and his new love, Juliana. Like most of the decisions I make for my books, this one happened organically. I decided that Michael was a lawyer, then a prosecutor, then a prosecutor on the verge of a big, career-making trial that's gotten huge local and national media coverage. The chaos unfolds later, and hopefully you won't see it coming. Events tied to the trial push Michael and Juliana's relationship to new depths sooner than might have happened otherwise. They are forced to confront the very real possibility that they could lose each other before they have the chance to discover where their fledging love affair might take them.
Another interesting aspect of this plot for me as the writer (and I hope for you as the reader) was the teenage witness in protective custody. Rachelle is Michael's "slam dunk," as she witnessed the shootings and was able to identify the defendants. She's 15, cooped up in a hotel room, surrounded by cops, and ornery as hell when we first meet Rachelle. Michael is clearly befuddled by the crush Rachelle has on him, and admits to Juliana that the girl has him wrapped firmly around her little finger. "She's adorable," Juliana says after first meeting the girl. "I'm way more involved with her than I should be," Michael confesses. To which Juliana replies, "It would be hard not to become involved with her." Juliana's immediate empathy for a girl who has been through more in her young life than most people face in a lifetime gives Michael a deeper glimpse into the heart of a woman he fell for the instant he first saw her.
I enjoyed writing Michael, a true Beta to Ryan Sanderson's Alpha. Michael is buttoned down, focused, professional, dedicated, and proud of what he's accomplished in life. After growing up in a cramped house with blue-collar parents and three sisters, he revels in the space and beauty of his Baltimore rowhouse. He's paired initially with a high-maintenance woman, and I wondered why he stayed with her for so long when she's clearly not right for him. (I like to think he made those decisions before I met him and led him to his true love ;-) I don't want to give too much away, so it's probably enough to say that among his other qualities, Michael is loyal and trustworthy. When he makes a promise, he intends to keep it until it becomes impossible for him to follow through. When he has to walk away, he doesn't go lightly, but with a heavy heart over what could have been. Juliana appreciates these qualities in her new friend at a time when she's had reason to question the loyalty and trustworthiness of her longtime love.
I hope you enjoy meeting Michael, Juliana, and Rachelle as much as I enjoyed writing them! If you like some legal intrigue mixed in with your romance, this book is for you!
Come by the July 1 launch parties here and on my blog for multiple chances to win copies of Love at First Flight and Line of Scrimmage! See you then!