Matching complexity with singular plots and written with style and approachability; EJourney’s Between Two Worlds series is available now on Amazon. Loved by those who have read them for their use of the familiar and the everyday to weave captivating and melancholy tales of love and loss; Between Two Worlds is a thinking woman’s romance series.
The series begins with Hello, My Love!, the world of “bright, blonde, beautiful Elise Halverson” who is focused on her career. One that – as far as she knows – does not involve men like Greg Thorpe.
Elise and Greg butt heads at her parents’ dinner parties. She discovers someone more than a flashy playboy, and he finds that she touches him at his core like nobody else has. A strong attraction grows between them and leads to an unexpected night together two days before his wedding.
Lori threatens revenge. Her machinations tear Greg and Elise apart, revealing doubts and insecurities they have within themselves and forcing them to make choices.
They reunite but Greg is in for a surprise and their lives are thrown again into disarray when Elise becomes the victim of a hit-and-run. The specter of Lori’s revenge looms.
Inspired by both Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell, the first book has been praised for having “ … a new, different and refreshing literary spin on the romance genre (Bookaholic Ramblings).” Finally, GoodbooksToday.com says, “The unexpected surprises and emotional encounters of this novel keep the reader enthralled until the very last page… – an excellent read for one who doubts the power of love at first sight.”
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The challenge of translating the plotlines of Austen and Gaskell novels into contemporary times and incorporating modern-day issues is my primary driving force. Also, I wanted to write a more realistic romance novel, one that some readers may recognize as similar to their own stories and concerns.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I thought about what Elizabeth Bennet or Margaret Hale might have been like if they were alive today. Same thing with Mr. Darcy and John Thornton.
Elise as a bleeding-heart lawyer is inspired by Margaret Hale as a champion of the working class and less privileged.
“Going to your parents’ dinner tonight?” Elise could not help smiling at the text message.
She texted back: “Yes. See you.”
Greg had been sending her text messages for some time. Often, they were greetings, in the morning, at night, on school holidays; or good luck wishes on exams, debates, and mock trials. Sometimes, he asked her opinion or a question about a legal matter or some fact of interest to either of them. She answered most of those messages although he told her she did not need to, if they were the usual greetings.
Before they met, Elise had known Greg—from numerous news reports—as the young, progressive owner of a growing internet-based business, and one of the country’s 25 most eligible bachelors. The consensus in the media, especially among women reporters: tall, dark, and handsome. But Greg also had a reputation as a playboy, whose many romances were fodder for gossip columns. While Elise hesitated judging looks and personality, sight unseen, she was certain of one thing. She distrusted the likes of men such as Greg.
But that was a year ago.
Since he began consulting with her father, Dr. Halverson, an economics professor, Greg had been to many dinners at her parents’ home. There, Elise got to know him better.
Now, when curious acquaintances learned she knew Greg, they invariably asked, and Elise hardly ever varied her answer: “Yes, to news reports. Greg Thorpe is tall—taller than my father who’s more than six feet. Dark—tanned from jogging, bushy hair the color of French Roast woven with golden strands. And beautiful—clean-cut, cleft chin, smiling greyish blue eyes, and, yeah, lean. But, I think, muscular. I’m not sure. I haven’t seen him without his clothes on.”
It always amused her that her incantation never failed to elicit sighs from young women.
Elise was about to slip her iPhone into her shirt pocket when it rang.
“Hello, Elise. How’s the light of my life this afternoon?” Greg said, in his teasing voice.
“I’m so glad you picked up. I was afraid you’d turn off your phone again.”
“I can’t turn it on in class, when I’m studying, or when I’m at work, and that’s almost my whole day.”
“Are you staying over at your parents after dinner?”
“I don’t plan such things. Depends. How late it is when dinner ends, whether I have some easy way to get back to my apartment, how guilty I feel about not having seen my parents for a while, etc., etc.”
“I see. It’s Friday so I thought you‘re staying the night with them. Can I give you a ride home?”
Elise protested. “But I live across the bay. That’s 60 more miles of driving for you, both ways.”
“Less than an hour in my fast powerful car.”
She smiled. Only after she opened up to him a few months after they first met did she realize that Greg had a wry, often self-mocking, sense of humor.
She teased him back. “But don’t you need your beauty sleep? Aren’t you getting married in two days? I’m surprised you’re even coming to my parents’ dinner party. I always thought weddings were exhausting. Don’t you need to rest up for yours?”
“Think of this as my last fling.”
“Isn’t that when your buddies get you all soused and cavorting with some pretty young things? You definitely need stamina for that.”
He groaned. “I’m afraid you have this unflattering image of me. But, believe it or not, that prospect doesn’t excite me. I feel too old for all that.”
“Thirty-two’s not old. To me, old is decrepit. You’re not quite there yet.”
“I’m glad you think so. Twenty-year olds think 30 is old”
“I turned 23 a few weeks ago,” she said, her smile replaced with pursed lips.
“That still makes you a young thing in my book. What if I cavort with you?”
Elise scowled. She couldn’t conjure up a quick retort that she knew Greg had come to expect from her. It was not that what he said irritated her. And, she didn’t actually dislike it. But she felt herself squirm, a vague sense of unease in her chest.
“I’m kidding. I know you’re not the cavorting type. But we’re buddies, right? Well, more like sparring partners, maybe. Don’t buddies kid around?”
She picked up an edge to his voice but it grew softer when he added, “Am I wrong?”
She hesitated through the ensuing silence; for her, an uneasy silence relieved only by his audible breathing. He was going to wait until she said something.
“I guess we are…friends, or whatever you wanna call it. That makes everything all right, then; kidding included. So, yes, you can take me home tonight. What’s 60 miles between buddies? No guilt, on my part, that you’re going out of your way. I gotta run.” She hung up and did not wait for his reply.
Elise arrived at her parents’ home when guests were taking their last bites of the appetizer. She had entered the house with her own keys and had gone straight to the dining room.
In the entryway to the room, she stopped to catch her breath. For a moment, she teetered on unaccustomed three-inch high black espadrilles, and had to lean on the wall with one hand to steady herself. Then, she straightened and stood in place for another moment, looking like a nymph with blonde hair flowing down her shoulders, its golden glints accentuated by her short-sleeved, dark purple turtleneck sweater. A long black pencil skirt slit on one side to below mid-thigh hugged her lithe figure.
She uttered a general greeting, but out of habit, her gaze sought that of Greg’s. He lifted an eyebrow as he smiled at her, his eyes glowing. She held her breath and let it out slowly, pushing down to the pit of her stomach that knot she first felt when her father introduced them to each other. She stretched her lips to mimic a smile and approached her mother from behind her chair.
“Elise, finally. We were wondering if you’d make it here tonight.” Mrs. Halverson offered a cheek for her daughter’s kiss.
“We had a small crisis at the Legal Aid office,” she replied, kissing one cheek and then the other, the usual greeting among the Halversons ever since the children were young.
Her mother whispered, “Greg has asked me about you at least twice already.”
Elise stole a glance at Greg as she sat down at her usual place across from him.
In addition to Greg, two other couples—mutual friends of her parents from her father’s college days—completed the eight places around the dinner table. They were regular visitors and could talk nonstop all night. Elise relaxed. The evening should be relatively calm and cozy. She was a little tired and she intended to sit among the group, as quiet as she could be.
Except, she glanced, rather too often, at Greg whose gaze seemed glued on her throughout dinner. Still, neither of them needed to say much, and for that, she was grateful.
When the party went to the living room for after-dinner coffee, Greg approached her from behind and came so close that she could feel his chest against her back.
“Good evening, beautiful. I was afraid you’d skip this dinner. Glad you lost the hair clip. Love the sexy hairstyle.” His voice barely rose above a whisper.
Elise turned her head towards him and coaxed a smile from her lips. She did not answer.
In the living room, she settled into an armchair. Greg pulled a chair closer to hers and sat on it.
“You look tired,” he said, peering into her face.
“Yes. I am. It’s been a very hectic week. I’m glad it’s Friday. But I wish Mom stuck to her usual Saturday schedule. I’m not very good company this evening.”
“Your dad said they’re going to a birthday party for the dean of his college tomorrow night.”
“Let’s be quiet together. I don’t think this group needs our help.”
Elise nodded and smiled faintly. How sweet he could be sometimes.
The lively conversation of the Halversons’ friends swirled around her and Greg without much help from either of them. It centered on the best places to retire and wild ways to make retirement exciting. The older folks were having their usual fun, their laughter punctuating outrageous suggestions.
After a quarter of an hour, Elise glanced at her watch, fidgeted in her chair, and suppressed a yawn, Listless from both food and wine, she soon lost interest in the lively exchange and wished herself back in her apartment, warm and snug in bed.
The most garrulous of the group, Dr. Gronski, craned his neck, distracted by her fidgeting. He regarded her for what seemed, to Elise, too uncomfortably long. He must have sensed her discomfort. She could swear that he winked at her and smiled sympathetically before he shifted his attention to Greg.
He said, “Here’s one lucky man. He doesn’t have to worry about retirement homes, can retire right now, and do whatever he wants.”
Elise watched from the corner of her eyes as everyone, except for her, turned towards Greg and stared. He returned the stare for some moments and, with a thoughtful frown, answered, “True, I could go anywhere I want, but I don’t know if I’ll ever want to retire.”
“I should have guessed—a workaholic. But you’re a bachelor, so no commitment and no one to nag you.” Dr. Gronski chuckled, winking at his wife.
“Not for very long. He’s getting married on Sunday,” Dr. Halverson chimed in.
The two couples perked up.
“Oh! Who to? Why didn’t you bring her here tonight?” said Dr. Gronski’s wife, stealing a glance at Elise.
“She had prior engagement.” Greg scowled as he answered.
Elise saw the muscles on his cheek twitch. He was clenching his jaw, clearly ill at ease.
She clicked her leather espadrilles once, a gesture that always brought the young character, Dorothy, to a magical place in the movie Wizard of Oz—a simple move she had borrowed a few times. She rose from her chair and, as she had intended, the conversation stopped as everyone looked up at her. She walked towards the piano, in a far corner of the room.
“How about some entertainment?” She raised the front lid on the piano and smiled at her mother. “Mom, can you play us that piece you’ve been practicing?”
Her mother got up and approached Elise with alacrity. “Yes, I would love to. And I hope you like this Mozart fantasy as much as I do. I know my daughter does.”
She smiled at Elise, sat down, paused for a few seconds, and opened with the slow, dramatic notes of a piece that lasted more than twelve minutes. She followed it with a few more pieces until someone said, at the break between pieces, that it was getting late.
When the two couples had gone, Dr. Halverson said, “I’m sorry about my friends, Greg. For the most part, they’re nice people.”
His wife added, “With an annoying love of gossip.”
“Yes, except for that. I shouldn’t have mentioned your wedding.”
Elise said, casting Greg a surreptitious glance, “But it’s true, he’s getting married. They’ll find out about it, anyway. Papers will splash the news all over their society pages, for sure. Dad, I’m surprised your friends haven’t seen anything about it already.”
She arched an eyebrow at Greg, her eyes glittering with amusement. “Come to think of it, I haven’t, either.”
Greg scowled at her. “Well, maybe they don’t read the social columns, or the tabloids where it’s mentioned, ad nauseum. We didn’t issue any formal announcements. She wanted to, but I refused. I want a quiet ceremony.”
Elise scowled back and, with a lopsided smile, said, “But, I agree, they had no business asking why she—what’s her name? I don’t remember ever hearing you mention it. Anyway, it’s none of their business why she isn’t here tonight.”
“We know her name,” her mother said. “We met her at Greg’s house when we were last there for a party. Perfect hostess.”
“Stunning woman,” her father added. “She reminded me of Ava Gardner.”
“Yes.” Her mother smirked and Elise knew her parents did not agree on Greg’s fiancée.
“Will someone tell me what her name is?”
“Lori. Lori Williams,” Greg said. “She’s a public relations consultant at a company I do business with.”
“Lovely name. Less formidable than Ava. She’s now taken form in my head.” Elise glanced at her watch. “I must go, too.”
Greg rose. “I’ll give you a ride home.”
“But that’s out of your way,” her father said. “You can drop her off at the train station. She does it all the time.”
Mrs. Halverson placed a hand on her husband’s arm. “Let them decide what to do.”
Neither Greg nor Elise had spoken since they left her parents’ home. He seemed, to her, reluctant to disturb the silence between them. She, in contrast, felt impatient about it.
“I hope you don’t mind my asking—you know, one buddy to another—why you’ve never brought Lori to dinner at my parents’ house. Doesn’t she resent you, spending so many of your Fridays or Saturdays with them?”
“Remember, your dad and I have business consultations before dinner. I know Lori. She’d be bored to death. I don’t want your mother to feel she has to entertain her while I’m holed up with your dad.”
“So, she’s never curious or suspicious?”
“Actually, no, except to say that it must have been boring. Can we stop talking about Lori? This is my last fling, remember? I’d like it to be nice and cozy, in the company of someone familiar.”
Elise frowned and compressed her lips. “Sorry, can’t be your sister. You know my two brothers. You’ll have to agree that’s enough aggravation right there.”
“Huh? Who said anything about a sister?”
“‘Familiar,’ ‘family,’ same root, right?”
“Sounds like it. Yes; and maybe that’s what I had in mind. Anyway, I meant someone I feel at ease with. Someone I can spar with but who doesn’t take it personally. At the end of the day, we’re still friends.”
“I guess so. Something like that. By Monday, things have to change. When you’re married, we can’t be on the same footing, anymore.”
Greg did not answer and kept his attention on his driving. Elise stared into the darkness outside her window and recognized a few buildings on the way to her apartment. They were only ten minutes away from it. She bit her lips and blinked a few times. Was this really it between them? Would he ever come to her parents’ dinners again?
“I’d like to show you where I live. May I—on my last night as a free man? You’ve never been to my house and I’m betting it’ll change what you think of me.” His voice intruded into her thoughts.
“Why should that matter?” Her voice was hardly audible. She was feeling suddenly depressed.
“Well, if we’re going to be strangers again like a year ago, I’d like you to remember me. As I am, in my true element.”
“And that’s your house?”
“Why not? Don’t we all create our surroundings to suit who we are? I’m sure Lori will want another house. Or, she’ll renovate what I have now. So, if you ever visit us there, it won’t show you the real me anymore.” Greg turned briefly towards her, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Elise forced a smile, but it faded before she turned her face away. She said, “Are you playing with me?”
“No, I am perfectly serious. And if you’re still not sure, can I tempt you with champagne? I’ve got some good stuff at home. I’ll offer you the best I have.”
She did not answer. She was irritated and she did not know why.
“Okay, that’s not working. Can I ask, as your buddy? I’m honestly nervous about getting married and I’d like to have a comfortable, relaxing evening. I can only do that around a true and familiar friend. Like you. I have other friends, but someone like you, whose chatter I can stand and I actually think means something—rare.”
She laughed softly, and regarded him a couple of minutes. “You mean that?”
“Yes, a true friend I can really talk to.”
She turned the idea over in her head. A true friend? For his last free evening. He was losing his freedom, and she was losing a friend.
He grinned, slowed down, and turned the car around.
I’m a realist in my writing, as well as my art. I don’t have as much imagination as many other writers–a handicap (or strength) that comes partly from my training (Ph.D.) and experience as a mental health program researcher/evaluator/developer. I’m also a flâneuse, a female observer-wanderer. So, I watch, and observe. And listen. That’s where the meat of my writing comes from.
As an author of love stories, I tend not to rely on broad shoulders and heaving bosoms. Instead, I go into the protagonists’ thoughts and emotions, and how those show their growth. My novels deal with protagonists’ insecurities and disappointments, love/hate relationships with parents, characters who seem to behave out-of-character, and even life events not typically included in romantic fiction. My stories do have happy epilogues, and I’ve tried to work in intriguing plotlines into them.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!