THE BOTTOM LINE (The Ladies Who Lunch #1) by Sandy James-review, interview and giveaway
The Bottom Line
The Ladies Who Lunch #1
by Sandy James
Genre: contemporary, romance,
Release Date: May 6, 2014
ABOUT THE BOOK: Release Date May 6, 2014
When life gets tough and love is hard to find, four friends take their troubles to lunch. Surviving a failed marriage and an illness that almost takes her life, high school teacher Mallory Hamilton needs the Ladies Who Lunch more than ever . . .
After a year of upheaval, Mallory has had her fill of change—with one exception. Her house is a disaster, and she wants it fixed. Hiring a contractor to finish the projects her ex-husband started will help her banish the past so she can return to the life she had before everything went awry. But her contractor is sexy, sweet, and single, which threatens the peaceful, solitary life Mallory has planned for herself.
Ben Carpenter has had a hard time raising his daughter without his ex-wife’s help. His new client’s projects will give him the extra income he needs, not to mention afternoons alone with a gorgeous woman. Though their attraction is undeniable, Ben sees the fear and pain hiding in Mallory’s beautiful eyes. But how can he help her if she won’t let him in? Ben can fix just about anything—but can he fix Mallory’s broken heart?
REVIEW: THE BOTTOM LINE is the first instalment in Sandy James’s contemporary, romance series focusing on a group of female teachers who meet every day at lunch to discuss life, love and growing old. This is Mallory and Ben’s storyline-one the focuses on a second chance at love for both but not before heartbreak and misunderstanding push the couple apart.
Sandy James writes an engaging story where one woman has faced a life altering situation and survived. Hoping for a new direction, she hires local contractor Ben Carpenter to remodel her house and in doing so finds that she begins to remodel her life. Ben and Mallory are immediately attracted to one another but Mallory is hiding a secret-one that even many of her fellow colleagues are unaware-and it is a secret she fears will push Ben away when the truth is revealed.
This is a friends to lovers storyline where second chances are complicated when past issues are left unresolved. Mallory’s private and personal ‘problems’ drive a major portion of the storyline and in this there is a constant struggle about decisions, revelations and between friends. Although her friends mean well and are very over protective, there comes a time when everyone must make their first solo venture into the world of dating and love. The sexual tension between Mallory and Ben is palpable; their love making is sensual, romantic and not over the top.
The secondary characters are colorful and become our heroine’s constant source of support and turmoil. The world building focuses on the friends and colleagues who gather each day for lunch and on weekends at the local church singles dance.
THE BOTTOM LINE is a compelling story about one woman’s struggle and the decisions she must make with regards to her future. It is a story where past betrayals are a constant reminder and sometimes the present may be all you have. It is also a story about two people who have been given a second chance-for love and life-and their hopes that a future together will be loving and long.
Copy supplied by the author.
Reviewed by Sandy
TRC: Hi Sandy and welcome to The Reading Cafe. Congratulations on the release of THE BOTTOM LINE.
TRC: We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?
Sandy: I’m a teacher, a job that’s becoming more challenging by the day thanks to “the powers that be.” It wasn’t my intended profession. I always believed I’d be a lawyer. But children came faster than my husband and I expected, so I chose a career that would give me more time with my daughter and son. It was the right decision, something I’m reminded of every time I step in front of a class.
Somewhere in my late twenties, I started having odd physical symptoms ranging from thyroid problems to rashes to swollen joints to horrible fatigue. After years of having no idea what was wrong, to the point everyone—including me—believed I might be a hypochondriac, I was finally diagnosed with lupus. I make a point of mentioning it on my website, during interviews, and whenever I conduct workshops, because I think it’s important to show other lupus sufferers that you can still have a productive life despite this damned illness.
TRC: How do you handle the pressures of being a high school teacher and writing romance on the side?
Sandy: My children are both grown, married, and living their lives, which means my nest is empty. My husband and I moved to a smaller home last summer. It’s been such a great change. The place is so easy to clean, and with just the two of us, there’s not nearly as much to do. That helps considerably. Being a teacher actually helps my writing career since we’re off in June and July. Our school also dismisses at 2:30, which gives me a lot of afternoon time to write.
TRC: You and your husband own a small racing stable of Standard bred Harness horses. How did you venture into the Harness racing business?
Sandy: When Jeff and I were first married (back in the Stone Age), we lived in Chicago. The only person we knew there was my cousin. At the time, she was married to one of the best harness drivers in the country. Since we began to spend a lot of time together, Jeff and I learned to enjoy the sport.
Around his fortieth birthday, he started researching owning a horse. He’s such a great guy, I wanted to help him chase the dream. So after he explained it all to me, I went to the bank to get a loan to help him buy that first horse. It’s become such a great part of our lives. Not only do we both love the animals, the people in the racing world are such a kick to be around.
TRC: Have you ever considered a series focusing on horse racing?
Sandy: I actually wrote Murphy’s Law to share my love of harness racing with my readers. The horses also appear in All the Right Reasons. But I have a new series my agent is pitching to editors right now that goes back to the track! (Shameless plug—Both those books are in The Damaged Heroes Collection, which is only 99 cents for all five books right now.)
TRC: THE BOTTOM LINE is your May 2014 release in The Ladies Who Lunch series. Would you please tell us something about the premise?
Sandy: There’s a lot of my life in this series. I have eaten lunch with my own “Ladies” for several years, so it seemed like a great tribute to them and their friendship to include that kind of relationship in my stories.
The Ladies Who Lunch is a group of four teachers who are tightly bonded. The reader gets to see life through their eyes. I love that the heroines are different ages (in their twenties and thirties) and have such distinct personalities.
The Bottom Line explores the issue of what it’s like to be a breast cancer survivor. Two of my own “Ladies” have weathered that choppy ocean, and I tried to honor their strength and grace in the character of Mallory.
TRC: Are any of the characters or the storyline premise based in reality?
Sandy: In some ways, all my characters have a basis in reality. I never model a character after a distinct person, but when I have a friend, relative, or student who has a distinct personality or trait, I often incorporate that into my characters. The only heroine who I can say is “me” is Jackie Delgado from Turning Thirty-Twelve. I channeled myself quite strongly into her.
TRC: SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED is the next instalment in The Ladies Who Lunch Series. Would you please tell us about the premise and whose storyline it will be?
Sandy: Juliana gets the spotlight in Signed, Sealed, Delivered. Her story heats up very quickly when she starts to explore the possibility of leaving teaching for a more lucrative job, a crossroads many teachers face. At a real estate seminar, she meets Connor, a man who inspires her in many, many ways.
TRC: How many books do you have planned for the series?
Sandy: The series is four books—one for each of my Ladies. Any expansion on it would be about the small town in which they live, Cloverleaf, Illinois. I love writing about small town life! This town is based loosely on my in-laws’ hometown of Mt. Carmel, Illinois.
TRC: What are your thoughts on writing a series and ending an instalment with a major cliff hanger?
Sandy: I think it’s horrible! One thing I believe readers depend upon is a writer to leave them satisfied at the end of a story. A cliffhanger is almost cruel to readers!
I also like writing “closed” series. Two of mine—The Ladies Who Lunch and The Alliance of the Amazons—are limited to four books. There’s a distinct ending to each of the books, and the last book wraps up all four of the stories as well.
TRC: When writing a storyline, do the characters direct the writing or do you direct the characters?
Sandy: Sometimes I think the characters are more in charge than I am. I always have a plan in mind, but writing can become such an adventure. For example, Ross in Murphy’s Law and Free Falling is named after a former student who wanted me to give a villain his name. I tried to make Ross a bad guy, a shyster lawyer in Murphy’s Law. I honestly tried. But the fictitious Ross would have none of it. He was such a good character and nice guy he became the hero in Free Falling.
TRC: The mark of a good writer is to pull the reader into the storyline so that they experience the emotions along with the characters. What do you believe a writer must do to make this happen? Where do you believe writer’s fail in this endeavor?
Sandy: The characters have to be “real” to the writer. I think my background in psychology helps me tremendously in creating realistic characters. To achieve this, a writer needs to feel what the characters are feeling. I know when I’m writing happy scenes, I’m in a great mood. Writing black moments almost always makes me look at life in a pessimistic way. I ride the same roller coaster every character rides throughout a story.
Where do writers fail? Whenever a character is so wooden she becomes cliché. I’ve read a few stories where the heroes or heroines were all but cardboard, because nothing they did or felt seemed authentic. As I said, knowledge of psychology is the best tool, which is why I started teaching psychology workshops for authors.
TRC: Writer’s Block is a very real phenomenon. How do you handle the pressures and anxiety of writer’s block?
Sandy: I need to knock on wood as I say this, but I’ve never had writer’s block. When my agent started selling books on proposal (three chapters and a synopsis) rather than as a completed manuscript, I worried whether I’d be able to write with my “back to the wall.” Turns out that deadlines are highly motivating for me!
There’s always a touch of anxiety in my writing process, but I attribute that to my being such a superlative Type A personality. I like being busy. I love being super busy. But the baggage to that is there’s always an element of anxiety involved.
TRC: What challenges or difficulties (research, logistics, background) did you encounter writing this particular story and series?
Sandy: The Ladies Who Lunch might be a tightknit group of friends, but their situations are unique. I’ve had to research breast cancer treatments, the process of breast reconstruction, how to sell real estate, home renovation, adoption law… You name a topic, it probably pops up in The Ladies Who Lunch. Of course, variety is the spice of life. Right?
TRC: Many authors bounce ideas and information with other authors or friends and family. With whom do you bounce ideas?
Sandy: I’m blessed to have wonderful critique partners, all of whom are published authors. Cheryl Brooks is well-known for her Cat Star Chronicles, Nan Reinhardt writes great stories with mature heroines, and Sandra Owens has some marvelous historical romances close to release. I also have a friend/critique partner/cheerleader in Leanna Kay. The two of us have worked together since the very first book I wrote back in 2006.
TRC: On what are you currently working?
Sandy: I just wrapped up Sealing the Deal (Ladies Who Lunch book 3) and have shifted back to my historical series, Safe Havens. The fourth book will revolve around Kayla and Drake, characters introduced in Redeemed (book 3). Kayla has a major secret, one that is going to follow her to White Pines. Hopefully, my new horseracing series will find a good home soon! Then it’s “full steam ahead” on those books!
TRC: What three things would you like to accomplish in the next five years?
Sandy: I want to make the USA Today or NYT bestsellers’ list so badly! I’m trying to do my best to get word out there about my books through reviews and interviews (thanks again for hosting me today!), and hopefully, my momentum will continue.
As much as I enjoy teaching, I would love to be able to transition into being a full-time writer. The lupus makes being a good teacher a little tougher every day. The fatigue is the worst. If I could write full-time, I wouldn’t have to wake up so early, and if I needed a quick nap, I could take one.
TRC: What is something that few, if any people, know about you?
Sandy: I don’t have an abundance of self-esteem. I was overweight as a child, and I lived in an isolated neighborhood, so I didn’t know most of the kids at school the same way they all knew each other. I often felt like an outsider, and I was teased a lot for being chubby and not “fitting in.” I was also a horrible nerd, which only hurt my chance of being popular in any way, shape, or form. My first true friends came in junior high, and I’ve always been grateful to Angela and Karen for helping me start down the road of learning to like myself.
TRC: Would you like to add anything else?
Sandy: I just want to thank my entire family for their unending support. Getting a writing career off the ground isn’t easy, and without them, I’d never be where I am today.
Favorite TV Show
The Walking Dead
Last Movie You Saw
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dark or Milk Chocolate
Milk! Dark is yuck.
Secret Celebrity Crush
Robert Downey Jr.
Last Vacation Destination
New York City
Students acting stupid in the locker bank
TRC: Thank you Sandy for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you all the best.
Sandy is offering the following giveaway package. There will be three (3) winners.
First Prize: One lucky commenter will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card
Second Prize: Two lucky commenters will receive an ecopy of THE BOTTOM LINE by Sandy James
1. Please register using the log-in at the top of the page (side bar) or by using one of the social log-ins.
2. If you are using a social log-in, please post your email address with your comment.
3. LIKE us on FACEBOOK and then click GET NOTIFICATION under ‘liked’ for an additional entry.
4. LIKE us on Twitter for an additional entry.
5. LIKE SANDY JAMES on Facebook.
6. The giveaway is open internationally wherever Amazon is available.
7. The giveaway runs from April 24 to April 30, 2014