It releases on Friday, February 28th. 🙂
When Celia Landry and Turner Wildwood face their fears, they’ll find the path to love.
No one goes to Wildwood Manor, a hulking stone house on a hill outside town. Legend has it crazy old man Wildwood owes his life to the magical water of the spring at the back of the property. Celia Landry needs that water to save her mother, and she’ll brave anything to get it.
Turner Wildwood, the son of the house’s eccentric builder, is growing as reclusive as his father. When Celia turns up at his door, he’s drawn by her beauty and bravery. Wary of strangers, he doesn’t reveal his identity, but agrees to her request. When she returns to Wildwood in wake of personal tragedy, he’s waiting there with a stunning change in his heart. He knows he should tell her the truth, but he doesn’t want to ruin their budding friendship.
Celia’s curiosity leads her to part of the frightening answers hidden behind Wildwood’s doors, but her own troubled past may lead Turner into danger neither of them suspected.
“Would you like to dance?” Mischief sparkled in his blue eyes. “This is one of my favorite songs. Despite my almost solitary upbringing, dance was part of my education.”
She felt heat scorch her cheeks. “Not part of mine, I’m afraid.”
“I’ll teach you.” He faced her, putting one hand on her waist and taking her hand in his. “Do the opposite of what I do. I’ll count.”
He counted in fours, moving in time with the music. Celia stumbled, but after a few moments, she caught on. Turner led her around the room as they spun in circles. She laughed, forgetting her worries. It wasn’t a ball and they were both in their nightclothes, but it was as elegant a dance as she could hope for.
Turner grinned as he pulled her a little closer. Their bodies came together, fitting perfectly. He dropped her hand, wrapping both arms around her waist. They stopped moving, standing in the shadow of the mastodon. Dark blond hair fell over his forehead, but it didn’t hide the desire on his face.
Her name was a delicate breath of air, and he clung to her as though afraid she was a dream. She was too wide awake to believe that. Her senses seemed sharper than ever. He smelled of the lemony soap Mrs. Southard used for washing the sheets and the coffee he’d had at supper. Even in the muted firelight, she saw him clearly, his golden hair bright as sunbeams, his blue eyes the color of the sky after a storm.
She’d never been a romantic, knowing all too well she’d either be a spinster or a housewife too busy with chores and children to consider stolen kisses. She’d never imagined a man would want to show her stars, or dance with her around the skeleton of an ancient beast. These were moments she could cherish forever, think of when her world came back into focus.
It all had to end.
He lifted his hand to her face, pushing a strand of hair over her ear. “You look upset.”
“I’m grateful.” She forced the words out. “It’s not every day I get escorted around a ballroom.”
“You mean it might never happen again.” He looked somber. “You’ll return to the kind of life you led before we met. One where you’re often hungry, alone, and overworked.”
She glanced away, hating the truth of his words. “It isn’t that bad.”
“Somehow I don’t believe you.”
He wouldn’t, not after the way she’d reacted to everything he’d shown her in his life. They were from different places and he could never understand how she’d lived before. She couldn’t explain it without risking his pity.
“You could always stay. I’ll find something for you to do in the manor. Official book reader. In the evenings you could recount all my favorites and the new ones I don’t have time for.”
His breath stirred the hair near her ear, tickling her skin.
“I think I prefer the title of cookie sampler. Who wouldn’t want to sit in Finny’s kitchen all day tasting the items he draws out of the oven.” She pressed her cheek against his velvet lapel and closed her eyes. “You should have taken me back to town when you found me at the spring.”
“I couldn’t do that.” There was the slightest hitch in his voice, as though the idea caused him pain.
“I’ll be ruined for life outside of Wildwood.”
“Good. Then you’ll have to come back.”
Welcome Allison Merritt! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.
I’m from Southwest Missouri where I live with my husband and a very spoiled Japanese chin named PeeWee. I write historical, paranormal, and steampunk romances.
What were your inspirations for the story?
It was rumored in the 19th century that there were healing properties in the spring waters in Arkansas, which is what attracted so many visitors to the area. Wildwood Spring doesn’t really exist, but I thought it would be neat to make the hero a reclusive-type character who the town citizens believe is kept alive by the even more mysterious water from the spring on his property.
Please share your setting for Wildwood Spring. Have you ever lived or visited there? If so, what did you like most?
Wildwood Spring is set in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. If you’ve never been there, I recommend a trip, because it’s this fantastic little town carved out in the Ozark Mountains on massive hillsides and deep valleys. It has the largest number of original Victorian homes in America and as you might have guessed from the name, there are a lot of springs to visit. Blue Spring, which has a lovely botanical garden, was one of the stops for the Native Americans passing across the Southeast on their way to Indian Territory in the early 19th century. That was one of the things that inspired me to make the heroine, Celia Landry, part Native American. When I visit, I always stop in at the Crescent Hotel, built in 1886, which has a dark history as a treatment center for cancer patients and is supposed to be haunted by the ghosts of a construction worker, a nurse, a patient, one of the girls who was a student there when it was a girl’s school and a couple more. I always take pictures when we go, trying to capture ectoplasm or ghosts.
When did the writing bug first bite?
My mom tells me that my first story was called Sally is My Dog and it was about our beagle, but when I was about 11 or 12, my best friend declared she wanted to be an author and I was copycat, so I said I did too. It stuck and with the exception of a few years of not writing, I’ve pretty much been at it ever since.
Who are you favorite authors, book/series?
I recently discovered Karen Witemeyer, who writes inspirational historical romances. She’s very funny and talented. Louis L’Amour was a huge influence on my writing, my love of the Old West, and historicals. And Linda Lael Miller has always been one of my favorite romance authors whether she’s writing historicals or contemporaries.
If you could have an author roundtable discussion with any authors, who would you invite?
I have to laugh here because I’d be seriously intimidated by my favorites. It’s kind of funny to say, but I’d gather up my critique partners because they’re awesome ladies. And I have to mention their names now. D’Ann Lindun writes contemporary western romances that are divine, Lisa Medley writes urban fantasy that will blow your mind, and Brenda Dyer writes paranormal romance with hot vampires. Lisa’s the only one I see with any regularity, so I’d love to wrangle the other two. And if I could get Karen Witemeyer and Linda Lael Miller in on this, I think it would be amazing. The world would probably explode from awesome.
Do you have any hobbies or special things you like to do in your spare time?
When the weather is nice, I love hiking, which inspires a lot of my historical romances. Antique stores are also my thing, because it’s like visiting a free museum. There are things inside that generations before ours touched and used. It’s amazing.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve heard or seen?
Everyone thinks I was drunk when this happened, but I swear I wasn’t, so you’ll just have to believe it’s true. When my husband and I were dating, we stopped at a gas station and were sitting in my car, eating snacks and looking out over this theme park in Branson, MO. It’s on a spot called Mutton Hollow, because the people who owned it used to run sheep there in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s rumored to be haunted (read Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright) and I believe it. While we were looking at the different buildings, we saw something big creep up the side of a maintenance building out there. Something big and black and with an uncountable number of legs. Something that resembled the worst spider in the entire universe. It crawled up the side of the building, onto the roof and disappeared into the darkness. I haven’t seen it since and I sure don’t want to. The theme park is abandoned now, but I think they still have church services in one of the buildings there. Not me, no thank you.
A love of reading turned Allison Merritt into an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She graduated college with a B.A. in mass communications that’s gathering dust since it was determined that she’s better at writing fluff than hard news.
She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she’s not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.