Series in the Rearview Mirror, by Kate Collier (writing as Katie O’Boyle)
When I set out to write the Lakeside Porches romances in 2012, the setting was Tompkins Falls in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York, and the stories made use of two properties owned by protagonist Joel Tompkins Cushman. One was the Manse Inn and Spa, which had been Joel’s family home, turned into a venue for local weddings and events and a getaway place for upscale clientele wanting to enjoy the wine-tasting tours and natural beauty of the Finger Lakes region. The other was the neighborhood of apartments Joel inherited on Lakeside Terrace, each with its own gingerbready lakeview porch. Built by his Irish grandmother, Bridey O’Donohue Tompkins, each apartment was infused with Bridey’s matchmaking spirit and had a long history of romance-in-bloom. Between the two settings, there was no end to romance possibilities!
I started, of course, with Joel’s own romance, an unexpected match with the Manse’s junior accountant, Manda Doughty. Right off the pen, Manda was full of surprises for me and for Joel. When he catches her using one of the spa showers, he’s ready to fire her. But her naked beauty takes him by surprise and when he realizes she’s homeless, he feeds her breakfast on the Manse’s lakeside porch and hears her out. He’s stunned when Manda’s problem is not so much her sorry financial state, it’s her intractable drinking problem, which has gotten her deeper and deeper into a soul-sucking abusive relationship. Joel guides her into recovery and keeps his distance until she has a good foundation in a twelve-step program. But Joel knows Manda is The One for him, and Bridey knows it, too. There’s no stopping this romance after the first magical kiss.
I didn’t have the “Romance and Recovery” theme in mind when I started the Lakeside Porches series, but I quickly came to see those were the stories I needed to focus on for a time. In writing the four-book series, I drew on the “lived research” of my long involvement with twelve-step programs, where miracles of recovery happen on a daily basis through humbling hard work. The disease of addiction is an Unseen Villain in all four of the books, and each book touches on a different aspect of the disease. Rest assured, though, the benevolent spirit Joel’s sexy grandmother, Bridey, lends a ghostly hand to help love along. At least one lover in each book is strongly influenced by Bridey. However, Lyssa (book four) is the only series character that actually sees Bridey’s ghost. And what a mesmerizing presence she is!
Book One, Stepping Up To Love, is Manda’s journey in early recovery. As she faces her serious, shameful problems and cleans up her act, she and Joel develop a deep friendship that Joel is eager to turn into lifelong commitment. Manda grows from a frightened young woman who’s “off men for life” into a strong caring partner who’s willing and able to walk hand-in-hand with Joel through thick and thin. Joel and Manda are a strong presence in all four of the series books.
Book Two, Coming Home To Love, had the working title Justin’s Time Out for many months as I penned the love story of a dry drunk who finally chooses love over deep-seated anger. Joel’s uncle Justin returns to Tompkins Falls to help Joel with faltering Tompkins College, the city’s main employer. Wealthy irascible Justin falls for the beautiful and vulnerable Gianessa Dupioni, a masseuse and healer, who is also the most fascinating woman he’s met in many years. Used to getting his way by throwing around his billions, Justin is overdue for a radical personality change, and Gianessa is the motivation he needs to tame the beast in him.
Book Three, Finding the Way Back To Love, pairs Manda’s AA sponsor Gwen Forrester with new-in-town Peter Shaughnessy. Peter’s the son of a violent ne’er-do-well who drank himself to death and terrorized his family every step of the way. Now a cop, Peter has never lost his disdain for drunks. When he meets the perfect woman— pretty athletic Gwen— the chemistry is undeniable. But so is the fact she’s a recovering alcoholic and he’s the child of an alcoholic still in the chokehold of the family disease. Is he willing to go to any length to find a lifetime of love with Gwen?
Book Four, Waking Up To Love, reunites Manda with her beloved sister, former pothead Lyssa Doughty. Now sober with a Ph.D. in Economics, Lyssa may be brilliant but she’s a terrible communicator. And she still has a thrill-seeking, throw-caution-to-the-winds approach to life. Leaving behind the love of her life, Cornishman Kyle Pennington, Lyssa takes a job at Tompkins College and runs headlong into handsome dangerous Professor Rand Cunningham. Rand tags her as his perfect woman and is determined to get her to the altar by summer. When Lyssa finally wakes up to realize love is not a fantasy but a serious, wonderful reality, which man does she choose?
There are more Tompkins Falls romances on the drawing board, but the Lakeside Porches series is all wrapped up. I’m happily penning a spin-off cozy-mystery series featuring the hero and heroine of Book Four, Waking Up To Love. There’s so much intrigue to be explored on the Tompkins College campus! Ah, and there’s still plenty of love in the air in Tompkins Falls. The Manse Inn and Spa lives on and the gingerbread-trimmed porches of Lakeside Terrace still hold the romantic spirit of Bridey O’Donohue Tompkins.