Author: Melissa McClone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
When a message in a bottle unwittingly brings together two strangers who couldn't be more different, will opposites attract, or will their worlds collide?
Bestselling thriller author Jenny Hanford never expects anything to happen the night she whimsically throws her requirements for true love into the ocean. Thirteen months later, however, she hears back from the man who found her bottle.
Exchanging carefree emails and texts with Dare makes Jenny smile and fills her days with anticipation. She doesn’t know much about him, but his humor and kindness keep her replying. Flirting long-distance is fun and safe, but she can’t deny her growing affection for her online friend.
When she discovers Dare is a soldier who has been injured in the line of duty, she’s given the opportunity to visit him. Jenny wants to go, but she’s afraid he’ll turn out to be as make believe as the characters she creates. What are the odds Dare could be her real dream hero?
At two o’clock in the morning, Jenny Hanford still sat at her desk in the half-lit office on the first floor of her house. Day or night, nothing much happened in Berry Lake, Washington, a small town located north of the Columbia River Gorge. Maybe that was why she’d grown up devouring novels and now wrote books full of intrigue, espionage, and non-stop action.
Jenny stifled a yawn.
Yes, she was tired, but sleep could wait until she finished the draft of her new novel, Assassin Fever—the next volume in her bestselling thriller series called the Thorpe Files, which featured spy extraordinaire Ashton Thorpe.
As sights, sounds, and smells swirled through her mind, her fingers flew over the keyboard. The tapping sound became nothing more than white noise. She focused on the screen. Letters turned into words that became sentences and then paragraphs.
Her breath caught in her throat.
Tears stung her eyes.
Oh, Ash. You did it. You saved the world. Again.
With a sigh, she typed her two favorite words in the English language—The End. The draft was finished.
Satisfaction flowed through her.
A good feeling considering she’d been certain the story was the worst thing she’d ever written only four days ago. Still not perfect, but the manuscript didn’t suck as badly as she’d thought. All she needed was feedback from her editor so she could do revisions. She typed a quick email, attached the file, and then hit send.
Now she could sleep. Well, once her brain slowed down.
If she went to bed now, she wouldn’t sleep. The story still looped through her mind. The elation of finishing mixed with the sadness of saying goodbye for now to her favorite character.
Might as well do something productive until she could no longer stay awake.
The number of emails in her inbox made her do a double take. Jenny groaned. She’d been ignoring everything for almost two weeks, but…
She groaned again.
Don’t look at them.
But, of course, she had to.
Jenny deleted as much of the junk as she could. Message notifications from her online book club could wait until tomorrow. They were used to her disappearing to write. When she’d first joined the Romantic Hearts Book Club, she’d been a full-time textbook editor and part-time author. Now she only edited an occasional textbook project—usually as a favor to her former boss—and wrote full time.
So much had changed over the past four years. Her entire life really, though few knew because she’d never made a big deal over writing as Jenna Ford. She wasn’t that secretive about her pseudonym, but she’d quickly learned too many people only wanted to be Jenna’s friend. Not Jenny’s.
Maybe that was why her closest friends, other than her sister-in-law and some college classmates, were people she’d met virtually. She could just be herself with them. It was easier that way.
She scrolled through her inbox and deleted what she could. The subject line “Message in Bottle Found” caught her attention.
She did a double take. “Seriously?”
Over a year ago—thirteen months to be exact—she’d taken a Caribbean vacation on Enchanted Island with eleven other members of her book club. Meeting in person seemed appropriate after being together online for three years.
Boy, was it ever!
Spending face-to-face time with friends, having fun in the sun, and talking about books had been the perfect getaway. Jenny hadn’t realized how badly she’d needed a vacation—or how enjoyable it would be to hang out with women from the book world.
Before they returned home, they’d each tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean in hopes of finding true love. They weren’t called the Romantic Hearts for nothing. Surprisingly, a few had met their dream heroes after they received replies and were now married.
She’d gone into the bottle toss with zero expectations. Oh, she’d hoped it might work out, but deep in her heart of hearts, she had a feeling it wouldn’t. She might write fiction, but her life was no storybook. Her romantic past read more like a comedy—a dark one. She’d assumed a tanker or cargo ship would run over her bottle and the note would never be read. But now…
Jenny tapped on the subject line.
Message in Bottle Found
To: Jenny <8675309@…>
Message received, Jenny. I assume that’s your name. 867-5309 is one of my mom’s favorite songs.
Bottle found on a beach in Key West.
An asteroid has a better chance of causing an ELE than an EMP. Just sayin’.
Roswell, seriously? You should be more embarrassed about that than someone reading your message in a bottle. Guess you’re a Bigfoot believer, too.
P.S. I am single and male, but not in the market for a soul mate. Hope you’ve found your true love.
Well, her bottle had at least reached an unmarried guy. What were the odds of that?
She laughed at his last line.
Jenny hadn’t found her one true love, but that was okay. She had room for only one man in her life.
Yep, good old Ashton Thorpe.
He might only live in her mind and on the pages of her novels, but he was the ultimate book boyfriend—the kind of guy men aspired to be. Her series that featured him had made more money than she’d ever imagined having, and Ash would soon grace the big screen in what the producers hoped would be a successful movie franchise.
He was made for that kind of stardom… if the actor slated to play Ash could pull off his combination of courage, daring, and hotness. The right amount of swagger wouldn’t hurt, either.
Larger than life was the only way to describe Ash. Perfect was another. Make believe, yes, but no guy she’d dated could compete. Although… she hadn’t given up hope one would someday.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
Jenny is a heartwarming, sweet romance about a thriller writer who must venture out of her comfort zone and by doing so finds more than she expects in herself and the man who’d become an online friend.
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