Title: Love in the Third Act
Author: Barbara Barrett
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Wedding planner Hadley Mayhew makes the mistake of sharing with a new client her mother’s bizarre request to help her find a man, never contemplating the woman will think the idea of a mature child helping their parent reenter the dating game might be great fodder for a reality TV show. Even more surprising, her client wants Hadley and her mother to be her first subjects.
Kevin Barkley had every reason to believe he’d be a huge success as a filmmaker when he won his film school’s most prestigious award. But for reasons he doesn’t understand, fate, or what seems to be fate, keeps working against him. Several producing jobs have eluded him, notably a recent offer that was withdrawn at the last minute. To make matters worse, the showrunner has been spreading rumors that Kevin is difficult.
Temporarily unemployed, Kevin is unable to refuse his aunt’s offer to executive produce and direct her latest project, a reality show about senior dating, especially since the money involved is obscene. There’s just one catch: He must agree to hire Hadley Mayhew, his former best friend in college, as his writer and assistant producer. If they are to work together, can his forgive her for revealing his fiancée was cheating on him?
Hadley checked her watch. They were already twenty minutes into a meeting scheduled to last an hour. The absence of the fiancé as well as the presence of two very different questionnaires made it difficult to proceed. If it weren’t for the nephew coming to film this meeting, she’d end it now. Where was he anyhow?
“This where I find the blushing bride?” asked a somewhat familiar male voice from the door.
Bethany rushed over to hug him. “Kevin! Finally. I was worried you wouldn’t make it.”
Hadley gaped, brain incapable of any response, although the rest of her felt like she’d been body-slammed. Kevin Barkley, her best friend in college, embraced Bethany. Hadley and Kevin had attended classes together, shared professors’ notes, late-night study and brainstorming sessions and their hopes and dreams for their film careers. She could tell him anything, except when she told him his fiancé was cheating on him. Huge mistake, even though he’d needed to know. As his best friend, that was her job. But he hadn’t agreed. He’d exploded and ended their friendship, but not before he told her she’d betrayed him. Her, not the fiancée. Now, feelings stored away for years rushed back, prevented her from speaking.
Only as he stepped away from his aunt did he notice Hadley. His body jerked and his eyes went wide. “Hadley? What are you doing here?”
“You know each other?” Bethany asked.
God, he looked great. A tad over six feet, he appeared to have been working out, to judge from the way the white tee under his windbreaker stretched across his chest. His dark brown hair was longer and disheveled. The hazel eyes she remembered as being so intense had become more guarded.
He kept those eyes on his aunt. “We, uh, knew each other several years ago.”
He didn’t refer to their estrangement. But that was Kevin. People in entertainment had a reputation as nonconformists, unafraid to speak their minds. Not Kevin. His appearance might be scruffy these days, but his mind and demeanor were more buttoned-down, though some of the most creative and innovative ideas emerged from his brain. She remembered the night their world broke apart. His expression, the disappointment in his eyes, the downward cast of his head said it all. He refused to see or even talk to her again.
She’d tried to get him to change his mind at first. But he’d held firm, and then the end of their senior year sent them different directions, him to grad school and her to her first job as screenwriter for a minor film. Seeing him now was like a warm homecoming. Did she dare hope he’d be ready to forget their estrangement? “You film weddings now?” Inane, but it was the only thing her brain would allow her to mutter, even though she knew better. She couldn’t very well burst out with, “Does this mean we can be friends again?”
“Heavens no,” Bethany inserted. “Kevin is an up and coming film director.”
His aunt’s voice appeared to cut through his shock. “But I can shoot my own film when needed. This one is going to be great because I’m doing it for one of my favorite people. Sorry I missed the beginning. Couldn’t help it. There was an accident on the 101.”
“No problem, dear.” Bethany turned back to Hadley. “We were getting acquainted and going through a few preliminaries, including this wild idea I got for a new cable TV show.”
“Yeah? Isn’t your plate full enough these days?” he asked.
She laughed, sloughed it off with a wave of her hands. “You think? Not to worry. My idea had a life span no longer than a gnat’s. Hadley turned me down.”
He finally gazed at Hadley, though his focus didn’t quite meet her eyes. “What were you going to do?”
It was difficult enough to return his look, because all she wanted to do was bask in it, but she also had to quickly defuse his aunt’s enthusiasm. This crazy idea for a TV show was getting out of hand. “Nothing. I never should have mentioned my mother’s new project: She wants me to help her find a boyfriend.”
“Your mom? Oh, right. I heard about your dad … uh, I’m sorry, I was out of the country at the time, but I should’ve sent my condolences.”
His face had taken on more mature definition since his college days. No more baby fat under his cheeks. His features had assumed a lean, almost chiseled appearance, even more handsome than she remembered. “No need to apologize. We haven’t been in communication with each other since…”
“Yeah. Long time, no see.” He swiveled back to his aunt. “Maybe we should reconsider this idea of filming your wedding plans. I, uh, don’t want to complicate things for you.”
Bethany eyed first Kevin, then Hadley. “You two have a history, don’t you? Perhaps one of you could clue me in?”
Hadley waited for Kevin to speak, since she had been the offender. But Kevin gave her the opportunity to go first. “We knew each other in college. During our senior year, Kevin and I disagreed about something and had a falling out as a result. We haven’t seen each other since. But I’m a professional, Bethany. If you want him to film the planning process, I’m game.” She sounded like a prisoner on her way to her last meal. Actually, she felt like one. Having him back in her life for this project would be agony if he wasn’t ready to forgive and forget.
Kevin seemed to be studying her, his eyes narrowed. Then his expression relaxed, like he’d made a decision. “I can be just as professional. I’m still in.”
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
Love in the Third Act is the perfect summer read (anytime, for that matter) because it offers many of the topics readers love: wedding planners, weddings, television reality shows, an ocean cruise, senior dating and friends to lovers. Though Hadley Mayhew showed promise in television production in college, things didn’t work out that way and she wound up planning weddings. Little does she realize when she takes on her next client, a woman in her middle years, that this assignment will not only throw her into the environment of billionaires, but it will also bring an old college friend back into her life, a man who ended their friendship when she tried to warn him about his fiancée as well as give her the chance of a lifetime to produce a TV show. The rub is that said show is to feature her mother’s venture into senior dating, the mother she thought was content with her life the way it was. Then there’s the double rub: she discovers she has romantic feelings for her old friend.
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Barbara Barrett skipped a midlife crisis by writing romance novels at night when she wasn’t at her day job as human resources analyst for Iowa State Government. The first took longer to complete than she likes to admit. But after that, the words flowed.
Her first book was published in 2012. Since then, she has added nine more full-length contemporary romance novels and two romance novellas to her portfolio. She also writes cozy mysteries and will soon publish the ninth book in her Mah Jongg Mystery series.
This book is the third in the “UnderWright Productions” series, which features executive producers Bart Underwood and Jordan Wright. The pair will continue to appear in secondary roles in subsequent books, each featuring the production of a different genre of television show.
Barbara is married to man she met her senior year at college. They have two grown children and eight grandchildren.
Now retired, she is a resident of Florida, although she spends her summers in Iowa, her home state. She earned her B.A. degree in History from the University of Iowa and her Master’s Degree in History from Drake University.
When not in front of her laptop creating her next story, she plays Mah Jongg, knits, and enjoys lunches with friends.
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