Today I am so pleased to welcome Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt to Joyfully Jay. Liv and Irene have come to chat and share an exclusive excerpt from their latest release, The Frogman and the Spy. They have also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving them a big welcome!
….and then there was the time we wrote a book about a frog. ?
Technically the book Irene Preston and I wrote isn’t “about” a frog, but frogs might have played a role. A featured role. A key role, tbh. See, it happened like this…
Irene: So what do you want to do for our Royal Powers book?
Me: <helpfully> I dunno.
(Editor: we’d been invited to contribute a book to the shared world Royal Powers series, a multi-author project that imagines a pair of countries between France & Spain where the royal families possess superpowers. The combination was too much fun for us to pass up.)
Irene: So, I have this idea…<whisper whisper whisper whisper> and frogs!
Irene: <using her shocked voice> Wow. Okay. Let’s do it, then.
And so, our super-royal romcom was born!
The thing I like most about Frogman is how we balanced the real world with such an improbable premise. (And I’m deliberately not doing much to describe the premise because I don’t want to give away anything fun.)
Irene and I don’t have a ton of experience with writing comedy but one thing I picked up somewhere along the way is that the characters need to believe in what’s going on. If they take a wink-wink-nudge-nudge this isn’t really real approach, then their story isn’t as funny.
So we ended up with a whole cast of characters who absolutely believe <mumble mumble mumble mumble> with frogs(!). The strategy must have worked, because we made each other laugh out loud when we traded scenes back and forth.
As the book took shape, we realized we had a sort of spy-vs-spy adventure story along with the romance, so we leaned into the wanna-be James Bond angle. We also brought in characters from some of the previous books, so readers who’ve been following the series will have quite a few little easter eggs to discover.
This is the sixth book Irene and I have written together, and while The Frogman and the Spy is different than our other series, I think it’s very much an Irene+Liv book. There’s more humor than in our other books, but there’s still heat, and there’s still heart.
We’re in Enzo’s POV….he’s engaged in a little strategic pruning when Jim interrupts…
“Did you do all the sculptures?” Jim’s voice floated up from behind him.
“A lot have been here since my predecessor.” This was an easy subject. “Master Inigo did them as well as designing the west garden where the koi pond is. Most of his were geometric shapes, though. The animals and other fanciful ones are mine.”
Fanciful was a nice way of saying silly, but Enzo allowed himself the vanity this time. “The hedge maze was his creation, but he encouraged me to experiment here.” The children who visited loved it anyway. “I’ve maintained the core structure he designed.”
“The elephants are for the party, right? Because Princess Katalin will be visiting from South Abarra?”
Now how did an American know that? Enzo supposed the princess’s work with animals was well documented, so maybe it wasn’t so strange. He hadn’t thought the American press followed her as closely as the Abarran paparazzi, though. Maybe Jim was a royal-watcher. If that were true, he would have to keep a close eye on him when the guests started arriving.
“I heard Teo talking about how the estate had ordered special moss so some new pieces would be done in time,” Jim continued.
Enzo breathed a little sigh of relief. Temp workers went through a security screen, but obsessed fans were harder to weed out. He didn’t want to think the only reason Jim and Lori were here was to catch an up-close glimpse of Abarran royals. Although he wasn’t sure why the idea bothered him. Lots of the Abarran temps hired on for that very reason.
“Master Inigo would have never used moss,” he answered. “But I didn’t have an existing hedge that could have been shaped into something this unique and even if I had, it would have taken too long. The moss allows me to,” play, he almost said. “Produce more quickly for special events and I don’t have to worry as much about making mistakes.” Except with the elephants. There was no time to grow out any ill-advised cuts if he screwed up now.
“But Teo said it took months.” They had reached the exit of the maze and Jim pushed the cart a little faster until they were walking side by side. He had picked the side without the ladder between them and they were almost shoulder to shoulder. “How do you find time? When they told me I’d be reporting to the groundskeeper, I thought they meant whoever was in charge of the formal areas. But Teo said you manage everything, the gardens, the forest, hay production, the orchard and…” he hesitated, “some kind of environmental research the Abarran government is funding here and in the National Forrest?”
“Land management for CO2 mitigation,” Enzo murmured. Teo had told him that? His research wasn’t a thing they talked about even though Teo did help him with a lot of the actual execution. “I’m part of an international research consortium. Really, I just collect data and add it to the group database for analysis.”
“So you must work with people from all over the world.” Jim sounded admiring, as though Enzo were some kind of sophisticate, jetting off all over the world to confer with his colleagues. Globe-trotting for causes was his mother’s thing. Enzo was happier staying on the estate. Except maybe during solstice week when his research took an extreme backseat to birthday festivities.
“The internet is an international community, especially for scientists.” He couldn’t bring himself to completely destroy Jim’s flattering viewpoint. He supposed he did know people from all over the world. He had never thought of it like that.
They had reached the service area on the far side of the estate. He helped Jim unload the clippings from the cart into the industrial composter, then store the cart in one of the outbuildings. Despite the fact that Jim was a virtual stranger, the work felt companionable, their rhythm almost as in sync as when he worked with Teo, whom Enzo had known since grade school. Except Teo was a friend and companion. He didn’t have this constant sense of Teo as a man. Teo’s scent didn’t tease him as they stood next to each other outside the utility barn. He didn’t have to work to stop picturing Teo naked.
“The crew will be at Le Bouleau. You can still catch them up.”
Jim raised an eyebrow. “We could. I’ll buy you a glass of wine. You could tell me more about your work.”
Tempting. Enzo bit back the automatic yes that tried to escape. No one on the estate asked about his work except his mother, who was rarely here, and Princess Odile, who wanted a tab in his monthly report. And having a glass of wine with a handsome companion had its own appeal.
The invitation in Jim’s eyes as he waited for an answer held a stronger allure than the wine, but Enzo had a schedule and a daily checklist. He had completed neither yet. In the end, duty won. Knowing he had met his own standards was more rewarding in the long run than the temporary pleasure of the outing.
Le Bouleau would be noisy and crowded with strangers. An extrovert like Jim would find plenty of companionship.
He made his voice friendly but firm as he reestablished boundaries. “Not tonight. But enjoy yourself. Thanks for staying late to help out. You can flex some of your hours next week or log the overtime, whichever you prefer.”
He didn’t wait for a response as he turned and headed through the woods toward his own cottage. But he turned back at the sound of his name.
“Hey, da Silva.” Jim stood with his arms outstretched, palms up. “Are you always this stubborn?”
Jim grinned, looking cocky and way too appealing. “I don’t give up, you know. In fact, some might say that I’m pretty much unstoppable.”
Enzo cocked his head, not sure where this was going. “So?”
“Well, you know what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, don’t you?”
Jim winked. “I can’t be giving it away. You’ll just have to wait and see.”
Spy vs Spy
Jim Calhoun and his sister Lori are just two Americans in North Abarra exploring their roots. They are definitely not off-duty CIA agents.
Enzo da Silva is the head groundskeeper on Princess Odile’s country estate. He is definitely what he seems to be – the guy who trims the hedge maze and measures oxygen levels in the national forest.
The Princess’s birthday bash is a major celebration every year. As the big day approaches, a series of accidents plague the preparations. It’s almost like someone wants things to go wrong. But it’s not as though two commoners like Jim and Enzo – with absolutely no super powers – can stop a rogue supervillian. And if Jim and Enzo keep showing up at the same crime scenes, it’s not because they can’t keep their eyes off each other.
Liv Rancourt writes romance of all kinds. Because love is love, even with fangs.
Liv is a huge fan of paranormal romance and urban fantasy and loves history just as much, so her stories often feature vampires or magic or they’re set in the past…or all of the above. When Liv isn’t writing she takes care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether she’s at work or at home. Her husband is a soul of patience, her kids are her pride and joy, and her dogs – Trash Panda and The Boy Genius – are endlessly entertaining.
Liv can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter. For sneak peeks and previews and other assorted freebies, go HERE to sign up for her mailing list or join the Facebook page she shares with her writing partner Irene Preston, After Hours with Liv & Irene. See you soon!
Irene Preston has to write romances, after all she is living one. As a starving college student, she met her dream man who whisked her away on a romantic honeymoon across Europe. Today they live in the beautiful hill country outside of Austin, Texas where Dream Man is still working hard to make sure she never has to take off her rose-colored glasses.
Visit Irene online:
Irene and Liv have brought a great giveaway! Follow the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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