Scribal Love Welcomes Toni Noel!
Toni Noel is an author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her newest release, Decisive Moments, is available for download from Desert Breeze Publishing.
What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?
There are many Decisive Moments in life, times when a life hangs in the balance, times when the heart is at risk, the moments that drag before a lost child is found. For the characters in my latest book, those moments are life-changing and heart-wrenching.
What is this book about? And what genre is this book in?
My dark romance is about a gutsy photographer and the reclusive architect preventing her from photographing his boarded up house. She needs those photographs to complete her graduate project and earn her Masters Degree in Fine Art. With this degree the young widow will be able to support her young daughter, but the architect refuses to enter his home, scene of childhood trauma, and denies the headstrong photographer's request. She takes matters into her own hands, causing the architect to face Decisive Moments from his past.
How long have you been writing in this genre?
I've been writing romance for sixteen years, some of my novels are sweet, some scary, but all have happy endings providing the reader with a safe haven for the heart, the kind of books I like to read. Three books are available now, three more will be released in 2012.
Who is/are the main characters? And why did you choose them?
Amy Millington's pilot husband had no idea she'd conceived his child when his fighter plane crashed in the Nevada desert. Now five-year-old Marta is on a daddy search. Amy has no intention of ever remarrying, but Marta decides the architect who took an instant dislike to her mother will make the perfect husband and father for them. It's obvious the architect is unhappy, and Amy is drawn to the somber man the same way something she doesn't understand draws her back to his boarded up house. Does her daughter Marta hold the key to unlocking the mystery that has made Charles Harding's life so bleak all these years?
Where did the idea for your book come from?
On the way to lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant we passed a boarded up brick mansion in Mission Hills. Days later, I still couldn't get that house out of my mind.
In your opinion, what makes a good story?
I like believable stories with believable characters who do surprising or unbelievable things and create seemingly insurmountable problems only resolved when their two hearts work as one.
Can you give us a quick taste of what’s inside?
Excerpt -- Decisive Moments -- the end of the first-meet scene.
Anger -- or was it something else -- flared in his eyes as he stood. "There is no chance of you ever photographing my house," Charles said, a note of finality in his voice.
"Here's my card, in case you change your mind."
He slid the card into his desk without a glance. "I won't."
Amy tucked her purse under her arm and headed for the door. Across the room a burst of buttercup yellow caught her eye. Her own reflection in glass. The only spot of color in the dreary room was her best suit.
Do you have anything specific you would like to say to your readers?
Dark novels do not have to be depressing. In writing this book I believe I've found ways to draw the reader in and keep him/her engaged in the story while the dark secrets unfold.
Where can we find you on the web?
Visit my website: http://www.ToniNoelAuthor.com
Follow my Blog: http://www.toninoelauthor.com/blog.html
And on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/ToniNoelWriter
Toni Noel is the author of three eBooks released by Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc, and three more to be released in 2012. She retired in 1995 as Senior Accountant for a government contractor to write full time, unaware how little she knew about fiction writing and how much she'd need to learn.
She worked so hard at getting her name into print the San Diego Chapter of Romance Writers of America awarded her a banner reading "Rejection builds character" commemorating the month she received three rejection letters in one day.
A firm believer in perseverance and keeping the faith, Toni made her first eBook sale in 2009 and couldn't be happier seeing her name in print on the covers of her eBooks she downloaded to her Nook.
To satisfy the requirements for her Master's Degree in fine art photography, Amy Millington needs to photograph Charles Harding’s childhood home, but his boarded-up-house holds painful memories for Charles. Without those photographs Amy cannot secure her young daughter Marta's future. Charles denies the gutsy widow's request. Her efforts to show him how to have fun lead him to allow her to photograph his home. Then Marta gets lost and Charles must help search his house for her. He finds Marta and his mother's long-lost suicide note. Knowing the reason his mother shot his father, then turned the gun on herself, frees Charles from his past, but can he free Amy from her painful past and teach her to love again?
The receptionist on a mission to block her path was no match for Amy Millington. On a mission herself, she darted past.
Her destination loomed ahead, the two closed mahogany doors leading to the office of Charles A. Harding, Architect.
So far, so good.
Now to outsmart the sedately dressed secretary seated at the desk just outside those doors. This formidable woman screened the architect's calls and had, on a daily basis for the last two months, refused Amy's request for an appointment.
Failure to accomplish her mission meant postponing graduation for six more months. No way. Too much was riding on her master's degree. Maybe even a Guggenheim Fellowship. Amy's new career, for sure, and with it, a secure future for her daughter. No way would she allow Harding's secretary to stop her now.
Taking a deep breath, Amy charged around the woman's desk to the doors and yanked, sending one crashing back against the wall.
The dark-haired man seated behind a massive desk looked up, surprised. His finely tailored suit matched the toasted pecan color of his eyes. His white shirt seemed almost too harsh for his silk tie softly patterned in rust and bark.
Amy's heart beat erratically, making her lightheaded right when she needed to be at her best. She didn't have much time. Building security would show up soon.
She met the man's unreadable gaze and forced her best smile. Three more strides brought her close enough to inhale the woodsy scent of his aftershave. "Mr. Harding, I--"
His threshold guard interrupted. "I'm sorry, Mr. Harding. This young woman wouldn't stop."
He frowned, but a hint of curiosity lit his eyes. "Never mind, Julia." He nodded at his secretary and she left the room, though Amy noticed she didn't close the door.
Then he returned his attention to the blueprints on his desk. The nerve of him. Like a naughty child in the principal's office, he made her wait.
A fresh wave of irritation at all her wasted time washed over her. Weeks of thwarted attempts to see this illusive man, and what did he do once she'd breached his gates?
Ignored her best smile. Ignored the stylish suit she'd purchased just for this moment, a suit bought with money she'd managed to cut from her school supply budget over the last six months. It looked like she wouldn't earn a second glance from this reclusive architect.
Finally he stopped shuffling the blueprints, rolled them up and stood. "Five minutes."
She extended her hand, ignoring his cold demeanor. "My name is Amy Millington." When he reluctantly offered his, she shook his hand, an artist's hand with long fingers, his smooth, uncallused palm unexpectedly warm.
"Charles Harding, but of course you know that."
Yes, she knew his name, and a lot more about him, thanks to her research. His presence seemed to fill the spacious room, crowding her. His quick gesture indicated she should take the chair near his desk. She sat, welcoming the chance to catch her breath and corral her thoughts.
He took his seat and cleared the space before him of work, giving her a moment to study him unobserved.
A stray curl tumbled over his forehead when he glanced down at his work, giving him a boyish look. He was definitely more good-looking than any photos she'd found of him, but he looked older than his years, and almost sad.
"So, Miss Millington, what's so important you couldn't wait for an appointment?"
"I wanted an appointment, but your secretary has refused to give me one each time I called. She insisted you were unavailable, that you would never make time to see me."
"Julia simply carries out my instructions." He opened a drawer, took out a yellow pad and slid the drawer shut. "What brings you to my office? Are you interested in building a home?"
Amy glanced at the framed renderings on the wall behind him. All were of rather sterile, contemporary dwellings built of stone and glass. Her artistic eye rebelled at those cold images created by the man seated across from her.
"House plans are not what I had in mind." She steadied her nerves and plunged on as she felt her five minutes ticking away. "I'm a grad student at UCSD just weeks from completing a master's degree in visual arts. Photographing architecture is my main emphasis. I came because of my interest in your great-grandfather's home designs."
Harding's frown returned so she hurried on. "He built six homes in Mission Hills. I've studied those designs, and over the past few months I've photographed the interiors of five of those homes as part of my graduate project. There's only one I still need. The house you own on Harding Road. At one time the man living there gave me permission to photograph the interior, but I'm now unable to reach him."
She watched as the architect's lips drew into a tight line, hardening his expression. A mouth revealed so much about a man.
With a deft motion, he slid open the drawer and stuffed the yellow pad inside. "I'm afraid what you're about to propose is impossible. The uncle you spoke to died." Harding came to his feet, ready to kick her out.
"No." A muscle twitched in his strong jaw. "Five houses should be sufficient for your needs."
"Not photographing the sixth house will make my study incomplete. Please, could I--"
Irritation flashed in his eyes. "No one goes inside."
Why? It didn't make sense.
All right, time to try something else. "I'm sure you know the first C. A. Harding included ingenious details in his designs." To Amy's relief, his stiff stance relaxed a fraction.
"One interesting part of my research involved discovering the secret hidden in each of the homes he helped build. The house with the dumb waiter to the master bedroom is my favorite."
As if surprised to discover himself standing, Harding eased back into his chair.
Almost made him smile. Good. Maybe she could reach the real man beneath this hard shell. "Or maybe it's the house on Dixon Drive where shrubbery hides the outside stairs leading from the garden to the eldest son's bedroom."
Amazingly, Harding's sculpted lips twitched into a smile. What a difference a grin made in his looks. Gone was the grim set of his jaw, the skeptical frown. A cleft in his chin appeared. What could have made this handsome man so dour? So serious? Charles Harding needed to learn how to lighten up.
Ignoring the sudden tripping of her heartbeat as she realized she was staring at him, she hurried on. "I can just picture an adolescent son sneaking in late at night, no need to remove his shoes."
Leaning forward, Amy met the architect's gaze and smiled. "What about you? Are surprises hidden in your designs?"
"I'm more concerned with function. With practicality. My clientele demands modern efficiency for their money, clean lines and easy care. Hidden passageways are remnants of another time."
"That may be true, but what romantic times they were. Have you asked your clients if they might prefer something more imaginative? A design with a few soft curves to soften all the cold stone and glass?"
"What might seem appropriate in your art would be considered impractical in modern homes."
Modern designs held no appeal for her she'd learned. "Now, about photographing your house..."
Anger -- or was it something else -- flared in his eyes as he stood. "There is no chance of you ever photographing my house," he said, a note of finality in his voice.
"Here's my card, in case you change your mind."
He slid the card into his desk without a glance. "I won't."
She tucked her purse under her arm and headed for the door. Across the room a burst of buttercup yellow caught her eye. Her own reflection in glass. The only spot of color in the dreary room was her best suit.
Here's a buy link for Decisive Moments so you can discover if there really is a ghost living in Charles' boarded up house.
Or at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple's Bookstore, All Romance eBooks.