Sunday, February 13, 2011

What comes after happily ever?

I love a good HEA as much as the next girl - that's why I read and write romance. I need to know that the joy and turmoil the characters experience in their journey to love pays off. But what comes after happily ever?

Anyone who has ever been in love knows that the bloom fades with time. The bit about familiarity breeding contempt became a cliche for a reason. The truth is, the more we know about the person we love, the more there is to irk us.

I love my happily ever afters, but I need to know that love can still thrive and survive long after the orange blossoms have wilted and the cake topper has been permanently petrified in the back of the freezer.

This summer, Turquoise Morning Press will launch a new line called After Happily Ever, and I'm pleased to announce that my novel, Contentment, will be the debut release! Here is an excerpt from Contentment, coming June 27, 2011.

I hope you enjoy it!

Tracy Sullivan seems to have it all, a handsome, devoted husband, three beautiful children, a steady career, and the perfect suburban home; but she isn’t happy.

The petty resentments that have built over fifteen years of marriage surface when Tracy tells her husband, Sean, that she is no longer interested in sex, and their marriage threatens to implode.
For the sake of their children, Tracy and Sean agree to lead separate lives under the same roof. With the help of a healthy dose of adult-rated fiction and some gentle prodding from a good friend, Tracy begins to rediscover who she is, what she wants, and the reasons she fell for Sean once upon a time.

After two years of soul-searching, Tracy is finally ready to embrace her happily ever after having learned that while happiness may be fleeting, contentment can last a lifetime.


June 2008

The cursor blinked, the little bastard. The flashing line taunted her, all but double-dog daring her to click the link. But there was someone on the other end. Someone who had seemingly nothing and absolutely everything to do with what may or may not be about to happen. Somewhere out there, caught in the World Wide Web, was a living, breathing person she had never met, never seen, and never heard of Tracy Sullivan.

Tracy glared at the cursor.

Shouldn’t someone know they had this much of an impact on another human being? Doesn’t she deserve to know what she does matters to someone?

At least, she assumed the author was a woman. Only a woman would understand.
She pressed on the button, and a strange sense of calm flooded her veins as the contact form appeared. After entering her email address, she typed, ‘Your stories’ in the subject line. Then she chickened out.

Tracy wasn’t surprised. She’d been clucking like a crazed hen all day. I wonder if I’m sprouting feathers yet.

Out of the corner of her eye, Tracy spotted the telltale pink shopping bag peeking out from under the briefcase she’d had dumped on the chair. She stared at the tiny pink bag, gnawing her bottom lip and remembering the agonizing forty-five minutes she had spent surrounded by a sea of lace and satin.

She stuck out like a sore thumb in the Pepto-Bismol pink store. Her navy blue skirt and peep-toe pumps seemed like such good choices that morning. The skirt may have been navy, but it fit lean and snug. The hem fell below her knee and making her feel like a sexy secretary. She’d paired the skirt with a deceptively simple, white cotton blouse that nipped in at the right spots, and finished the ensemble with the sinfully red high-heeled pumps and a slash of scarlet lipstick. The whole combination had almost given Sean whiplash as she rushed to the car to run the morning carpool shift.

The clucking began. Whatever confidence Tracy had when she dashed out the door fled the moment the whipcord thin, I’m-barely-old-enough-to-order-a-drink salesclerk starting pulling baby dolls and teddies and negligees from the racks.  

Tracy gawked at the displays, trying to envision prying her body into one of the scraps of fabric without benefit of a crowbar. She caught a glimpse of herself in one of the store’s many mirrors, and her heart sank. She looked exactly like what she was: an almost forty-year-old woman buying lingerie in a desperate attempt to salvage her failing marriage.

Tracy could almost hear the overgrown teenager thinking she’d have to exert some serious effort if she thought she wanted to lure her man back into the nest. These girls probably dealt with a lot of this. Every day, women her age must rush through their door in a blind panic hoping to recapture their youth, and rifling through the inventory of flame red lingerie. Women who wonder if they can tolerate wearing a piece string splitting her ass, on the off chance the butt floss might rekindle a spark.

When this same eager, young saleswoman dared to hold a teeny-tiny bustier set in front of her own non-existent bosom, a woman browsing a rack of full-support brassieres muttered, “Nurse a coupla kids, sweetie,” under her breath.

Tracy chuckled, but the clucking began in earnest. The idea of teddies, baby dolls and bustiers had to be jettisoned. She wasn’t sure her plan would work. If it didn’t, she didn’t want to be the idiot flipping flapjacks like Eva Gabor in her high-heeled, marabou-trimmed slippers.

She didn’t even have a pair of marabou-trimmed slippers.

Tracy snatched the bag from the chair. She padded into the laundry room and extracted her oldest, softest jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt from the pile waiting to be sorted and put away. She stepped into the tiny powder room, refusing to meet her own gaze in the mirror above the sink.

Being a chicken, Tracy had refused Sean’s offer of dinner, pleading a large lunch. She pretended she didn’t notice the bewildered confusion in his eyes when she brushed past him and rushed down the steps. She didn’t want him to spot the stupid pink bag. A few minutes later she dashed upstairs again. As silently as a ninja, she checked on the kids, steered clear of the kitchen where Sean prepared lunches for the next day, and sought refuge in the basement room that was her lair.

She glanced up, tentatively scanning her reflection for one little scrap of bravado. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see him. For the first time in forever, she was dying to see him. But she wasn’t ready. She had to think, and lately she hadn’t been able to think clearly with Sean nearby.
She needed a plan. Tracy was nothing without a good plan, but once a plan was in place, boy watch out!

She slowly unbuttoned her blouse, but by the time she stripped out of the day’s work clothes she still had nothing. She reached into the pink bag and pulled out a matching bra and panty set in a demure, pale peach with cream lace. She had no idea why she had chosen the set. She hated the color orange and all of its derivatives. She hated fake, antique-looking lace. The last thing any woman staring down the barrel of forty needed to put her body into something with the word ‘antique’ attached.

She shook the seventy-five dollars worth of polyester at her reflection. “I should make you wear this as a punishment, chicken.”

Tracy froze. The peach would warm her complexion, the teeny-bopper titty measurer said. She cocked her head, giving the lingerie a speculative once-over. The color would go nicely with her eyes. The lace might not be so old lady-ish on a pair of boobs which hadn’t gone completely south yet. Tracy peeked at her bosom.

Not bad, only halfway down.

She stripped off the serviceable bra and panties she wore. Biting off the tags, she caught sight of her body in the mirror and wished she hadn’t. Once she put the pretty new bra and panties on, though, a flicker of her fickle confidence returned.

Tracy turned from side to side, inspecting what little she could in the oval mirror above the sink. Not awful. She shook her boobs into the cups, pressing on the sides of the bra to be sure the girls were being displayed to their best advantage before slipping into her t-shirt and jeans.

She caught sight of her bare feet as she left the bathroom and smiled. Brazen hussy red. That’s what Sean used to call the bright red polish she used on her toes. The glossy enamel gave her the boost she needed.

Her poor toes had gone unpolished for too long. She wasn’t the girl she used to be, but Tracy was okay with that. Now. At least she was no longer the foolish woman who had almost thrown everything away.

This has gone on for too long.

Tracy drew on the power of the crimson polish. After all, she needed to be brazen. She desperately wanted to be the hussy she had never been.

She hurried to the computer before she could chicken out again. The cursor still winked at her. She glanced at the ceiling. Pots and pans clamored as they were piled in the kitchen sink. The cursor urged her on, flashing its silent, ‘Do it. Do It. You want to do it.’

She wrung her hands. The water shut off, and the lilt of the familiar tune Sean always whistled while he wiped the counters carried down the steps. He was almost done. His kitchen would be sparkling clean and ready for another day’s battle.

Another day’s battle. She straightened her spine. I can’t wait another day.

Tracy glared at the nagging cursor and bent, ignoring the bite of the snug denim at her waist. She tabbed down to the tiny message window and paused, her fingers hovering above the keys. Biting her lip, she battled back the panic humming low and insistent in her brain and tried to think of the right words to say.

Subject: Your stories
Hi! You don’t know me. Well, you kind of do, because you have responded to some of my reviews, but you don’t really know me. I just wanted to tell you how much I love your stories. They have helped me more than I can ever explain. I read in your author’s notes and the messages you post on the boards that you think these are just silly stories you write and post to make people happy -and they do, I am incredibly happy whenever I get an email saying you have updated. But they are so much more. I just wanted to take a minute to thank you. I know you have no idea what I am truly thanking you for, and that’s okay. I needed to say thank you. So, thank you. Wish me luck.

With a click of her mouse, the message flew off into cyber-space. Tracy stared at the monitor for a moment, wondering if she should wait for a reply.

Maybe if I get one it would be a sign.

But the sign came from above. The dishwasher hummed to life, and Tracy realized she had to do something now.

No more waiting. No more watching. No more sitting at the computer escaping into another couple’s world, another couple’s bed. This was it. Now or never.

Tracy cringed at the words as they flitted through her head, but she knew they were the truth. She turned her back on the flashing cursor and headed for the stairs. The time had come. Tonight, Tracy Sullivan planned to seduce her husband of seventeen years, and he’d better damn well co-operate.

You can learn more about Contentment and my other releases at my website - Thanks for reading!


Donna B said...

Great scene! I love it!

Cate Masters said...

Congrats on your upcoming release! Fun concept for a series.
cate.masters at

Mary said...

I want to see more. What fun!

Margaret said...

Thank you all! Contentment is near and dear to my heart. I hope you'll keep an eye out for it!

Laurie said...

Wow, it was fun to go back and see that. I will enjoy seeing Tracy and Sean again. Can't wait to add Contentment to my stack of books by you.

doxymom said...

Congrats! Great scene. This sounds so familiar.

doxisrcool at

Christine said...

Great excerpt. I can't wait to read this novel when it's published. I'm excited to get to know Tracy and Sean (again).

Margaret said...

Thank you, Laurie, doxymom, and Christine!

Julie said...

I absolutely love the title of the new line TMP is launching, and I'm thrilled that Contentment will be the debut release! That's so exciting! I can't wait to read it! :)

Margaret said...

Thank you, Julie!