We are featuring reunited lovers on the RT Daily Blog all week long. So for the Dish we picked Lauren Dane’s newly released e-book of love lost and found, Once And Again. Find out why this novel hit the New York Times bestseller list as we take an in-depth look at this contemporary romance.
Morgan: Okay, so I know we have to be careful not to confuse writers with their characters, but in this case I think I am totally justified to say that Lauren Dane is very much like her heroine Lily Travis in Once And Again.
Whitney: In the pictures I’ve seen of the author, she does wear some awesomely vintage clothes from the ‘50s. She certainly has Lily’s “classic pin-up” era style going for her.
Morgan: There is definitely this, but Lauren also shares Lily’s no-nonsense attitude. Both of these ladies are strong and self-sufficient.
Whitney: It is because of Lily’s strength that I feel the author is able to pile on challenges for her heroine to overcome. The story opens with Lily returning to her hometown Petal, Georgia, where she takes on responsibility of her fifteen-year-old brother, Chris who is on the verge of failing school. And she does not go easy on him:
“Wake your ass up and get yourself together before you end up pulling slurpees for people for the rest of your life.”
Morgan: I just love Lily’s practicality — there’s no pretending with her. She does not have a shiny, happy family, but she jumps in to try to help them anyway. In addition to dealing with Chris, Lily’s mother, Pamela, is an alcoholic and quickly becoming addicted to pills. Lily’s also got a sister who is totally AWOL when she is not causing major problems and a father who has abandoned the whole lot of them for a perky, blond twenty-year-old.
Whitney: But Lily is fearless, she handles everything thrown at her; she can take on the world.
Morgan: That is until she is reunited with her first love, Nathan Murphy. She’s never recreated that magic she had with him in college —
Whitney: But she has reasons to be wary about getting involved with Nathan again. They broke up years ago when Lily caught him kissing another woman.
Morgan: And not just any woman, Nathan was making out with Lily’s cousin. So not good! But Lily is older and wiser now, so when she is forced to interact with Nathan, because he is Chris’ English teacher, she decides to adopt a professional, “you can’t touch me” air, which doesn’t work so well ...
“[N]o matter how many lectures she’d given herself in the hallway outside, it did matter that she’d loved him once. It mattered that he’d walked away from it and never appeared to even care.”
Whitney: Although, in Nathan’s defense, when he got kiss-y face with another women, he and Lily were on a break. And the incident took place years ago.
Morgan: Years ago or not, he was still kissing her cousin! But I admit it; the experience seasoned Lily up nicely. It taught her that she is a survivor and no matter how bad something hurts, it is always possible to recover and move on. Lily used her time post-breakup to become a more independent woman.
Whitney: And Nathan has used the time to hook up with vapid women. The last of which was nicknamed “Steffie” and showed up to his house with wedding invitations made. (And if that’s not seven kinds of crazy, I don’t know what is.)
Morgan: Well, like Lily says, Steffie has self-esteem issues.
Whitney: You are right, Steffie aside, Nathan’s string of dating disasters really makes him appreciate Lily all the more when she returns to Petal. And when he decides he wants Lily back, he comes after her in a big way!
Morgan: And enlists his family and friends to help. (Dane fans will recognize the Chase wives from former books — all of which I went out and bought when I finished this book.)
Whitney: So Lily gets the full force of Nathan's “woo” and I have to admit that it probably would work on me. What can I say? I am weak for a man with Nathan’s sexy, Southern ways.
“His voice had the right amount of smoke, always the hint of a smile. That sound that’d been, and most likely still was, a magnet to underpants all across Georgia.”
Morgan: See for me, it wasn’t so much Nathan’s voice or appearance that got to me as much as his willingness to accept that he had messed up. He did wrong and is willing to make amends and become the kind of person that Lily would be proud to be with.
“I made a lot of mistakes. I was careless with your heart when I should have cherished it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry because I was wrong. I’m sorry because I didn’t respect you. I’m sorry because I lost you and not just as my girlfriend, but as a friend.”
This guy does know how to apologize.
Whitney: But that still leaves Lily with the problem of her family. It is hard to see her hurting and vulnerable.
“I’m doing all I can. I’m not a superhero. I gave up a great job to come here and pick up after other people. I’m here. I left everything behind and I’m so exposed and raw...”
Morgan: And this is how I really connected with Lily, because when she stops kicking butt, you get to see beneath her hard outer shell. She’s one of my favorite heroines in a long time, and since this is the first in the Petal, Georgia series, I am thinking we will get a lot more of these characters, hopefully soon!
From excellent heroines to heroes we go. Next week we will be dishing about Courtney Milan's Unclaimed, which features a hero who wrote A Gentleman's Practical Guide to Chastity. We can't wait to find out how this came about! And if you adore a story about lovers who find their way back together again against all odds like Lily and Nathan in Once and Again, be sure to check out our "reunion romance" spotlight and enter the giveaway!