Friday, February 19, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Luanna Stewart

I love character interviews. You get to know the character outside the story and see what makes them tick. Luanna Stewart is my guest today on Books, Chocolate and Wine. She’s brought Heather James, the heroine in her novel, Portrait of a Girl.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Heather James, I’m single, and have just been orphaned. I was living out west but when my dad died I had to come to Portland, the one in Maine, to settle his affairs. I had to find a job too, so I’m working at a cute little bakery downtown. I’ve just been given the title of Head Bread Baker, lol. I also bake the other stuff we sell, like cookies and muffins. I swear I’m gaining weight just by breathing the air in the shop.

Are you happy with your lot in life?
Well, there’s happy, and then there’s happy, right? I’m sad that my dad died, and so suddenly I didn’t get a chance to talk to him before, you know, the end. And it turns out there’s all this stuff about him and his life that I didn’t know. I found a journal that he’d been using, but it’s the start of a new year so there’s not much there. Oh, and I just got this weird phone call from some old guy who said he was a friend of Dad’s, but I’ve never heard of him. I think he’s French, and he wants to meet me. Something about the conversation gave me the creeps so I hope he doesn’t call back. I’m doing okay but I really need to figure out what I’m doing with my life. As soon as all Dad’s bills are paid I’ll be moving on, to somewhere warmer!
What makes you angry?
The state of the world, the state of the environment. The state of my life. Something strange is going on and I don’t know what it is. So I don’t know what to do about it. I guess I’m more frustrated than angry. No, I am angry. I’m angry at Dad for leaving me with this mess and all these questions. And absolutely no clue how to go about finding the answers. He used to be wealthy, like stinking rich, and he died without a penny to his name. His house used to be filled with beautiful furniture, and artwork all over the walls. And when I got here for the funeral, the house was practically empty. Where the heck did it all go? His lawyer is worse than useless, “client confidentiality” bullshit. He didn’t mind giving me his bill though. I ended up having to put Dad’s house up for rent and I’m stuck living in the tiny place near the gate that used to be for the gardener. It’s okay, cheap to heat anyway. I guess I was lucky to find a renter so quickly, and the guy keeps to himself. Except when he’s walking his dog.
Do you have a weird habit?
Nope. Well, define weird, lol. I don’t have the time or energy for doing much besides eating, working and sleeping. But I like to crank up the radio and pretend I’m performing live in front of a few thousand fans. My cat, Samson, doesn’t appreciate my singing. And it’s a good thing I live so far from neighbors. Except for Tony, the guy renting the big house, but he’s hardly ever around.
Describe your bedroom.
Dang, you don’t want to know. I’m really not a messy person, but getting up at four in the morning and working all day before falling into bed by eight at night doesn’t leave much time for housework. There are two bedrooms upstairs in my little house, I use the biggest. It’s got those pitched walls so I’ve bumped my head a few times. But it’s cosy. The other room is even smaller and I’m storing a few of my dad’s things in there. Just boxes of junk really, and I need to sort through them. In my room I have a double bed, a chest of drawers, and a nightstand – all of which I scrounged from the big house. It’s all cheap stuff and I won’t be taking it with me when I leave. The only cherished item I found in the house was a quilt I remember being on my parent’s bed when I was little. I think the pattern is called flying geese, and it’s in shades of blue.
Name three things in your fridge right now.
Butter, strawberry jam, and a few wrinkled apples.

Daddy had a secret, and it could be the death of her.
When her wealthy art dealer father died, Heather James was expecting a fortune. Instead, his bank account was empty and Heather’s working in a bakery, wondering exactly what happened to her father's millions...until someone tries to kill her.
Tony Simons is on the trail of an art theft cold case that's practically giving him frostbite. He's hoping that by sticking close to Heather—the daughter of his deceased prime suspect—he'll find the answers he needs. Instead, he's finding himself distracted by a gorgeous woman who drives him crazy in every way imaginable…
Now Tony's in serious trouble. Even if Heather can't—or won't—tell him where the stolen paintings and money are, she may well have stolen his heart.
And now someone wants her dead…

Reviews for Portrait of a Girl:
Portrait of a Girl is a wonderful and engaging thriller-suspense full of more twists and turns that a roller coaster.
By Jessica {Bottles & Books Reviews} on July 16, 2015
Portrait of a Girl is a riveting romantic suspense novel.
By on October 21, 2015
This is my first read by Luanna Stewart. I have found a great new author! Portrait of a Girl was fast paced, angst-y, and freaking HOT! 
By on August 18, 2015
Great story! It's full of twist and turns and a lot of action. I loved the romance between the art thief's daughter and the agent sent to spy on her.
By on July 29, 2015

Excerpt from Portrait of a Girl

“You’re a photographer? The rental agency guy wasn’t clear.”
“Yes, freelance. Here are some of my recent shots.” He woke up his computer, and the screen was filled with small pictures that appeared to be all black and white. “These are for a travel magazine doing a feature on New England winter vacations.”
Tony pressed a few keys, starting a slide show of the pictures in full size. She leaned close, drawn in by the stark beauty, the contrast of light and dark, an icicle hanging from a tree limb, and a column of smoke from a chimney.
“Oh, I love this one.” The picture was of the harbor and a dock, with mist rising from the water.
She could almost feel the chilled moisture on her face.
“I took that a few days ago.” He pressed another key to stop the slide show on that picture.
Dang, he was good. Well, he’d have to be to earn a living. He probably got to travel all over the world, much like she’d done. Except she hadn’t had a profession requiring travel. More like lack of profession in her case.
She smothered a yawn. “Sorry, it’s way past my bedtime.”
She didn’t miss the way his gaze traveled over her body at the mention of bed. She was fairly sure there’d been a spark of interest. She’d checked him out pretty thoroughly, too. She was definitely interested. He had the build she most admired, judging by how his jeans and sweater fit. Toned muscles, and six feet tall. Perfection.
“Yeah, I’ve noticed you keep early hours.” He crossed his arms over his chest, pulling her gaze to his biceps and shoulders. No way he got those muscles just taking photos.
“Comes with the job—I work at a bakery in town.”
He motioned with his head to the plate of cookies sitting on the mantel, safe from Delilah. “Hence the cookies.”
“Actually, I baked those at my place. Just now. They might still be warm.”
His brows rose, and he grabbed a cookie, consuming half with one bite. “Mm, that is good.”
“Thanks. I’m always trying new recipes, so you may get more.” She bit back another yawn. Dang, her work hours were messing with her chance of a social life. “I’ll let you get back to your work.”
She retrieved her jacket and went to the door, sensing Tony right behind her. Not the spooky, unseen menace from earlier. More a warmth, and a desire to lean into him. He reached past her to open the door, brushing her arm. She sucked in a breath. He smelled of wool, ginger, and warm skin. She forced herself to not turn her head. Not look at him. He was too close. Heaven only knew what her body would do; it seemed out of her control. She called a quick good-bye and jogged down the steps. Thank goodness the frigid air cooled her body. She glanced over her shoulder. He stood framed in the doorway, hands in pockets, a smile on his lips.
Oh yeah, she’d be doing more baking.

About Luanna Stewart: Luanna Stewart has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. As soon as she discovered her grandmother's stash of romance novels, all plots had to lead to a happily-ever-after.
Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Luanna now lives in Maine with her dear husband, two college boys and two cats. When she's not torturing her heroes and heroines, she’s in her kitchen baking something delicious.
Writing under the pen name Grace Hood, she has two novellas published with The Wild Rose Press. She is excited to have a book published under her own name with Entangled Publishing.

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  1. Good morning! Thank you, Ruth, for inviting me to drop by today. I had fun picking Heather's brain for the interview.