Small Town Heroes
So, hi, I’m Ava Miles, and I was born in a small Midwest town, so it’s no surprise that I’m writing a small-town contemporary romance series called Dare Valley. I value the community spirit, the whole knowing-your-neighbors thing, and especially being able to drop by someone’s house for a visit and have a piece of pie. My favorite is lemon meringue, by the way.
In my new release, THE GRAND OPENING, I tell the story of the tough-as-nails single mom cop, Peggy McBride, whom readers first met in NORA ROBERTS LAND. Peggy has moved to Dare Valley, Colorado to be closer to her brother and to give her young son, Keith, a more family-oriented community since he has a dead-beat dad.
Being the deputy sheriff, Peggy’s sole mission is to keep her town safe. And that’s what I love about her. She’s a hero (or heroine) and doesn’t even know it. Then she meets the new hotel owner and poker champion, Mac Maven. Mac has brought a boutique poker hotel to town, and Peggy is his biggest opponent, convinced his establishment is no good for Dare. Sparks fly between these two, and Peggy just can’t seem to shake her attraction for him. Mac’s not what he seems and might just be a small-town hero in his own way, confusing Peggy. What’s a girl to do? I mean he puts his Ferrari between her and a determined moose. Yes, he does! And then there’s the fact that he’s helping his sister raise her teenage son named Dustin. I’ve included an excerpt from one of my favorite scenes in the book to show you what I’m talking about. I mean the man’s a hero with a heart of gold. I kinda fell in love with Mac, if you can’t tell, but please don’t tell Peggy. She carries a gun for a living.
When you think about your own community, who stands out to you as a hero (or heroine), and what do you admire about them?
Excerpt 2: Two Lost Boys
“If you don’t think your dad likes you, why do you keep hoping he’ll visit?” Dustin asked.
Wiping his runny nose with his hand, Keith said, “So he can see how good I am now.”
Mac put both hands on the boy’s small shoulders and stared into his eyes. “Now, wait just a minute. You’ve always been good.” He took a deep breath. Sometimes you had to go with the truth. He’d learned that with his nephew. “Dustin’s right. Some men shouldn’t have kids. I had a terrible dad until he left me and my sister. He didn’t like me either.”
Keith’s eyes turned as huge as chocolate circles. “He didn’t?”
“No, and I’m a good person, right?” He tried to smile. He’d used the same line on Dustin.
It had worked every time.
Dustin put his hand on Mac’s shoulder. “You’re the best,” he replied like he always had.
It had been a long time since he’d heard that from his nephew. Funny how much he needed it. He cleared his throat. “Takes one to know one.”
“Did it ever make you cry?” Keith asked.
“Yeah,” Mac whispered, remembering how it had felt to be seven years old. The only difference between them was that his mother hadn’t bothered to reassure him. She hadn’t liked him either. Dustin was right. Some people should never have kids.
“What about you?” Keith asked Dustin.
His nephew kicked the ground. “I haven’t for a long time.” He crouched low to the ground. “So you’re part of the pack now—guys whose fathers hate them. Look at Uncle Mac. It didn’t mess him up.”
So the hero lens wasn’t completely gone from Dustin’s eyes. His nephew’s ears flamed when their gazes met.
Mac swallowed thickly and turned back to the Keith. “You’re gonna be fine. You’ve got the best uncle around and the best mom except for my sister. Plus, look at the Hales.
You’ve got a whole family who loves you.”
“Mom says we have to stick together.”
Mac lifted his head and stared at his nephew. “Yes, that’s what families do.”
Dustin ducked his head to the right. Mac knew he only did that when he wanted to hide his emotions. So Keith was helping everyone with their hurts today.
As with everything life handed out, there was a silver lining.
“Come here,” he told Keith. He picked him up, stood, and pulled Dustin in with the other arm. He hugged those two boys hard until it became awkward. Then he jostled them back and forth. “We okay now?”
When Mac put him down, Keith took Dustin’s hand. His nephew’s brows shot up, but he didn’t shake free. Mac’s heart grew so huge he wasn’t sure it would fit in his chest.
“Okay,” Keith murmured, his Toy Story T-shirt dotted with wet spots. “Come on, Dustin. I need a boost to climb the tree.”
They walked off together, two hurting boys trying to understand why their fathers had abandoned them, trying to become what they were meant to be in spite of it. Pride couldn’t exactly describe what Mac was feeling, but it was damn close.
Dustin helped Keith into the tree and then climbed up himself. Keith’s higher-pitched voice blended with Dustin’s rapidly changing one.
Mac fished his phone out of his pocket and took a picture. He didn’t capture many scenes, but he intended to savor this one.