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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Guest Author Interview: Lee McKenzie

Today we are interviewing Romance author Lee McKenzie. She is giving away a signed copy of THE CHRISTMAS SECRET, the first in her three-book Ready Set Sold series for Harlequin American Romance.

Alexis: Hi Lee, thank you for visiting Happily Ever After Thoughts. How would you describe the type of romances you write?

Lee: Hi, Alexis. Thank you so much inviting me to join you today. I write lighthearted contemporary love stories with an emphasis on families, friendships and community. My husband tells everyone that my books are fifty shades of pink!

Alexis: I love that. He should be your publicist. So can you tell us what THE DADDY PROJECT is about?

Lee: This is the second book in my Ready Set Sold series, and it’s on sale now. These books are about three women who run a real estate business that renovates, stages and sells homes. THE DADDY PROJECT (Dec 2012) is Kristi’s story. She’s a single mom and the company’s interior decorator, and she’s been hired by single dad Nate to stage his home for the real estate market. They both have families who try to set them up with awkward blind dates so they come up with a workaround…they’ll be each other’s fake date. And that turns out to be a lot more complicated than either of them expects!

THE CHRISTMAS SECRET (Nov 2011), the first book in the series, is Samantha’s story. She’s the company’s carpenter and all-round handywoman, and hers is a secret baby story with a twist.

Alexis: A woman carpenter? I really like that. Where did you get the idea for these books?

Lee: I love HGTV-style shows about renovations and home decor and real estate, and thought it would fun to blend those things into a company run by three smart, savvy women. My editor agreed and I’m so glad she did because writing this series has been a lot of fun!

Alexis: What are your favorite character traits of Kristi and Nate?

Lee: Kristi is a great mom who’s made some bad choices when it comes to men. She doesn’t want her teenage daughter to make the same mistake, so she’s decided to set a good example by putting her personal life on hold until her daughter is grown up.

Nate is a scientist and a university professor and I adore him! Think Big Bang Theory but a little less nerdy. He’s a widower raising four-year-old twin girls, and feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

RT Book Reviews gave THE DADDY PROJECT a four-star review and said, “McKenzie's characters are clever, with a captivating warmth that readers will love.” I’m thrilled with this review because that’s exactly what I was going for with these characters.

Alexis: That is a great review. How long have you been writing and what got you started?

Lee: I read Anne of Green Gables and Little Women when I was ten years old and knew then that I wanted to be a writer someday, just like Anne and Jo. I discovered Harlequin Romance novels when I was a teenager and read them voraciously, so when I started  my first novel-length manuscript as an adult, I knew I wanted to write for Harlequin. The American Romance line, with its focus on family and community, is an especially good fit for me.

Alexis: What can we expect next from you? Do you have any new releases coming or a work in progress?

Lee: DADDY, UNEXPECTEDLY, the third book in the Ready Sold Series, will be out in May 2013 and it’s already available for pre-order. Claire is the company’s Realtor and this one’s her story. Her dream is to have a family and a home with a white picket fence but what she’s getting is a divorce. Then she runs into Luke, an old friend from college. He’s an undercover cop and a more-or-less reformed bad boy who has no intention of settling down. I think the title speaks for itself, and I hope readers will love this hero as much as I do!

My first Harlequin Heartwarming, MAGGIE’S WAY, will also be out in May, so that’s going to be a busy month for me. And right now I’m working on a three-book series set in a fictional small town in Wisconsin. I’ll be updating my website with more information about that series in the coming months.

Alexis: Sounds great! Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us. It's a pleasure having you visit.

Lee: You’re very welcome. Thank you for being my host today. Merry Christmas to everyone, and here’s to writing and reading fifty shades of pink! For readers who would like to keep in touch, I invite them to drop by my website and sign up for my monthly eNewsletterLife in the Slow Lane. Every month I have a giveaway plus recipes and other fun stuff, as well as information about my books.

Alexis: For a chance to win a copy of THE CHRISTMAS SECRET be sure to leave a comment for 
Lee. If I have contact information, I will let you know when you win, otherwise, check the side column for your name on Wednesday under WINNERS.

For more information on Lee and her stories, go to

Alexis: Check out this excerpt from THE DADDY PROJECT.

Kristi Callahan rang the doorbell of her dream home. A sprawling 1960s rancher with two fireplaces, a breezeway separating the house from the two-car garage, and enough West Coast flair to appeal to potential buyers searching for their own dream home in one of Seattle's family-friendliest neighborhoods. And it was just her luck to be on the wrong side of the door.

This house was well beyond the reach of a single mom raising a teenage daughter on a single mom's income, but that didn't stop her imagination from playing with the idea of actually living in a house like this someday. And since she'd been hired to get this one staged for the real estate market, she would at least get to put her personal stamp on the place before returning to reality. Her modest two-bedroom town house was no dream home, but it was hers. Or it would be hers in twenty-three and a half years.

The other reality was that by the time she and her team at Ready Set Sold were finished here, this client would get top dollar, even in today's less-than-stellar market, putting this house even further out of her reach.

Speaking of clients, she had an appointment and she was only five minutes late. Okay, eight, but surely Mr. and Mrs. McTavish hadn't given up on her and gone out. There was a big silver-colored SUV and two pink plastic tricycles parked in the driveway but that didn't necessarily mean anyone was home.

She dug her phone out of the side pocket of her bag. No messages, no missed calls. Taking care not to get tripped up by a tattered teddy bear missing half its stuffing and three small yellow rubber boots strewn across the wide front step, she rang the bell again, and waited. A moment later her patience was rewarded with footsteps, lots of them. Two identical faces with earnest blue eyes and blond Cindy Brady pigtails appeared in the glass sidelight next to the door. One had her thumb in her mouth; the other's pigtails were oddly askew. No doubt these were the tricycle riders. And then they were dwarfed by a huge dog whose head appeared above theirs, a panting, drooling Saint Bernard.

"Is your mommy home?" Kristi asked, loud enough so they could hear.

Their pigtails shook from side to side.

The dog pressed its moist nose against the glass.

Hmm. The children stared at her but made no attempt to summon a grown-up. Surely they hadn't been left here on their own with only a dog to look out for them. A dog that let loose a strand of drool that now slithered down one of the blond pigtails.

Gross. Kristi quickly looked away and reached for the doorbell yet again, pulling her hand back when another set of footsteps, heavier ones, approached from the other side of the door.

The man who opened it was wearing faded blue jeans, a gray T-shirt with what appeared to be a complicated chemical equation in green lettering stretching across his chest, and the annoyed expression of someone who wasn't expecting anyone.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

Darn. Did she have the wrong day? No. She had checked her calendar and this appointment had definitely been scheduled for Wednesday. And it was Wednesday, wasn't it?

The man at the door gave her a wary look and held up his hands, both clad in dirt-caked gardening gloves. "If you're selling something, I'm not interested."

"No." She shook her head emphatically, trying to ignore his mucky gloves and struggling not to be distracted by the intensity of his eyes. Cool blue eyes that a girl could practically swim in. "I'm not selling anything."

"Who's she, Daddy?" the girl with the crooked pigtails asked before Kristi could continue.

"My name's Kristi." She smiled down at the adorable little girls, then extended her hand to their father. "Kristi Callahan. I have a two o'clock appointment to meet with the owners. The McTavishes?" Maybe she had the wrong address. "I'm the interior decorator with Ready Set Sold. You hired my company to stage your home and set up the real estate listing."

His expression went from accusatory to apologetic and he slapped a hand to his forehead—apparently forgetting about the gloves as he remembered the appointment—and applied a grimy streak to his brow.

She stared at it, contemplated the protocol with strangers who had spinach in their teeth, toilet paper stuck to a shoe, dirt on their faces, and decided there wasn't one.

He must have realized what she was looking at because he gave his forehead a hasty swipe with his forearm. The streak blurred to a smudge.

Kristi fought off a smile and lowered her gaze to the two little girls, who now flanked the man, each with an arm wound around a kneecap. The one was still sucking her thumb.

"Right. I'm Nate McTavish." He held out his hand, jerked it back and pulled off the glove. His handshake was confident, firm but not too firm. His skin was warm and, given the state of his gardening gloves, surprisingly dirt-free. "Your company was recommended by a colleague of mine. I plan to sell but the house needs some work and I wouldn't know where to start."

"I see." She noted that he said "I" rather than "we," and the little girls had already indicated their mother wasn't here. The hand that might give a clue to his marital status was still inside a gardening glove. Not that it's any of your business, she reminded herself, and tried to ease her hand out of his.

He quickly let go.

Alexis: Don't forget for a chance to win THE CHRISTMAS SECRET, leave a comment for Lee :-)


  1. I'm so looking forward to reading this book! (I have my copy, though, so leave me out of the drawing!)

  2. I hope you enjoy it, MJ! Thanks for dropping by!

  3. I love Christmas stories and am looking forward to reading this one, too. Merry Christmas!!!

  4. Merry Christmas to you, Karen! I hope you enjoy The Christmas Secret!

  5. Hi Lee
    I love your books and look forward to hearing more from people who, like me, smile and totally enjoy your talent as a writer.
    (Please don't include me in the draw)
    All the best

  6. This series sound great. Thank you.

    1. Holly, you have won THE CHRISTMAS SECRET! Please contact me at

  7. Aw, Joan! Thank you so much for your kinder than kind words, and especially for buying my books. I hope you enjoy The Daddy Project!

  8. Thank you, Holly! If you have a chance to read these stories, I hope you enjoy them!

  9. Sounds like a good series. Interesting job for the heroine.


  10. Just what we all need at this time of year-family love!
    I connected right away with your voice bringing alive the pigtails, doggie slobber, and heartwarming adults. And I can understand your attraction to having an HGTV atmosphere in your stories.
    I have to ask, as there are many wonderful publishers, how did you manage to get with THE one you wanted, Harlequin? I'd love to hear the story:)

  11. It's fun to write heroines with non-traditional occupations, bn100. I also enjoy reading books with heroines who have unusal occupations.

  12. Dawn, the answer to your question is almost an entire blog post but in a nutshell, it took eight years, six complete manuscripts plus several partials, loads of contest entries, four Golden Heart finals, and untold hours of writing, revising, submitting, rewriting, revising, resubmitting.

    Perhhaps more important, it took me a while to find my niche. I tried writing romantic suspsense but straight contemporary is really where my heart is, and I think it shows in my writing.

  13. Thanks for summarizing all your hard work and well deserved accomplishments!
    Your welcome:) Everyone's day should be happy and that's why we read romance!!