One of the things that has surprised me most as my writing has progressed is the way my characters’ stories are revealed. I remember when I was writing Luc during #NanoWriMo a couple years ago. All I had was a vague idea and a brief synopsis of what I knew about the story. As I started writing, the characters revealed details of their lives to other characters – before they even told me! When Luc described his family life to Del, I was so shocked I found it hard to write the rest of the day until I considered his explanation.
Where did this come from? I asked myself. Well, when I started the Men of Honor series (formerly called the Under-Cover Knights because all the heroes both male and female are either current or former military or law-enforcement) I researched for hours about everything from military issues like PTSD, MSA, problems with the VA, family life, deployment, uniforms and more. I created a timeline to determine how the current era military campaigns would impact my characters. Then, as I started writing, events and backgrounds just fell into place.
I’d already written Ridge who along with his wife own the Knights studios where these former military guys worked as cover models. All I’d revealed in Ridge was that Buffy, a former famous runway model, had met the CEO at an unlikely event while looking for cover models for her new venture. Now, in Her First Knight, it was time to flesh out Ridge’s story.
The more I read about recent military deployments and saw the high rates of PTSD, brain trauma due to IEDs, the loss of limb by so many, and the suicides, the more I found myself caring about these issues, and Ridge’s background was born.
I think a big part of the gap in appreciating the depth of the problems veterans face on a daily basis is that many of us who haven’t served can’t relate to those who have. It reminds me a Native American quote,
“Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins.”
At first, like many in the public, I wondered if these issues had been exaggerated but what I found appalled me, and as a result, the characters in my story. Perhaps some think it’s preachy but it’s just the facts. Our veterans have had an uphill battle making their needs known and having them met. There’s an apathy that’s perhaps a result of hearing so much filter through the media to our ears without those issues ever being addressed by the agencies that should be taking care of them. As I talked to actual vets in my community I found that, in fact, the problem was much bigger. The rate of suicide- 1 out of 22 vets per day – is thought to be low because of the inability to get statistics in some states and because many “reported accidents” are believed to be suicides. So when I found pockets of organizations that successfully addressed the needs of vets, it was often privately funded or voluntary organizations who cared and who came from the military community themselves, therefore understanding the depth of the need.
You can see where Ridge’s idea of a private consortium to take over veterans’ care from the government came from. Unfortunately, Ridge was so fervent in his dedication that he ignored his own personal happiness. Fortunately for him, Buffy is a brilliant woman who wasn’t about to let his obsessive tendencies get in the way of his happiness.
I hope you enjoy this couple’s love story and find in Her First Knight a new appreciation for our veterans and their loyalty to this country.
Note: there was one other happy coincidence in the plotting of these books – attending a romance conference strip bingo event in Las Vegas. What fun!
** To one commenter, I’ll send a paperback of Her First Knight. But the perfect way to catch up on the Larue series is to pick up the new Storm Lake Larue Box Set available at all retailers for #kobo #kindle #Ibooks and #nook and more. **
He’s the one, and everyone knows it but him.
Buffy Calloway is looking for the face of her new cover model agency. The man she chooses will be crucial to its success. When she spots the sexy cover model on the strip bingo stage she knows he’s the one, and not just for her business.
Ridge got on stage through a huge error in judgment and if he manages to get out of this predicament with his reputation in tact —and his clothes—he won’t wind up in the limelight again risking everything that’s crucial to so many.
Buffy wonders – who is she to argue with Ridge’s noble cause — but she doesn’t see why his goals and hers should be mutually exclusive. Could this be the first time a Calloway is wrong?
The morning after…
“He’s like some kind of stripper Robin Hood,” Diane said.
“Did you see the paper this morning?” Sally asked Buffy in a low voice. Diane and her friends had the Washington Post laid out in front of them. Had she really thought she’d escape by leaving her room?
“About what?” Buffy asked pretending ignorance. She wanted to close her eyes and wish it all away.
Cathy said, “The guy that impersonated Tucker? Seems he’s a rich muckity muck who’s been testifying in front of Congress. The media has made him out to be some kind of sex pervert.”
“Ridge?” Buffy’s heart sank. “That’s terrible.”
“Yeah, and the evil congresswoman who’s been giving him the third degree for the last two days said she knew there was something suspicious about him. I quote: ‘No one is as selfless as he pretends to be.’ She’s calling for an investigation.” Diane continued, “It says here he got a doctorate in Mechanical Bionics from MIT when he was seventeen! The guy’s a friggin’ Einstein. You just don’t think of geniuses looking like that.”
Sonya said, “More like da Vinci. What else?”
“He was recruited into the Army Rangers and ended up doing classified research and ‘on-site quality control’,” Diane read.
“In his work, that probably means on the battlefield,” Sally said.
“There’s another picture of him accepting an award from the President for his work with veterans.” Sonya looked at Buffy. “What was he was doing on that stage? It’s obvious he wasn’t a cover model.”
Sally said, “It might be obvious now, but he was my favorite of the cover models. I was shocked when the real Tucker showed up and we found out this guy wasn’t even in the industry. Boy, what I wouldn’t give to have him on one of my Seal Team Extraction covers. He seems like such a nice man, too. Did you know he gave me a donation for my Wounded Warrior fund?” Sally’s readers had raised thousands for the WWP.
“Maybe it was a publicity stunt that had to do with this hearing, the bill he’s trying to get support for,” Claranne Braxton suggested, her eyes brightening as if she was on to something.
“Wait a minute,” Sally said, suddenly alert. “What bill is that?”
Sonya leaned over Diane’s shoulder, “Looks like it’s a bill for some kind of cooperative, MiliCare H.R. 6159?”
Sally slapped her forehead with her palm. “Are you kidding me? That’s him?” She grabbed her purse. “I don’t know why I didn’t put it together. He’s R. Romano of… here it is.” She slapped the article on the table. Claranne read it aloud.
With the passage of H.R. 6159, the new consortium group will ease some of the financial stress on the VA’s already imploding budgetary problems and provide medical care to veterans. Ridge Romano, the architect of the proposal said, “Government funds have been slashed repeatedly and our servicemen and women should not have to fight for their rightful treatment when they are fighting for their health and their very lives.”
Romano quoted President Lincoln: “The mission for government is ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.’ I ask you, can these values be accomplished by our current government system which is stretched beyond its founders’ imaginings? The government is over burdened, and our veterans are paying the price but private companies and professionals in every field are ready and willing to fill the gap. This bill will be a step toward better lives for our vets.
They deserve it. We owe it to them. Don’t let them down.”
“Wow,” Sonja said. “I can’t believe he was the man on that stage.”
But the article only affirmed Buffy’s feelings. She’d known, even that first night, that Ridge Romano was a man in a million. And, he was the one for her.
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