Back in March 2017, I pinged the extremely talented, kind, and tolerant actor Louis Herthum on Twitter and told him that he’d helped to inspire my new dystopian SF romance novel Degree of Resistance with his performance in Westworld. This resulted in a brief but lovely chat, at the end of which I asked if he’d like a print copy of Degree. To my delight, he said yes and told me where to send the book. The next day I signed a spandy new copy to him, packaged it up, and mailed it off, happy as a clam.
Six hours later, I had a nervous breakdown.
See, since I write romance novels that tend towards the explicit side of things, sex scenes don’t shock me. They’re just another part of the plot, and not even the most interesting part a lot of the time. But I forget that civilians don’t always share that view, and I had just sent a perfectly nice stranger a book that had some rather hot (well, no—extremely hot) scenes in it. Worse, I’d told him that he had inspired the plot. I was belatedly but absolutely convinced that he would put two and two together and come up with, “Note to self—make sure this pervert never comes within 50 yards of me.”
Panicking, I called my friend T. As she tried to talk me down, pointing out that 1) Lou’s a guy, so it was highly unlikely that 2) he would read a romance novel, even one with heavy SF themes, and 3) would probably just stick it on a shelf as a nice piece of egoboo, I was busy coming up with an insane plan—I would fly to LA, break into his agent’s office, steal back the book, and nobody would be the wiser. Brilliant! It would work!
Why, yes, I’m a little neurotic when it comes to my writing, why do you ask?
Needless to say, I was talked out of this. But after I calmed down I did have to admit that it was a hell of a funny idea. And when I decided to try writing a contemporary romantic comedy, it popped back into my head and waved its little hands, saying, “Me! Use me!” Seeing as I’d already lost some of my sanity and a largish patch of stomach lining on the concept, I figured why not. To My Muse is the result.
By the way, this book? No sex. Lots of comedy and banter between my leads, but no sex. Yes, I’m shocked as well. But boy, it was a ball to write.
Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy, MF
Word Count: 67,000
Heat Level 2
Published by Belaurient Press
Ever do something really, really dumb?
When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put Lily Nayar's romance novel Feast of Lovers into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, Lily is horrified. Now she's determined to get her book back, even if that means breaking into Tom's hotel room to do it.
With the help of a strategic lie and a charismatic knight, Lily's screwball plan catapults her into the middle of her very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. But will a vengeful actress ruin Lily's shot at a real life HEA with Tom?
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Giving Theresa a thumbs up, I closed the door and turned my attention to the hotel room. It had already been cleaned and the bed was neatly made. A suitcase sat on the valet stand next to the TV, and the dresser and desk held various pieces of paper, notes, and a couple of plastic shopping bags, all the usual stuff when you’re stuck in a hotel room for a couple of weeks.
Of course, the fangirl part of my brain was screeching like a gibbon at me that I was in Tom Morrison’s hotel room. He’d slept in that very bed last night. Sat at that desk to check his email and Facebook. Took a dump behind the closed door of what I assumed was the bathroom. The prosaic nature of that last bit helped me regain some self-control, and I tiptoed (why, I don’t know, I’m an idiot) over to the desk. There was what looked like a script for GearShifter on it, as well as a MacBook Pro, but no Feast of Lovers. Bad Tom, no leaving your expensive computer equipment out where people can steal it.
I wanted to leaf through the script so badly, but I ignored it and kept looking for Feast. Not on the desk top, not on the dresser, not on the TV. I was starting to worry that he’d taken it with him to the location when I noticed the suitcase. I truly, honestly hated the idea of going through his personal stuff, but he might have stuck it in there. I could just lift the lid, take a peek, maybe it was in plain sight--
I had the lid in hand when the bathroom door swung open and a tall, beautiful blonde in a towel strutted out. “I thought I heard you—” she purred, before she saw me. Both face and tone iced over. “Who the hell are you?”
I let out a noise that could have been used as a sound effect for a creaking vault door. The blonde stalked closer, looming over me. Up close, I could see some fine lines around her eyes, but she was still ridiculously gorgeous. “What are you doing here?” she snapped.
Oh. Oh, shit. My brain informed me that I was currently sharing a room with Claudine Ellery, the actress playing Tom’s antagonist/love interest on the show. What the hell was she doing in his bathroom? Were they dating in real life? Why was I asking stupid questions when I should be turning and running for my freaking life?
And then Fate decided that she needed an even bigger chuckle because the room door opened and Tom Morrison walked in. I caught a glimpse of an apologetic Theresa hovering in the hallway before she was eclipsed by Tom, who was staring at Claudine and me.
Oh, God. He was even better looking in person. Not all actors are, but Tom—he was edible. Curly black hair, eyes the color of dark chocolate, and lips that I’d wanted to kiss since the first time I saw him on screen. With faded jeans that fit him perfectly, a dusty white button-down with rolled up sleeves, just the right amount of chest hair peeping out of his collar, and the cutest smudge of dust across one laser-sharp cheekbone, he was every one of my fantasies come to warm, tall life right in front of me.
And I had broken into his hotel room.
That was it. I was going to jail, assuming that the cops didn’t just see “brown person” and shoot me when they got here. At the very least I’d get fired from Golden State. Mom and Dad would disown me, Dada and Dadi would die of shame, and Derek would probably take out an ad in the LA Times saying that I was adopted. My only hope was that Theresa had gotten the hell out of here. There was no reason for both of us to go down for my stupidity--
“Lilian, darling, what are you doing here?”
My brain skidded to a halt. Words had come out of Tom Morrison’s mouth. Friendly words. While he was staring directly at me. Looking, if I may say so, as if he was talking to someone he knew. Which he didn’t, because I may not have remembered sending him my book but I would definitely remember meeting him.
“Um. Hi?” I waved weakly.
“I thought you decided not to come out this weekend.” He crossed to me, slipping an arm around my shoulders as he stared at Claudine. He squeezed my shoulder once, kind of hard, then did it again.
Even with my brain in fangirl vapor lock I can take a hint. I had no idea how he knew who I was, but he wanted me to play along. Plastering a grin on my face, I slipped my arm around his waist and squeezed back. His torso felt like warm rock, and he smelled so good.
“Well, I figured I needed a road trip,” I extemporized, giving him a bright smile. “And I didn’t think you’d mind.”
“Not at all, angel,” he purred. Up close, I could see a hint of relief in his eyes. It disappeared as he turned to Claudine. “Claud, why are you in my room wearing a towel?” he asked politely.
She planted hands on slim hips, cocking her head to the side. “Seriously? You have to ask why?”
“Yes, because if I remember correctly, I told you that I had no interest in going to bed with you. In fact, I’m quite sure I informed you of this on numerous occasions. And when I walk into my hotel room and see you wearing nothing but terrycloth while my girlfriend,” this time his squeeze was gentle, “is standing there looking gobsmacked, I have to wonder what the actual fuck you’re up to.”
My face went rigid as it tried to hold onto my smile. Girlfriend? Eeeeeeeee…
Nicola Cameron is an expatriate Chicagoan who has lived in England, Canada, Holland, and Sweden, and keeps a confusing amalgamation of languages in her head as a result. Currently located in the clavicle of Texas, she has finally mastered the proper use of "y'all," much to her Chicago family's dismay.
Despite a healthy interest in romance and sex since puberty, it wasn't until 2012 that Nicola decided to try writing about it. As it turned out, the skills she picked up during her SF writing career transferred rather nicely to speculative romance. When not writing, she wrangles cats, smooches her husband, makes dolls of dubious and questionable identity, and thanks almighty Cthulhu that she doesn’t have to work for a major telecommunications company any more (because there’s BDSM, and then there’s just plain torture...).
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