I am delighted to welcome to the blog Mary Margret Daughtridge.
I LOVED her first book, SEALed with a Kiss and her latest book SEALed with a Promise was released earlier this week.
Today she is talking about makeovers and has brought an excerpt so keep reading…
A Heroine who needs a Make Over
By Mary Margret Daughtridge
Gutsy, kick-ass heroines, chock full of confidence from the top of their color-weave tresses to their Manolo Blahnik shoes are everywhere these days, and hey, I love them too.
But you know what I also love? Reality TV makeover shows. The ones where the makeover-ee is so clueless her friends have had to nominate her—she doesn’t see the problem with a fifties nightgown worn as a top over capris, accented with novelty socks and combat boots.
I don’t watch them to sneer—I’m no fashionista myself. I don’t take my Grand Canyon sweatshirts outside the house anymore—but I still have them. Yes, and wear them. And if you think I’m letting go of my white athletic shoes, think again.
I watch the programs because I love to see the women transformed. Every now and then, one of the guests blossoms. Not only does she look better, she has clearly found new parts of herself. I can see how the old clothes didn’t just look bad, they were actually a sort of disguise, a façade the woman hid behind.
Whenever I see anything all one way, like super-confident heroines, I always ask myself how could I turn this on its head? How could I take a woman who was a candidate for a makeover program and turn her into a romance heroine?
Not that I had any plans, mind you. I thought my hero of SEALed With A Promise needed the super-gal. He had a tough childhood before becoming an even tougher SEAL. I thought he’d only be attracted to an obviously strong, beautiful woman who had everything together.
Instead Emelina Caddington, PhD showed up. A makeover candidate if there was one.
Like any good makeover, I had to start with “before,” administer some shock therapy so she’d see how others saw her, and then do the big “reveal.” But the story couldn’t end there. The right pair of shoes don’t guarantee happiness. Her story had to continue after the “after.”
Don’t you wonder about that when you watch those shows? I do. I want to know what changed for the makeover women once they had their new look. For Emmie, the reveal kept on happening. She was still her quirky self but Emmie opened to parts of her personality she had previously denied or kidded herself about, and as a result found the strength she would need when her love was tested.
I’ve brought you an excerpt from SEALed With A Promise to give you a snapshot of Emmie’s “before.” (Keep reading for the excerpt)
SEALed With A Promise
By Mary Margret Daughtridge
Emmie Caddington was looking for a man.
In a very short-term-goal, temporary sort of way, that is. Right now, before the wedding breakfast could break up, she needed to find Caleb Dulaude, the one everybody called Do-Lord.
Eastern North Carolina men carry nicknames like Potlikker, and Choo-choo to their graves without loss of dignity. Among them, a name like Do-Lord was unexceptional, but somehow, she couldn’t make herself use it. There was an austere integrity to his features, not as obvious as handsomeness, that made the name all wrong for him—despite his rust-red hair, the tan-over-freckles skin of an outdoorsman, and down-home persona.
Whenever she saw him she longed for her pencil, or better yet, pen and ink to trace the relationships of broad, rather prominent brow ridges and longish nose, uncompromising cheekbones, and mobile mouth. When he was a boy, he’d probably been on the homely side. Bony features like his would take some growing into.
Even the unconscious flexing of her fingers as she mentally drew him started up the throb in her shoulder. Having her right arm immobilized in a sling while a dislocated shoulder healed was the reason, the only reason, she needed him. If she hadn’t been in denial about how long it would be before her arm was useable, she wouldn’t have waited so long before seeking him out.
Of course she might not have been in denial, if the thought of being anything but carefully polite to him wasn’t anathema to her. He and those like him represented everything she thought the world would be better without.
Pickett’s sister Grace, her knit dress of lapis silk jersey nailing the “dressy casual” the invitation had called for, halted Emmie’s attempt to thread her way through the crowd around the buffet table.
“Where are you going,” Grace demanded, “and with that look on your face?”
Emmie wasn’t sure what expression might be on her face, but she didn’t miss the look of exasperated affection with which Grace swept Emmie’s beige Land’s End blazer and matching beige skirt. Emmie wasn’t against fashion. It was just that with her logical mind, the thousand slippery rules governing style were simply incomprehensible. By the time she’d entered college she was already a true eccentric—a nerd who couldn’t even conform to the rules of nerd-dom.
She always bought generic clothes, efficiency and comfort being her wardrobe goals. Catalogue shopping saved time since everything already matched, and the clothes, never in, or out of, style, lasted for years.
This morning she hadn’t been able to move her arm enough to hook her bra, so she’d left it off. She’d added the blazer over her white blouse, hoping to disguise the deficiency.
Her outfit wouldn’t have incited envy, but it would have passed muster as dressy casual on the campus of UNC-Wilmington where she was a junior faculty member. She already had noted it was wrong for the breakfast.
Emmie didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t tell Grace, of all people, the truth: that she was looking for Caleb. Grace would want to know why, and she wasn’t a good liar. To lie well one had to understand a society’s unwritten expectations.
Grace waived her hesitation aside. “Forget I asked. Do you have a ride back to Mother’s house?”
“Yes.” She would if she could find Caleb, at any rate.
“Fine, just remember it’s going to take a long time to dress.” Fortunately, before she could add more admonishments, someone interrupted to ask Grace for an opinion about some wedding detail. When she turned away to answer, Emmie made her escape with a little wave.
“Aunt Lilly Hale, can I borrow Caleb for a minute?”
Do-Lord felt the odd little internal shiver, like the supercharged air of a thunderstorm, a half-second before the woman appeared at his elbow, and without turning, knew Emelina Caddington, Pickett’s best friend, the maid of honor stood beside him.
Something about her irritated him, something besides the way she called him Caleb in her cool, precise voice, oddly devoid of Southern accent. Nobody had called him Caleb since he left Alabama. He’d joined the Navy the day he turned eighteen and since then he’d been Dulaude. Do-Lord to his friends.
She wasn’t attention-worthy in any way except for her wide blue eyes that gave her the look of serious, intelligent kitten. Appealing as that image was, it was canceled by her shapeless clothes and sensible shoes.
Spinsterish. The old-fashioned word fit her and matched her name, Emelina. Beside Pickett’s tall, elegant sisters, who were almost awe-inspiring in their cool, blonde beauty or Pickett herself who was the sweetest, most feminine thing he’d ever seen, she didn’t rate a second glance.
Which made it even more irritating that anytime she was in the room, he watched her.
“Emmie, darling! It’s so good to see you.” The older woman leaned forward to carefully lay her cheek against Emmie’s, avoiding the bright blue harness that held Emmie’s arm close to her chest. “But your poor arm! Are you still going to be Pickett’s maid of honor? How are you going to manage two bouquets, and Pickett’s train and everything?”
Emmie favored Pickett’s great aunt with a stiff smile. “That’s what I need to talk to the best man about. Excuse us please?” Without waiting for a reply Emmie looped her good arm through his and tugged him back into the house.
It went against his grain to let a stranger inside his personal space where a knife could be used; or to let anyone hamper his right arm preventing him from going for his weapon; or to let himself be taken anywhere he hadn’t decided for himself to go. A tiny bit amused by her presumption in believing she could, he allowed her to lead him.
The very novelty sent a tingle of anticipation through his boredom. She seemed unaware she’d crossed lines men twice her size wouldn’t have dared, and she pressed his arm so close he could feel the soft give of the side of her breast.
Her full, soft breast that wasn’t confined by a bra.
He wouldn’t be a man if he didn’t notice.
The irritation he always felt around her morphed into a more primal awareness. He suddenly noticed her smell. She wore no scent that he could detect, she just smelled basic. Sweet. Like a woman.
She intended to pull him past the parlors into the wide hall that would take them deeper into the house. He didn’t think she was coming on to him—not after the stiff way she always acted around him—but she was up to something. “Where are we going?”
“To Aunt Lilly Hale’s office. Someplace we can talk.”
“Talk?” Do-Lord halted so he could look into her face. He squashed an absurd blossom of hope. She was the last woman in the world who would pull him aside for a quickie. And close to the last woman in the world he would want to pull him aside. Yeah, suddenly she interested him, but not that way. Even though she reminded him more than ever of a serious, and right this minute, very determined kitten. A Siamese kitten with big, blue eyes and silvery beige fur.
Emmie intercepted the rather calculating look of masculine assessment he gave her, and suddenly became aware of the heat and steely strength of the arm under the fine tweed of his coat, and of the fact that she had left off her bra this morning. Could he tell? Surely not.
She wanted to grind her teeth with frustration at her own self. It was that goal-directed thing again making her unaware of how she was coming across. Grabbing his arm had been a stupid move, but for a man who stood out as he did, he could be amazingly elusive. For thirty minutes she’d searched the crowd for his russet head and broad shoulders, dodging jocular inanities about when she was going to find herself a man. The irony hadn’t escaped her.
Or improved her disposition, she was afraid. Her shoulder hurt with a deep, grinding ache. All she really wanted to do was take her pain medication and lie very, very still until time for the wedding.
By the time she’d spotted him framed by the double doors open to the warm day, she’d been close to frantic, the sedate calm with which she usually endured these family affairs shredded. She needed him and she’d grabbed him, determined not let anyone interrupt.
But really! These jocks! He wasn’t a college athlete, he was a member of a crack military team with an animal name. Navy SEALs, Miami Dolphins, what was the difference? she recognized the type. They assumed everything with a vagina was interested in them. They only had to choose which one they wanted. They walked the earth with a sense of entitlement, sure that their place in the universe guaranteed them the best.
On campus she was careful to keep her professorial distance, and make it clear in any interaction, she was in charge. Give them an inch and they’d take a mile.
She forgot her intention to get on his good side. Knowing the effect was probably ruined by the heat staining her cheeks, she aimed him a don’t-mess-with-me glare, “I said what I meant. You know. The other four-letter word ending in k. Talk!”
Her faced flamed even redder. What was the matter with her? She never said things like that!
His grin widened. “Just checking.”
He changed the subject. “Why do you call her ‘aunt?’ You’re not kin with this family are you?”
Relief that she hadn’t offended him made her expansive. “We’re not related, but they are my adopted family. Pickett and I were college roommates. Because my parents are missionaries, going home for holidays was out of the question, so I always came home with Pickett. I just got in the habit of calling people whatever Pickett did.”
Emmie opened the door into a sunny butler’s pantry Pickett’s aunt had converted to a home office. “Here we are.”
Focused on finding a private place they could talk in, she’d forgotten how small the room was. The floor space, occupied as it was by an antique estate desk, left two adults hardly room to stand.
The unexpected intimacy rattled Emmie. He was so close she could see the shadow cast by his golden eyelashes. His eyes, a hazel mixture of brown and gold and green, reminded her of pebbles washed by a mountain stream. Cold and hard. She forced herself to look into them without flinching. Last night she’d noticed the way he looked at Pickett and thought maybe she had an ally. Now she wasn’t so sure.
Underneath the sling she tugged the lapels of her jacket together, and took a fortifying breath. At this late date there wasn’t anyone else she could ask.
“I understand you SEALs are pretty loyal to one another,” she said getting straight to the point. “Does your loyalty extend to Pickett?”
“What are you asking?” In his lazy, liquid drawl the question didn’t sound like a question. His voice was deep, sonorous, yet damped, as if he saw no need to bring its full power to this situation, and yet the power was there. His voice felt like fur stroking down her spine from her nape to the small of her back.
She ruthlessly slammed the door on the thought. Emmie, child of missionaries, had spent her teenage years with an elderly grandmother. She wasn’t opposed to wholesome sex, but the temptations of sensuality were subtle and best avoided. This was for Pickett, but still, his voice, dark as burnt umber and a little gritty, compelled more honesty than she had planned on. “I’m asking, are you willing to do a favor for Pickett–no matter what the fallout.”
“Do I have to kill anybody?” He didn’t look like he was kidding.
“No, but if we’re caught, all hell will break loose. Pickett’s sister Grace might kill you.”
“And you, I presume.”
Emmie dismissed that. “Probably, but I don’t care. Pickett’s the peacemaker.”
“What do you want me to do?”
Emmie took a deep breath and looked him straight in the eye. “We have to steal the wedding cake.”
So what do you think? Do you love makeover stories, too? Have you ever wished you could have a TV makeover? Do you think it would change your life?
Thanks Mary Margret for sharing that with us.
Readers, you can learn more about Mary Margret Daughtridge and her books by visiting: http://marymargretdaughtridge.com/
So go ahead and answer our guest’s questions…