Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tidbit Tuesday: BLOG TOUR for Only Mine by Susan Mallery

A little while ago, I was approached by a publicist from Little Bird Publicity Agency. She wanted to know if I would be amenable to participating in a blog tour for Ms. Mallery's latest release, Only Mine (Fool's Gold #4), and if I wanted to do a review of the book and a Q&A with Ms. Mallery.

Do I need to state here that I hit reply right away and confirmed with her? :)

So here's how I find myself today writing this post. Disclaimer: The review I'm about to feature is an unbiased opinion of the book - in no way or form was I subversively influenced to say what I say about the story and Ms. Mallery's writing.

On to the review, but first, here's a little blurb to put you in the picture:

You can't win if you don't play...

Her town's lack of men may make headlines, but it isn't news to Dakota Hendrix. The beautiful blonde has bigger problems to deal with, such as overseeing the romance reality competition filming in Fool's Gold. Screening eligible bachelors is a difficult enough task, but Dakota hits an unexpected snag when a sexy stranger comes to town.

Finn Anderssen will do anything to keep his twin brothers— the perfect contestants— off the show. Despite Dakota's better judgment, she finds herself drawn to the mysterious outsider. Like her, Finn knows about heartbreak and how a family can fall apart, so she doesn't dare to hope for anything more than a fling. After all, even in the Land of Happy Endings, finding true love is never as easy as it looks on TV.

Only Mine is Book #4 in the Fool's Gold series. Before this story was brought to my attention, I had heard of Ms. Mallery - she is, after all, one of the queens of contemporary romance. I hadn't read her work though. Through a stroke of luck, I managed to snag copies of both Book #2 and Book #3 in the series - namely Almost Perfect and Finding Perfect - and that's how my love affair with Ms. Mallery's books, and this particular series, started.

Imagine a little town where everyone knows one another; where any stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet; where kids play outside day and night; where you can go everywhere by simply walking - welcome to Fool's Gold. There's just a tiny speck on the pretty picture though - Fool's Gold demographics are a bit skewed. There are way more women than men in the town...

Now take a trip to Reality TV Land - wouldn't Fool's Gold be the perfect place for a reality TV show? Lots of "men-starved" women - all you need to do is bring in eligible men to be the perfect contestants.

That's how Dakota Hendrix finds herself roped into being the eyes, ears, and moral guardrail of the town, all because she possesses a Ph.d in psychology. Who cares if she specialised in child psychology? Her job will be to make sure the reality TV crew doesn't go overboard all while she protects the integrity of the town.

Not an easy task, but Dakota can handle it. She's strong and capable... and then Finn Anderson storms into her office. One look at the handsome Alaskan with the dark hair and piercing blue eyes and she knows her world will never be the same again.

I must admit, of all the Fool's Gold books I've read so far, Only Mine is by far my favourite. In fact, I think it trumps the other books in the series, and I wonder if Ms.Mallery will manage to top off this one in the next two books coming out in the next few months (and which follow Dakota's triplet sisters, Montana and Nevada).

First of all, Dakota is a strong, likeable, and sympathetic character. When the book starts, we find out she's been hiding a secret - she suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome, and coupled with endometriosis, it turns out she has one in a million chance of falling pregnant. For Dakota, family is everything, yet she must grieve the fact that she won't be able to have children and come to terms with that. But Ms.Mallery doesn't have her heroine go all "woe is me!" - instead Dakota is a woman who takes a hold of her existence and decides to plough on with as much optimism as she can. Not even sourpuss Finn Anderssen can dampen her sunny mood and outlook.

Finn is everything you'd expect a hero to be - strong, handsome, loyal. A little too severe and stern though, but that adds to his charm. He's been taking care of his twin brothers ever since their parents died when Finn was thirteen, and he is on the verge of seeing the twins graduate from univeristy... when they drop out with one semester to go and come to Fool's Gold to take part in the reality TV show. Finn will not let this happen! Like any "good" parent, he comes right after them.

Except that the twins don't want to come home to South Salmon, Alaska, and there's another complication in town too. Her name is Dakota Hendrix.

I read this book in under 3 hours! I just couldn't put it down. Something just kept happening and I had to keep reading. Ms.Mallery writes with a flow and prose that reads effortlessly and before you know it, you are immersed in this world of Fool's Gold and you're rooting for each and every character in the story. And believe me, there are characters galore in there! Cracking open a Fool's Gold book is like coming home after being away for many long years - you feel yourself settling down with family, not just characters.

One thing I appreciate in this book, and this series, is how each book stands alone. Ms.Mallery doesn't fall into the trap of recounting each and every romance that has taken place in Fool's Gold, which makes you eager to find out how some couples ended up together. Each book is the journey of its own couple, and Only Mine is every bit the story of Dakota and Finn. Special mention to the sub-plot of the romance between Stephen, one of Finn's brothers, and Aurelia. The two are paired for the show, but it is real romance that blooms between the 21-year-old Stephen and 30-year-old, doormat-type accountant Aurelia.

All in all, this is the perfect book if you want to get lost in a world peopled by vibrant, lovable folks. You will not see the time pass! You'll laugh, cry, feel immense tugs at your heartstrings, and you'll fall in love. What more can one ask for?
In my book, Only Mine is a keeper, well deserving 5 stars on a scale of 1 to 5.

Now on to the second part of this post - Susan Mallery was kind enough to answer some of my questions. I'll leave you to savour those.

First of all, Ms. Mallery, it's an honour and a pleasure to be able to host you at my blog today. I'm a huge fan of your work, and totally fell in love with your Fool's Gold series.

Thank you for having me! So glad you’re enjoying Fool’s Gold. I hope your readers will visit me online at http://www.susanmallery.com/ and www.facebook.com/susanmallery!

I was going to ask how the idea for Fool's Gold came to be, but you already mention on your FAQ page of your website that it all sparked from the census – how a small town would be known for its shortage of men.

Q: How do you then flesh out a series – or even just a book – from this small idea?

With the Fool’s Gold series, I started with a place. Fool’s Gold is totally fictional, straight out of my imagination, which means I could make it anything I wanted it to be. After I came up with the idea of the town with the man shortage, I started brainstorming specific story possibilities.

My job as a writer is to always think about how I can make things even worse for the characters in my books – yes, I get to torture people for a living! Fortunately, they’re fictional, so I don’t have to pay a karmic price for my cruelty. So last year, the nation discovered how serious the man shortage in Fool’s Gold had become, and the town was the butt of lots of jokes from late-night comedians. The town is famous – which of course means that some sleazy television producer has decided to take advantage of that notoriety by filming a reality dating show in town... which makes the women of Fool’s Gold quite crabby.

Psychologist Dakota Hendrix reluctantly accepts the job of vetting the show’s contestants, to keep Fool’s Gold from looking foolish. As ONLY MINE begins, a very angry Finn Anderssen storms into Dakota’s office, demanding that she reject his younger brothers so that they will return to college, where Finn is sure they belong.

Q: Technical question now – how does the research for a series, with its people and places, happen? Do you do it all in one go, discover the whole population, or do you get to know more of the townsfolk as you write along?
Since Fool’s Gold is fictional, not a lot of research was needed. However, because the series will continue through at least twelve books, I wanted it to feel very real, and that meant creating a rich history for the town. (You can read all about the history of Fool’s Gold here: www.foolsgoldca.com/aboutfg.html. It goes back to 1300 A.D., when a matriarchal tribe of Mayan women became annoyed with men trying to sacrifice them all the time. They broke away and moved north to California. Yes, Fool’s Gold has a long history of strong women.)

You will see some of the same people from book to book, which adds to the sense of community that readers love, and you’ll also get to know new people. Each book is a standalone novel, meaning that you can jump into the series with any book, and you won’t feel lost.

On to Only Mine now – I must say I loved the book (as all the other Fool's Gold books!). The heroine is Dakota Hendrix.

Q: Tell us about her, but in your own words! How does she pop into your mind when you think of her?

Dakota is overall a very upbeat person. Last year, readers learned that Dakota was facing something pretty major in her life, but they didn’t learn what it was. In fact, Dakota hasn’t even told her mother or her triplets sisters yet because she keeps her problems to herself until she has a plan for solving them. That’s a special kind of optimism, and one of the many reasons I love Dakota.

Q: And Finn, the sexy hero... Stern he may be, but he is also a man after all our hearts. What comes to mind when you think of him?

Finn is a family man, even though he’s not sure he wants to be. When his parents died, Finn didn’t think twice before stepping in to raise his younger brothers. It was the right thing to do, and Finn sacrificed a lot to do the right thing. Now he thinks if he can just get his brothers through college, he’ll be off the hook and can go back to being a carefree bachelor. What he hasn’t learned yet is how lonely he would be without a family around him.

The Hendrix clan has triplet sisters – Dakota, Montana, Nevada – and big brother Ethan, among others.

Q: How did you think up the idea of triplet sisters?

I was an only child when I grew up, so I love writing about the big, boisterous family that I never had. Triplets are an extension of that – three sisters who have been together since birth. Each of the triplets has her own personality, but the experiences these three women have shared throughout their lives makes them as close as it’s possible to be.

Q: And was it hard to build up the rambunctious dynamics of the Hendrix clan?

Not at all. Pure pleasure! I love the family reunion scenes in the three books this year. Denise Hendrix, the triplets’ mom, has started dating again, and her kids aren’t sure how to feel about that. Of course, they have to call a family meeting to discuss the issue, much to Denise’s chagrin.

Only Mine features the world of reality TV, which is a hot topic right now.

Q: Was it hard to write about that world? How much research did that involve?

Oh, I did a ton of research. I’m so dedicated to my craft that I watched hour after hour of reality TV. That’s just the kind of writer I am, willing to make any sacrifice for my readers’ pleasure... Actually, I love reality TV. Not all of it, of course, but even the icky stuff is kind of fascinating. It’s an interesting cultural phenomenon, that some people will do just about anything in order to get some fleeting notoriety.

My dad worked in television, so I grew up with some familiarity. The rest of it is pure imagination.

Ms. Mallery, there are tons of questions I want to ask on top of the above, but I know your time is precious and I am so, so glad you considered answering mine. Thank you once again for the interview, and for such amazing books as Only Mine.

So, beautiful people - Do check out Ms.Mallery's website and Facebook, and don't forget to get you copy of Only Mine. It's the perfect summer read, and also one you'll want to whip out during cold winter nights when you're in need of a satisfying, lose-yourself-in-romance story.
From Mauritius with love,


Kiru Taye said...

Hi Zee,

This is a great review and interview. I've read a few of Susan's books. Will have to look out for this series.


Zee Monodee said...

Thanks Kiru! I totally, totally fell in love with this series and this book in particular. You have to check it out!

Sheri Fredricks said...

Hi Zee - After reading your review and meeting Susan Mallory through your interview, I'm interested in this series. A history of Mayan women moving to CA? LOL Now THAT I gotta read more of.

Beccie said...

Nice review and interview. Only Mine is also my favorite so far of the series.

Julie said...

What a wonderful interview and review of Susan Mallery's latest book, Only Mine. As an avid reader of her books as well as being a huge fan, I really enjoyed your well thought out questions and especially, the responses. You elicited information and responses that I as a reader am excited to hear...anything to give me more insight into the process, especially how it pertains to this book in particular. Readers, you will not be disappointed...this is an awesome read.

Unknown said...

Wonderful review and Q&A. Like you, I loved this book and I can't wait for the next installment of the Hendrix sisters.

Zee Monodee said...

You have to read this book! I'm placing it as Best Read of 2011 so far. :) Fool's Gold is a place that also totally comes alive in the books. You will not be disappointed. xoxo

Zee Monodee said...

Thanks Beccie! Only Mine seems to be a hit with many happy readers, innit? :)

Zee Monodee said...

Thank you Julie! I wanted to do something that's off the beaten tracks - ask book and story specific questions, plus find a balance between info for readers and info for writers. Glad it all came together nicely. :)

Zee Monodee said...

Thanks Marilyn! If I'm not mistaken, Montana's story, Only Yours, is coming out next month. I cannot wait! :)

StaceyC4 said...

Great review & interview! I agree with you on how wonderful it is that even though this book is part of a series, they each stand alone. You just get a glimpse of past characters without having them take over the new story. LOVE Susan Mallery!

Susan Mallery said...

Zee, thank you so much for having me here today! I appreciate you helping to spread the word about Fool's Gold. I love this small town in the foothills of northern California! I'd like to be in Fool's Gold right now. We haven't had much of a summer here in Seattle.

Susan Mallery said...

Thank you for stopping by, Kiru! I'm so glad you've enjoyed my previous books, and I hope you'll enjoy your visit to Fool's Gold!

Sheri, Oh, the Fool's Gold history is very rich. As the books go on, you'll learn more and more about the Mayan women who settled in Fool's Gold 800 years ago.

Susan Mallery said...

Hi, Beccie! Sooo nice to hear when readers love my books. I'm so glad you enjoyed ONLY MINE. Can't wait to hear what you think of ONLY YOURS and ONLY HIS!

Thanks for stopping by, Julie! You're so sweet to describe yourself as a huge fan. That means the world to me. The best part of being a writer is connecting with readers who are moved by my books. Thank you! (And I agree... Zee asked *great* questions!)

Susan Mallery said...

Thank you, Marilyn! You are always so sweet and supportive. I appreciate it!

Zee, you're right! Montana's story is up next. ONLY YOURS. Montana has discovered her dream career - working with service dogs. There are a couple of canine characters who play a big role in Montana's happy ending. One of them is based on my dog Nikki. I hope you'll love it!

Susan Mallery said...

Thank you for stopping by, Stacey! Yes, I write each Fool's Gold book as a standalone novel so that readers can jump into the series at any time.

Susan Mallery said...

Thank you again for allowing me to visit, Zee!

Zee Monodee said...

Thank YOU Ms. Mallery!! It's been a total pleasure, an honour, and a priviledge to have you here today. It's even better to find the person behind those amazing books is even more amazing and lovely than her stories. :)

I cannot wait for more of your books now. You have a lifelong, dedicated fan here, for sure.

Zee Monodee said...

Thanks Stacey! Yes - the stand alone feature totally won me over. I'm wary of series usually because it sometimes feel like you dropped in the middle of a show's season without having watched the pilot, but Ms. Mallery's books are not at all like that. :)

MissSnarky said...

Great review and interview! I also enjoy the fact that all the Fool's Gold books can stand alone without needing the previous book for information. I can't wait for the next two installments! Love your blog!

Jenn3128 said...

I enjoyed Only Mine, but have to say I'm more looking forward to Montana's story, dogs & sexy doctor, I'm in!!

Charlotte said...

Loved your review, I have met Susan in person when she came to Austin Texas on a rainy day! She is a warm and cheerful person along with her assistant Jenel. I have read most of Susan's books and will eventually finish them with her back list postings on her web page. I truly enjoy the Fools Gold series and cant wait for the next two this year and on to next year.

Zee Monodee said...

Thank you MissSnarky! Glad you culd drop by. :)

Zee Monodee said...

Jen, I can't wait for Montana's story too. It sounds like it'll have that feel-good, funny comedic vibe to it - Montana is such a fun character, and who can resist a doctor hero? :)

Zee Monodee said...

Char, Ms. Mallery has been absolutely awesome - I would so wish to be able to meet her in person one day (you lucky girl!). I too am definitely going to go back and read the books in her backlist. :)

Cha-Cha said...

Great review & Q&A. I love "hearing" Ms. Susan speak, the feeling of getting to know her never goes away. Only Mine was a wonderful book & its taking everything in me not read Only Yours yet until the other cheerleaders get their copies. LOL. (Yes, I have a copy already). Looking forward to all the rest!!

Zee Monodee said...

Lol Cha-Cha! I know the feeling - I was lucky to get a copy too and I'm dying to read it... and tell everyone about the book right away.
I too love to hear Ms. Mallery speak - she is totally darling! :)

Angela MacIntyre said...

What a great review! I so enjoyed Dakota and Finn's story. I think it's going to be one of my favorite of the series. Though, I love all of them! I can't wait for Montana's story coming out at the end of THIS MONTH! SQUEEEEE!!!

Zee Monodee said...

Hello Angela!
Thanks for your lovely words. :) I love all the books too, but there was something special in Only Mine that just spelt 'magic' when I read it. I too can't wait for Montana's story - it sounds like a total fun romp. :)