And today we bring you Corrissa James, award-winning author, with her tales of small town romance….
Ten Lords a-Leaping (but are they just dancing?)
On the tenth day of sexy, my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping…
When I think of ten lords a-leaping, I can’t help but think of small town street dances. If you’ve never been to a street dance in a small town, you’re definitely missing out. The town cordons off several downtown blocks, building up a stage for live entertainment and creating a large dance area. Although people come for the dancing, the real action takes place at the tables set up all around the area. That’s where people catch up on all the latest gossip, and a secret or two always come out during a street dance.
The film Sweet Home Alabama (2002), with Reese Witherspooon, Josh Lucas, and Patrick Dempsey, offers one of the best street dance scenes I’ve ever seen on the big screen. There’s great music and dancing, of course, but in the span of just two minutes, we see the main characters dealing with several secrets (Bobby Ray’s sexuality, Melanie’s interest in Deep South Glass, and Jake knowing something about the glass but not sharing it) while Jake and Melanie also try to ignore their love for one another. All this happens while the entire community watches (and yes, everyone can see that the love between Jake and Melanie). So when those ten lords are leaping, they’re not just dancing; they’re also jumping around all the hidden truths and secrets that everyone in a small town tries to hide (but rarely very successfully).
I incorporated a street dance scene into my book Heart So Sweet, which is about Susannah and her high-school crush, Tate, who just happens to be her older brother’s best friend until a falling out sends Tate away. Ten years later, when Tate returns to be sheriff, Susannah discovers that her crush might actually be the love of her life.
Just before the street dance scene, Susannah learns the truth about why her brother Lucas severed all ties with Tate. Of course, she couldn’t have learned that secret just a few weeks earlier, before she fell head over heels in love with Tate—or before she told Tate that the only way they could be together was if he smoothed things over with Lucas and her three other brothers, Jonathan, Daniel, and Andrew (the troublemaker with a temper). Susannah is also the type of woman who is used to being in control, so having her love life decided by two of the most important men in her life doesn’t sit too well with her. Naturally, everything comes crashing down around her at the street dance (because everyone in small towns has to be part of the drama!).
An Excerpt from Heart So Sweet
At the entrance to the dance, she breathed a sigh of relief when she handed her five dollars to a deputy. They were here, so it wasn’t too late. She wanted to ask the deputy about Tate but was having trouble thinking of a nonchalant way to drop his name without sending up red flags. By the time she did, the deputy was ushering her through so he could take the money from the trio of elderly ladies behind her.
“Why Miss Clark, so lovely to see you,” Rose Carter said, linking her arm through Susannah’s. “And is Sheriff Trudell with you this evening?”
Susannah started to answer, then saw the deputy hide a smile. She snapped her mouth shut and led the ladies further from the entrance.
Daisy Carter giggled and linked her arm through Susannah’s other arm. “He’s so yummy!”
“And about time the two of you got together.” Lily Carter’s perpetual frown was in place, but her eyes twinkled with excitement. “Been saying for years that you two would make a good couple.”
Susannah groaned. The Carter sisters might be octogenarians, but they somehow always knew everyone’s business—and weren’t afraid to let everyone know it.
“Oh, hush, Lily. You have not.” Rose shook her head at Susannah. “Don’t listen to her. She’s just jealous.”
“We all are.” Daisy giggled again. “So dreamy.”
“Actually, I’m looking for Tate—I mean, Sheriff Trudell—myself.”
Lily clucked her tongue. “He should be looking for you, not the other way around.”
Rose pointed out a table with several empty spots. As the elderly sisters settled in their seats, Rose reached out and patted Susannah’s hand. “Thank you, dear. And don’t worry about the sheriff. Perhaps he hasn’t returned from Rapid City yet.”
Susannah’s mouth went dry. “Rapid City? No, my brother was in Rapid City, not the sheriff.”
“Well, that’s not what Mrs. James told us.” Rose glanced at her sisters, then all three ladies looked at Susannah, smiling.
Susannah excused herself, trying to ignore the coldness creeping into the pit of her stomach as she rushed to find Tate. Had he really gone to speak to Lucas? She was desperate to learn the outcome but terrified by the fact that Tate hadn’t told her he was going—or that he was back. Surely if everything went well he would have come to find her, let her know that he’d worked things out with Lucas?
The fact that Tate hadn’t found her—and that he seemed to be making himself scarce—weighed so heavily on her that she stopped looking for him. Clearly Lucas hadn’t forgiven Tate, which meant that he’d never accept her relationship with Tate.
Susannah’s reaction to this realization surprised even her. She was furious—furious that her brother couldn’t or wouldn’t set aside his history with Tate to allow her just a little happiness in life. Susannah had put her own life on hold, giving up her free time to help Lucas raise Jenny and now even taking over the daily operations on the ranch. She didn’t regret her decisions for a moment, but dammit, it was time Lucas put on his big boy underwear and make this small concession for her. Determined to let him know exactly how she felt, she started to scan the picnic tables lined up along the sidewalk once more.
She saw Jenny first, and her niece came running to greet her.
“Aunt Suz, how do I look?” She twirled around in her jeans skirt and cotton top.
Susannah forced a smile. She would not let Jenny know that she was raging inside. “Stunning, as always.”
“Let me see how you look.”
Susannah twirled as well, noting that the new dress she bought seemed to be attracting a lot of attention.
Jenny noticed as well. “You’re going to be dancing all night long.”
“I hope not! I need to spend some time with my favorite niece.”
Jenny rolled her eyes. “I’m your only niece.”
“Yep, but you’re still my favorite.”
Jenny led her to the table that the family had commandeered. Daniel and Jonathan sat on the far side of the picnic table, drinking beers and calling out to people as they walked by. Andrew was standing next to the picnic table, scowling. Lucas sat on the side closest to the dance floor, but kept his back to the table. His arms were crossed and he was watching the people dance. Susannah stared at him, trying to draw his attention without causing a scene in front of her niece, but his eyes were trained on someone on the dance floor. He was following the person back and forth, without moving his head. She slid onto the seat next to him, wondering who he was watching so intently, but there were too many people, too many possibilities.
During a lull in the music, she leaned closer to him. “Care to tell me about your trip? Anything unusual come up?”
He shook his head, never taking his eyes from the dance floor.
“We need to talk. In private.” She couldn’t hide the iciness in her voice.
He looked at her now, his eyebrows raised in concern. The gesture enraged Susannah even more.
Jenny ran up and grabbed her hand. “Aunt Suz, the funnel cake guy’s here. C’mon.”
Susannah looked at Lucas. “I won’t let you ruin this for me. You owe me this.”
He turned back to the dance floor, making no indication that he had heard her.
Jenny pulled her up, trying to drag her toward to the food vendors. Susannah threw Jonathan a look begging for help, but he just shrugged at her. She let her niece lead her through the crowd while she scanned the faces for Tate. Twice she thought she saw him, but a closer look proved her wrong both times. She would find him and tell him to forget about Lucas and her whole family, if need be. If they couldn’t accept her happiness, well, then they weren’t really her family anymore, were they?
That thought drained the anger from her. Was she really willing to give up her entire family to be with Tate? She couldn’t imagine Lucas not allowing her to see Jenny. He might hate Tate, but he would never do that to his daughter. Jonathan and Daniel would eventually accept Tate, but they wouldn’t be able to stand up to Andrew, would they? Lucas might not like Tate, but he would never attack him. So it was just Andrew, which Tate said he could handle.
The line for funnel cakes wound back and forth multiple times, and Susannah groaned. She thought about trying to talk Jenny out of waiting, but it was an annual ritual for them, and she knew her niece would be heartbroken if she did. Suddenly she wondered what would happen if she and Tate had children—would their uncles accept them, welcome them into their home, take them out for ice cream, and teach them to ride? Or would she be facing a life full of holidays and firsts that she could not share with her brothers? The more her thoughts swirled in her head, the sicker she felt. She tried to tell herself that it was the sweet smell from the fried dough of the funnel cakes, but she knew better.
She couldn’t imagine a man more perfect for her than Tate, and if he brothers couldn’t accept him into the family, then she didn’t want to be part of that family anymore.
Twenty minutes later, when they were only halfway through the line, her uneasiness nearly brought her to her knees when she saw Tate meandering through the crowd. Her heart pounded, and she willed him to look her way. She wanted to call out to him, tell him not to bother with Lucas or the rest of her family, but she couldn’t have that conversation in front of Jenny.
Fate was stacked against her tonight. Tate saw Lucas sitting at the table and made a beeline for him. Susannah watched Jonathan nudge Daniel, and the two of them moved away from the table, leaving Tate and Lucas.
Does Susannah get her happily-ever-after ending with Tate? Check out Heart So Sweet to find out.
Heart So Sweet is the third book in the Great Plains Romance series. All the books can be read as standalones.
About Corrissa James
Award-winning author Corrissa James was not always a country girl. In fact, she fought it all her life, traveling the world to live in far-flung cities like St. Petersburg, Russia, Caracas, Venezuela, Varanasi, India, and Guadalajara, Mexico. She didn’t realize she was meant to live in the country until she returned to her roots in Nebraska, where she discovered the beauty of the fields around her (even if she was allergic to them) and the intensity of Mother Nature (who sure packs a wallop!).
Corrissa wrote her first romance stories in junior high, although at the time she didn’t really know what happened after kissing, so she improvised with lots of ellipses (…). Today she writes contemporary western romance novels, offering afternoon reads focused on strong women and the men they choose (never without some struggles along the way).
Learn more about Corrissa’s books and upcoming projects at http://www.corrissajames.com/
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