The Best of Me by Elisabeth Barrett ~ Interview, Review + Giveaway

Today I’m very excited to feature author Elisabeth Barrett on My Book Snack! She always sweeps me away into the settings of her books, so I’ve become a fan of several of her sweet and romantic stories. The Best of Me is her latest release, and I’m excited to Return to Briarwood to catch up with Jane Pringle, one of my favorite characters from book #1. Please give a warm welcome to Elisabeth Barrett…

G:  Hi Elisabeth, How are you doing today? 
E:  Hi Grace! I’m great! Thanks so much for hosting me today!

G:  For those that don’t know, please tell us a little about yourself and the books you write.
E:  Hello, everyone! I’m Elisabeth Barrett. I write sexy, small town contemporary romance and romantic suspense. I love books, and in addition to being an author, I’m still an avid reader. Some of my favorite authors are Jane Austen, Marina Adair, Jennifer Probst, and Lauren Layne. 

G:  As I mentioned, you always manage to sweep me away with the settings in your stories. How important is it to travel to the places you write about, and did you travel anywhere to write about the setting in the Return to Briarwood series?
E:  Aww…thank you! That makes me so happy to hear. Settings are important for me because I like to have a strong sense of place in which to ground my characters. I have in-depth knowledge of every place I’ve written about—I lived on Cape Cod (where my Star Harbor series takes place), and spent time in Napa, Tahoe, and Point Reyes (where my West Coast Holiday series takes place). Since Napa, Tahoe, and Point Reyes are real places, I made special “due diligence” visits to each place in order to ensure that I accurately captured local details. 

My Return to Briarwood series is no exception. The stories take place in (fictional) Eastbridge, Connecticut and are centered around an aging country club where new owners are seeking to reestablish the club for a new generation of members.  I grew up in southwest Connecticut (although we weren’t members of a country club). Because I knew the area so well, I didn’t have to travel back to visit, but since it’s been a while since I’ve lived there, I confess that I had my family (who still lives there) do some scouting for me. I sent my parents to a famous golf course near where they live to take some pictures, and I had my sister confirm the menu at our favorite diner (The Sherwood Diner in Westport), just to be sure that I had the food choices right! Having a team on the ground helped a lot for those little details, to make sure my memory didn’t play tricks on me and that I got everything just right.

G:  Is there a scene in Best of Me that is your favorite and that you can share a little with us?
E:  This is hard, because there are so many scenes I love, but one of my absolute favorite scenes is the opening scene when Jane gets clipped by a car, and refuses to wallow in pity. Preston North—ever the gentleman—sees what’s happened and tries to help. Unfortunately for Press, Jane thinks he’s trying to attack her and knocks him out cold. Hijinks ensue. But that single moment when Jane realizes what she’s done and stays to help rather than run really clinches her character for me. Here’s a snippet:

She sat there for a moment, trying not to feel sorry for herself. Her arm and leg smarted and her wrist throbbed. Keep going. Move forward. Hot tears pricked at the corners of her eyes and her nose felt stuffy.
“Don’t cry,” she said fiercely. “Don’t you dare cry.” She sniffled a little, stopping the tears, and reached for the box of tissues she kept on the passenger-side floor.
At that moment, a large hand snaked into her car, along with a deep, masculine voice. “Are you all r—”
Jane didn’t wait to hear the rest. Maybe it was the residual adrenaline or the stress or the anger or something else, but she didn’t even scream. Just grabbed the man’s arm and yanked hard, like she’d been taught. Engage. He jerked forward, and Jane was rewarded when his head smacked satisfyingly loudly against the side of her car. Incapacitate.
The man staggered back and grabbed his head. “Jesus!” he said, just before he dropped out of view.
Heart pounding as fast as a racehorse’s, she rolled up the window, locked the doors, and fumbled for car keys. Run.
She jammed the key into the ignition, started the engine, and got the car out of park. She knew she should just step on the gas and get out of there, but something made her look outside. The guy was still there, lying on the ground, his face turned away from her.
All at once, she caught a glimpse of his blond hair, his light suit, his perfectly buffed leather shoes. They were beautiful. Stylish and clean, and seriously? Where did one even get cream-colored leather lace-up shoes these days?
Forget the shoes, Jane. He was just some drunk guest from the party who was trying to get handsy.
But from the few words he’d said right before she nailed him, he hadn’t sounded drunk. In fact, it sounded like he’d been trying to ask her a question. Maybe even trying to help her.
Her gaze drifted higher, up his long legs, and zeroed in on the hand lying limply on the dark pavement. It looked like there was something on his hand. She peered closer. It was a ring.
A big gold ring on his pinkie finger.
A tight knot formed in her stomach.
Jane put the car in park, cut the engine, and almost tumbled out the door. Gently, she turned his head to see his face. His beautiful, golden, movie-star face.
Oh, no. Nonononono.
She’d just assaulted Preston North.
She lifted the lock of hair that had fallen over his forehead and there was the proof—a rapidly reddening bump marring his skull.
Think, Jane. Think! He had to be drunk. Obviously. Otherwise, why would he be out here, in the staff parking lot, in the middle of his own party? Maybe he wouldn’t remember coming out here. Maybe he wouldn’t remember anything.
What should she do?
The lot was completely deserted, and despite a few lights dotting the perimeter, it was pretty dark. She couldn’t just leave him here. What if someone ran over him by accident? Steeling her nerves, she patted his cheek lightly.
“Mr. North?” she ventured.
No response.
She patted his cheek again, harder this time. “Mr. North.”
Forget him being hurt. What if she’d killed him?
She slapped him hard. “Mr. North!” Please, please, please wake up.
His eyelids flickered. “If I say yes, will you stop hitting me?” he asked with a groan.
“You’re okay,” she said, almost weeping in relief.
He groaned again and shifted his head.
Not okay.
“God, Mr. North, I am so, so sorry.”
He moaned and reached for his head.
She grabbed his arm before he could feel the bump. “No, no. Don’t touch it. I’ll get you some ice after I call an ambulance.”
“No ambulance,” he rasped.
“You’re kidding. Of course I’m going to call an ambulance.” This was Mothering 101. Blows to the head were bad. Not only that, the bump on his forehead was visibly swelling. She pulled her cellphone out of her pocket and flicked it on. She was about to dial 911 when his large hand encircled her wrist.
She glanced up and was caught in his gaze.
“No ambulance,” he said, sounding almost desperate. “No hospital. Please.
It was that ragged please that made her pause. But before she could ask him why, an expression of exquisite pain crossed his face.
And then he passed out.

G:  What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?
E:  I love to read, and I bake and cook a lot (favorite dish: chocolate anything). With my family, I go on lots of hikes in parks and preserves near our home in Northern California. I also love music and play the piano.

G:  Would you like to say anything to your readers? What can fans expect next from you?
E:  Each and every one of you is amazing and I feel so lucky to have readers who wait for my next book. This year, expect Anywhere You Are, the third book in my Return to Briarwood series, which is coming September 2016. I’m also planning to come out with another West Coast Holiday series book later in the year. I have several other books in the pipeline, including the first books in two new series, and I’m guessing those will be out in 2017!  The best way to find out about upcoming releases is through my newsletter (eepurl.com/bBZfT9). As a bonus, if you sign up, you will receive a free copy of Christmas in Tahoe, the first book in my West Coast Holiday series!

Quickie bits & bites questions:
Sweet or savory?  SWEET.
What is the most unusual item in your kitchen?  Ooh, good one. I have this crazy wine aerator that’s in the shape of a duck head. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to pop that baby onto a fresh bottle and watch the wine spew out of the duck’s mouth and into my glass. Strange, but awesome.
Your favorite gift to give is?  I give books for everything!

Thank you so much, Elisabeth, for stopping by and answering a few questions. Congratulations on the release of Best of Me! ~Grace

Thank you so much for having me, Grace! It’s always a pleasure. ~Elisabeth

Title: The Best of Me
Author: Elisabeth Barrett
Series: Return to Briarwood #2
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Loveswept

In the follow-up to Once and Again—hailed by bestselling author Claudia Connor as “a beautiful second-chance love story”—Elisabeth Barrett returns to the Briarwood, an unforgettable place where legacy and longing make dreams come true.

Jane Pringle never meant to fall for her boss. After landing a job as a pastry chef at the exclusive Briarwood Golf and Yacht Club in Eastbridge, Connecticut, she just wants to keep her son in a good school district and find some peace and quiet, far away from her manipulative ex-husband. But when Briarwood’s charismatic co-owner takes an interest in her, Jane’s best-laid plans go awry . . . in the sweetest way possible.
Rich and handsome, the grandson of one of the most powerful men in New York City, Preston North hasn’t lived quite the charmed life everyone believes. His family taught him everything he needs to know about betrayal—and Press wants no more of it. What he wants is Jane. The gorgeous single mom is selfless and kind, plus she’s got a backbone. To win her trust, Press just needs to shake off his playboy reputation.
They’ve each been burned in the past. But now Press and Jane will have to choose between letting their fears get the best of them . . . or breaking free and following their hearts.

Source: e-ARC from publisher
This is my honest review.
Rating: 4 Stars ~ LOVED

Return to Briarwood with Preston and Jane!

Ever since I was introduced to Jane Pringle in Once and Again, I knew I had to read her story. She’s a single mom to an adorable and talented seven year-old boy named Andy. Jane is Briarwood Golf Club’s newly hired pastry chef. Her backstory just made me want to cheer her on for a happy-ever-after. I was delighted and curious to learn that she would be paired with real estate investor Preston North. Press is a good friend of Jake Gaffney who is the hero in book 1. I initially thought Press would be somewhat of an arrogant character due to his wealthy upbringing, but he actually turns out to be a pretty likable and solid hero!

Jane and Press develop a friendship and a slow-simmering romance. Each has a broken past and shares a deep understanding of what the other has gone through in their lives. They’re both survivors who are determined to live better lives. I very much appreciate Elisabeth Barrett showing Jane and Press learning from each other, especially Jane who has some major trust issues to overcome.

Again Ms. Barrett wins me over with flawed characters and the gentle way she develops them throughout the plot. Yes, there is heartache and tense moments, but overall this story is sweet and filled with friendship and love. I think I know which couple will be in the next book, but I won’t say. If you like second chance at love stories give The Best of Me a try!

Book Links
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo | Google 

Elisabeth Barrett lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and spends her days teaching, editing, writing sexy contemporary romance, and enjoying time with her sometimes-bearded husband and three spirited children. She is constantly perfecting her home-work-writing juggling act, but in her free time she loves to hike open space preserves, grow orchids, bake sweet things her husband won't eat, and sing in grand choruses.
To find out more about Elisabeth and her books, please visit her website at http://www.elisabethbarrett.com or join her mailing list at eepurl.com/bBZfT9.

~*~ GIVEAWAY ~*~
Elisabeth is giving away an e-copy of The Best of Me. Contest ends January 10, 2016.

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