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Coming May 23, 2023

Cover Coming Soon

Book 3 of The Modern Love Series

Classic Romance

read an excerpt →

Love isn’t just an act in this captivating and flirty romance by New York Times bestselling author Jane Porter.

Forty-nine-year-old Margot Hughes has lived and breathed theater for the past twenty-five years. After a devastating breakup with her playwright fiancé, she wants nothing to do with the industry. She has sworn off New York, theater, actors—all of it. She returns to her hometown on California’s central coast and takes a job in real estate, where she manages significant investment properties. But Margot’s suddenly thrown back into the theater world when Sally, her friend and boss, who had been restoring and funding Cambria’s historic theater, has a heart attack. Before she knows it, Margot is tapped to take over the troubled summer production of Barefoot in the Park.

But the play is no walk in the park—the leads and director have all quit, and Margot struggles to find new actors…until Max Russo arrives. Forty-five-year-old Max is a former soap opera star turned rugged cowboy on TV’s most popular western series.  Max has a huge following and is the perfect hero to step up and save the play, provided Margot stars opposite him. Although adamant she would never return to theater, Margot enjoys the long hours of rehearsal with a professional like Max, who is charming, witty, and passionate. But when the curtains close, can Margot allow herself to fall for Max when he represents everything she left behind?

Classic Romance

Coming May 23, 2023

Flirting With Fire

read an excerpt →

Love isn’t just an act in this captivating and flirty romance by New York Times bestselling author Jane Porter.

Forty-nine-year-old Margot Hughes has lived and breathed theater for the past twenty-five years. After a devastating breakup with her playwright fiancé, she wants nothing to do with the industry. She has sworn off New York, theater, actors—all of it. She returns to her hometown on California’s central coast and takes a job in real estate, where she manages significant investment properties. But Margot’s suddenly thrown back into the theater world when Sally, her friend and boss, who had been restoring and funding Cambria’s historic theater, has a heart attack. Before she knows it, Margot is tapped to take over the troubled summer production of Barefoot in the Park.

But the play is no walk in the park—the leads and director have all quit, and Margot struggles to find new actors…until Max Russo arrives. Forty-five-year-old Max is a former soap opera star turned rugged cowboy on TV’s most popular western series.  Max has a huge following and is the perfect hero to step up and save the play, provided Margot stars opposite him. Although adamant she would never return to theater, Margot enjoys the long hours of rehearsal with a professional like Max, who is charming, witty, and passionate. But when the curtains close, can Margot allow herself to fall for Max when he represents everything she left behind?

Flirting With Fire

Book 3 of The Modern Love Series

Classic Romance

Berkley Mass Market

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Flirting With Fire

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Max was still finding it strange being recognized.  Years back, women who watched  the soap Forever Young would stop him and ask for a photo or an autograph, but then he’d left the show and become obscure.  But he was on a big show again, an even bigger TV show, with Season 4 of Stardust Ranch drawing on average 1.7 million viewers an episode, making him a recognizable face again.

During his flight to Los Angeles, a woman stopped by his seat, she’d already passed him three times, each time smiling at him, friendly, nonthreatening.

She finally spoke after her fourth trip to the rest room.  “Hi.”

He tipped his head. Smiled. Not wanting to encourage her, but conscious that he couldn’t really be rude.

“Are you Max Russo?” She gave him a hopeful look, a smile that was a little nervous,  very self-conscious. “I bet my friend you are.  Were.” She flushed, stammered. “I loved you in Forever Young, and I’ve followed you career ever since. I’m not asking for an autograph, I just wanted you to know that I think you’re amazing. I used to have your posters all over my wall.” She made a little face even as she flashed her hand with the wedding ring. “I’m married now, it would be weird to have your posters up.  My husband’s a good sport, but you know.”  She laughed. “I’m rambling.  Sorry. I talk too much when I’m nervous –”

“It’s okay. It’s nice to meet you.” He put out his hand. “Your name is?”

“Jasmine.” She blushed. “And you really are Max?”

“I really am.”

“Wow.”  She let go his hand quickly. She kept staring at him as if she couldn’t quite believe any of this was happening. “Have a good flight, Mr. Russo.”

Mr. Russo.  That sounded so old.  But she was trying to be respectful, and she was sweet.  She’d also been a fan for a long time.  “You, too. And it was nice to meet you, Jasmine.”

Jasmine disappeared back behind the slight curtain into the economy section of the plane. Max only recently began flying in first class, too.  He had the money now, and he preferred the leg room and privacy the smaller cabin gave him.

There was no first class though on the commuter plane that took him from LA to San Luis Obispo.  Fortunately, it was a short flight, just an hour, and they landed before sunset, fifteen minutes early.

Sally had told him one of her employees, a Margot Hughes, would be picking him up and that Margot would drive him to the hospital before getting him settled.

He’d answered that he’d already booked a car and a hotel, but Sally insisted he use her car and not spend the money.  At least she hadn’t fought him about the hotel room as the last thing he wanted to do was crash at Sally’s place while she was at Memorial.  Hopefully he wouldn’t need her car, either, and just use his ride sharing app.

The plane didn’t pull all the way up to the terminal, but parked on the tarmac.  He was one of the first down the stairs and he tugged his baseball hat lower, the brim bumping his sunglasses.  This used to be his home airport.  This used to be home.  It seemed like another lifetime.

 

The airport in San Luis Obispo was a fifty minute drive from Margot’s home off Moonstone Beach, and she’d left early to make sure she was there before Max’s flight arrived, but she’d hit traffic on the 101.   She’d given herself a thirty minute cushion but with his flight landing early, she’d only just reached arrivals when she heard the announcer say the incoming flight from Los Angeles was on the ground and everyone would soon be deplaning.

Margot took a quick breath and tightened her ponytail.  There was no reason to be nervous, but she felt unsettled.  It had been tough at the office today, the staff emotional, everyone upset about Sally’s condition, and Margot had worked hard to reassure the team that Sally would be okay even as she secretly worried about a future where Sally couldn’t do as much.  What would happen to Sally’s empire?  Had Sally made any plans for the future?

Margot had initially planned to leave for the airport straight from work but at the last minute dashed home to change into something a little more chic, swapping the white work blouse for a purple paisley tunic with a hint of gold embroidery at the neck and hem.  She’d put on some make up, too, not a full face, but lipliner, mascara, eyeliner and a hint of bronzer.  She wasn’t trying to impress Max Russo as much as feel confident.  In control.

Sally’s heart attack had shaken her deeply, making Margot think of her mom, who hadn’t survived her heart attack.  But then, no one even knew her mom had heart issues.  She’d still been relatively young, and slender.  But her mom hadn’t been strong.  Her mom was delicate, almost fragile, and had been so ever since Charlotte died.  But Sally was tough.  A fighter.  Sally wouldn’t give up.  Margot didn’t need to be afraid.  But she was afraid, and sad.  The intensity of her grief surprised her.  She couldn’t lose anyone else.

And she wouldn’t lose Sally.  Margot was determined to take care of her, stepping in at the office and anywhere else she was needed.

Sally was depending on her.  The office team was depending on her.  Everyone was counting on her to keep things together, and she would.  She could.

Margot might not be as fierce as Sally, but she wasn’t a lightweight.  She’d been through her share of hard times.  She could handle this.

And she could handle Max Russo.

Five years ago Max Russo had been just another good looking, hardworking actor who’d played numerous secondary roles on popular TV shows.   He’d started out in theater, got a role on a soap, and when his character on Forever Young was killed off, he disappeared for awhile before appearing as a guest on other TV shows, making appearances in numerous TV pilots. And then three—four?—years ago he was cast in the new Western, Stardust Ranch, and the show became a huge smash, with Max the breakout star.  In a matter of months he’d gone from a likeable, recognizable actor to heartthrob.   This year he’d graced the cover of a number of magazines, including a four page spread in People’s beautiful people issue.  The public couldn’t get enough of Max—Jen, the receptionist, couldn’t stop talking about Max—and somehow he knew Sally, and was flying in from New York just to see her.

Margot had tried to get more details from Sally but Sally had closed up then, becoming unusually secretive.

Margot knew Max had been born in San Luis Obispo county, with Templeton claiming him, while others in Morro Bay said he’d been raised there.  Regardless, he was a native, and he’d left—much like she did, right after high school—but unlike her, he’d never moved back.

The terminal’s sliding glass doors suddenly opened and there he was.

Max wasn’t hard to recognize even with the baseball cap, polarized aviator style sunglasses, and dark bristled jaw.  He was taller than average, and lean, with big shoulders, long legs.  He was wearing jeans, cowboy boots, and a brown leather jacket over a tight fitting t-shirt and looked every bit the film star.  If Jen were here, she’d die.

Margot heard someone next to her murmur, wondering aloud if that was the guy from Stardust Ranch.   She stepped forward, meeting him partway.  “Max,” she said.

He nodded.  “You’re Margot?” he asked, shifting his leather backpack to the other shoulder.

“I am.  Flight okay?”

“No problems.”  His dark eyebrows flattened, his bristled jaw tightening.  “How is she?”

It went without saying that he was asking about Sally.  Margot swallowed around the lump suddenly filling her throat.  “She’s looking forward to seeing you.  I’m to take you straight there.”

“Is she really going to be okay?”

The lump in her throat grew.  “I hope so.”  She nodded at his backpack.  “Is that all you have, or is there a checked bag?”

“Just this,” he said.  “Only here for a few days.”

“So you’re not here to help with Sally’s play?”

Max looked at her, gaze hidden by his polarized glasses.  “What play?”

“Barefoot in the Park.  It launches the Cambria Playhouse’s summer season.”  They were walking out of the terminal now, across the street to short term parking.  The sun had dropped lower in the sky, creating a fine line of gold across the horizon.

“Just yesterday she told me the director had quit,” Margot continued, “as well as the leads.  She asked me to step in and direct.  This morning I agreed.”  She glanced at Max as they reached her car.  “I should have agreed last night.  I shouldn’t have left her stewing all night.  Maybe if I had, none of this would have happened.”

He lowered his backpack and then removed his sunglasses.  His dark brown gaze met hers and held.  “You think you’re the reason she had a heart attack?”

His eyes were beautiful.  His face…beautiful.  She sucked in a breath, suddenly a little lightheaded.  “She was fine at the cocktail party.”

“I can’t imagine you were actually the trigger.  Sally is driven.  She has always worked hard, and unless something has changed, she doesn’t exercise, doesn’t eat right, and starts her day with a good vodka tonic.”

“She’s switched to vodka and orange juice.”

Max laughed, and creases fanned at the corners of his eyes, and his teeth flashed, blindingly white.  Her pulse jumped and her mouth dried.  Wow.  “If you know her favorite drink, you two must have some history,” Margot said, unlocking the car and popping the trunk.

“That’s an understatement,” Max answered, dropping his backpack into the trunk before closing it.

Margot shot him a quick look, curious.  There were a dozen things she wanted to ask, but right now, she needed to get him to the hospital.  Sally was waiting and if Max could buoy Sally’s spirits and help her recover, than Margot would roll out the red carpet for him.

end of excerpt

Flirting With Fire is available for pre-order in the following formats:

Berkley Mass Market

ISBN: 978-0593438428

May 23, 2023

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