Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hitched by Jessica Hart, A Harlequin Romance (Excerpt, Review)

Planning the most talked about wedding of the year is enough to make engineer Frith Taylor break out in a cold sweat. She's used to construction sites, not wedding fairs! But estate manager George Challoner's offer of help is one that's too good to resist. George may be the rebel of the prestigious Challoner family, but his insanely good looks are giving Frith wedding fever! Charm personified, he's making her feel things she hasn't dared feel before. Maybe her little sister's wedding won't be the only one Frith's planning…?

Purchase Hitched by clicking on the icon:

Image of Jessica HartJessica's earlier career was a haphazard one, including stints as foreign newsdesk secretary in London, cook on an Australian outback cattle station, TEFL teacher in Jakarta and interpreter on expedition in Cameroon. She first stumbled into writing as a way of funding a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies, and since then she has written 59 books for Harlequin Mills & Boon's Romance/RIVA series. A multiple finalist and past winner of both a RITA (Christmas Eve Marriage, Best Traditional Romance 2005) and the UK's coveted Romance Prize (now the RoNA Rose Award), Jessica was awarded the National Readers' Choice Award (Traditional category) for her 50th book, Last-Minute Proposal, in 2009 and again in 2010 for Cinderella's Wedding Wish.

Jessica lives in York, a historic city in the north of England, and also writes 'time slip' novels as Pamela Hartshorne.

To find out more about Jessica, visit her website, www.jessicahart.co.uk, or find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jessica-Hart/197786216977996

Enjoy an excerpt from Hitched (courtesy of Amazon)

I was having a good day until George Challoner turned up.

It had rained almost every day since I had arrived in Yorkshire, but that morning I woke to a bright, breezy day. By some miracle Audrey had started first time, and I hummed as I drove along the country lanes lined with jaunty daffodils to Whellerby Hall.

When I arrived at the site, Frank, the lugubrious foreman, had even smiled—a first. Well, his face relaxed slightly in response to my cheery greeting, but in my current mood I was prepared to count it a smile. Progress, anyway.

The ready-mixed concrete arrived bang on time. I stood and watched carefully as the men started pouring it into the reinforced steel raft for the foundations. They clearly knew what they were doing, and I had already checked the quality of the concrete. After a frenzied couple of weeks, I could tell Hugh that the project was back on schedule.


Everything was going to plan. I had it all worked out.

1. Get site experience.
2. Get job overseas on major construction project.
3. Get promoted to senior engineer.

And because I was an expert planner, I had made sure all my goals were Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. I was aiming for promotion by the time I was thirty, an overseas job by the end of the year, and I was already getting site experience with the new conference and visitor centre on the Whellerby Hall estate.

True, things had got off to a shaky start. Endless rain, unreliable suppliers and a construction team made up of dour Yorkshiremen who had apparently missed out on a century of women's liberation and made no secret of their reluctance to take orders from a female. My attempts to involve them in team-building exercises had not gone down well.

For a while, I admit, I had wondered if I had made a terrible mistake leaving the massive firm in London, but my plan was clear. I badly needed some site experience, and the Whellerby project was too good an opportunity to miss.

And now it might all just be coming together, I congratulated myself, checking another grid off on my clipboard. I'd won a knock-down-drag-out fight with the concrete supplier, which might account for Frank's—sort of—smile and now we could start building.

Perhaps I could let myself relax, just a little.

That was when George arrived.

He drove the battered Land Rover as if it were a Lamborghini, swinging into the site and parking—deliberately squint, I was sure!—next to Audrey in a flurry of mud and gravel.

I pressed my lips together in disapproval. George Challoner was allegedly the estate manager, although as far as I could see this involved little more than turning up at inconvenient moments and distracting everyone else who was actually trying to do some work.

He was also my neighbour. I'd been delighted at first to be given my own cottage on the estate. I was only working on the project until Hugh Morrison, my old mentor, had recovered from his heart attack, and I didn't want to get involved with expensive long-term lets so a tied cottage for no rent made perfect sense.

I was less delighted to discover that George Challoner lived on the other side of the wall, his cottage a mirror image of mine under a single slate roof. It wasn't that he was a noisy neighbour, but I was always so aware of him, and it wasn't because he was attractive, if that's what you're thinking.

I was prepared to admit that he was extremely easy on the eye. My own preference was for dark-haired men, while George was lean and rangy with hair the colour of old gold and ridiculously blue eyes, but, still, I could see that he was good-looking.

OK, he was very good-looking. Too good-looking.

I didn't trust good-looking men. I'd fallen for a dazzling veneer once before, and it wasn't a mistake I intended to make again.

I watched balefully as George waved and strode across to join me at the foundations. The men had all brightened at his approach and were shouting boisterous abuse at him. Even Frank grinned, the traitor.

I sighed. What was it with men? The ruder they were, the more they seemed to like each other.

'Hey, Frank, don't look now but your foundations are full of holes,' said George, peering down at the steel cages.

'They're supposed to be that way,' I said, even though I knew he was joking. I hated the way George always made me feel buttoned-up. 'The steel takes the tensile stress.'

'I wish I had something to take my stress,' said George. He had an irritating ability to give the impression that he was laughing while keeping a perfectly straight face. Something to do with the glinting blue eyes, I thought, or perhaps the almost imperceptible deepening of the creases around his eyes. Or the smile that seemed to be permanently tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Whatever it was, I wished he wouldn't do it. It made me feel…ruffled.

Besides, I had never met anybody less stressed. George Challoner was one of those charmed individuals for whom life was a breezy business. He never seemed to take anything seriously. God only knew why Lord Whellerby had made him estate manager. I was sure George was just playing at it, amusing himself between sunning himself on the deck of a yacht or playing roulette in some swish casino. I knew his type.

'What can we do for you, George?' I said briskly. 'As you can see, we're rather busy here today.'

'The guys are busy,' said George, nodding at the foundations where the men had gone back to pouring the concrete. 'You're just watching.'

'I'm supervising,' I said with emphasis. 'That's my job.'

'Good job, just watching everyone else do the work.'

I knew quite well that he was just trying to wind me up, but I ground my teeth anyway. 'I'm the site engineer,' I said. 'That means I have to make sure everything is done properly.'

'A bit like being an estate manager, you mean?' said George. 'Except you get to wear a hard hat.'

'I don't see that my job has anything in common with yours,' I said coldly. 'And talking of hard hats, if you must come onto the site, you should be wearing one. I've reminded you about that before.'

George cast a look around the site. Beyond the foundations where the concrete mixer churned, it was a sea of mud. It had been cleared the previous autumn and was now littered with machinery and piles of reinforcing wires. 'I'm taller than everything here,' he objected. 'I can't see a single thing that could fall on my head.'

'You could trip over and knock your head on a rock,' I said, adding under my breath, 'with any luck.'

'I heard that!' George grinned, and I clutched my clipboard tighter to my chest and put up my chin. 'I never had to wear a hard hat when Hugh Morrison was overseeing,' he said provocatively.

'That was before we'd started construction, and, in any case, that was up to Hugh. This is my site now, and I like to follow correct procedures.'

I promise you, I wasn't always unbearably pompous, but there was just something about George that rubbed me up the wrong way.

'Now, that's a useful thing to know,' he exclaimed. 'Maybe that's where I've been going wrong!'

His gaze rested on my face. Nobody had the right to have eyes that blue, I thought crossly as I fought the colour that was stealing along my cheekbones. My fine, fair skin was the bane of my life. The slightest thing and I'd end up blushing like a schoolgirl.

'So what's the correct procedure for asking you out?' he asked, leaning forward confidentially as if he really expected me to tell him.

I kept my composure. Making a big play of looking over at the foundations and then checking something off my list, I said coolly: 'You ask me out, and I say no.'

'I've tried that,' he objected.

He had. The first night I arrived, he had popped round to suggest a drink at the pub in the village. He asked me every time he saw me. I was sure it was just to annoy me now. Any normal man would have got the point by then.

'Then I'm not sure what I can suggest.'

'Come on, we're neighbours,' said George. 'We should be friendly.'

'It's precisely because we're neighbours that I don't think it's a good idea,' I said, making another mark on my clipboard. George wasn't to know it was meaningless. 'You live right next door to me. If we went for a drink and you turned out to be some kind of weirdo, I'd never be able to get away from you.' 'Weirdo?'

He was doing his best to sound outraged, but he didn't fool me. I could tell he was trying not to laugh.

Pushing my hair behind my ears, I glared at him.

'Maybe weirdo isn't quite the right word,' I allowed, 'but you know what I mean.'

'I see.' George pretended to ponder. 'So you think that after one date, I might never leave you alone? I might pester you to go out again or fall madly in love with you?'

My beastly cheeks were turning pink again, I could feel it. 'I don't think that's very likely.' 'Why not?'

I looked down at my clipboard, wishing that he would stop asking awkward questions and just go away.

'I'm not the kind of girl men fall madly in love with,' I said evenly after a moment.

Sadly, all too true.

George pursed his lips and his eyes danced. 'OK, so if you're not worried about me falling for you, maybe you're worried you'll fall madly in love with me.'

'I can assure you that's not going to happen!' I snapped.

'That sounds like a challenge to me.'

'It certainly isn't,' I said. 'I'm just saying that you're not my type.'

Of course, he couldn't leave it there, could he? 'What is your type, t...

My Review:

I love Harlequin Romance novels. To tell the truth, I haven't read a bad one. Hitched was no exception.  It was delightful. It was fun. It was full of little twists and turns. And reading it was interesting because it was written by an author "over the pond", meaning I'm from America and I found the dialogue charming.

Frith seemed to have a few of my traits so I enjoyed identifying with her on that level. She had a way of organizing everything, from her work down to her personal life; and she used her SMART goals to do it. 'Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.'

And, it all worked for her. Up. until. George. George, happy-go-lucky, just couldn't get over the fact that she had a five-year plan in place to achieve her work goals, and then she would set goals for her personal life. 

"I don't have time for a serious relationship in my current-five year plan, but that will definitely figure in my next one. I'll be thirty-three by then, and it might be time to think about settling down." George was staring at me. "You're kidding? You actually have a five-year plan? Like a totalitarian regime?" He laughed. "Do you give yourself quotas and send in the secret police if you don't make them?"

George was quite the determined chap when it came to Frith and he loved throwing a kink into her day. It became quite the plan to program her phone with different ring tones each day -unbeknownst to Frith, until he called. 

"Do you have any idea how embarrassing it was to be standing there with all those men listening to some sultry woman announcing that she was too sexy for her shirt?"

As George and Frith continue to bail each other out of life's little fiascos, feelings begin to merge. And, what happens next is a sweet love story with a surprise ending.

"All we need to do is pretend to be in love." "You're in love with me," I reminded him quickly. "I'm just toying with you." The creases around George's eyes deepened appreciatively.

Disclaimer/Disclosure. I received a complimentary copy of this book with no obligation for a positive review. No compensation – monetary or in kind – has been obtained for this post.
Cover art, book description, and any excerpts are courtesy of the author, publisher, or PR firm.

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