Wildwood character interview...
Allison: I'm doing a character interview with Celia Landry and Turner Wildwood from my newest historical novel, Wildwood Spring. We're unmasking some of the oddities behind the story.
Turner, I understand your family home, Wildwood Manor, is a place of unique and somewhat mysterious tastes. May you can tell us about the treasures are you hiding inside those walls. I hear there's some sort of giant skeleton in the ballroom. Is it an elephant?
Turner: (laughs) Not quite. It's even more unusual—it's a mastodon skeleton my father had shipped to Arkansas in crates and assembled himself from a drawing. He loved the natural world and we didn't use the ballroom for dancing, so it seemed like the perfect place to put an ancient skeleton.
Celia: You'd think it would be out of place inside the house, but it fits in with the other décor very well. Things like a stuffed orangutan called Orville, and the Hall of Wonder, which has many other taxidermy specimens, samples of fauna from the area, hundreds of books. You could spend weeks learning about the natural world at Wildwood.
Allison: Okay, how does a man come to even own such a strange collection of things? The mastodon alone must have cost a fortune.
Turner: (looking morose) I didn't take the same interest in the world as my father, but I inherited the things he left behind. I'm proud to say I'm the owner of Wildwood Firearms, which makes quality weapons and afforded me the kind of life many people dream about. I guess you could say I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but it came with consequences as well. The price of my father's success was also the cause of his madness.
Celia: (pats Turner's leg) I'm sure he'd proud of how you turned out and everything you've accomplished.
Allison: Firearms, huh? That does seem like a money-making business. I guess the height of production would have been during the Civil War. I know it's a tough topic for both of you. We'll get away from that. So what was falling in love like?
Celia: (dreamy smile) Wonderful. Like a flower opening in the spring when it's warmed by the sun.
Turner (laughs) Or being hit by a torpedo. When Celia came into my life, I knew I didn't want her to go, even though we both had issues to deal with.
Celia: Well, that's love. The things that seemed terrible and bound to keep us apart made us stronger.
Allison: I'm glad to hear it! Thanks for letting me talk to you like this, after all the terrible stuff I put you through.
When they face their fears, they'll find the path to love.
No one goes to Wildwood Manor—a hulking stone house on a hill outside town. Legend has it crazy old man Wildwood owes his life to the magical water of the spring at the back of the property. Celia Landry needs that water to save her mother, and she'll brave anything to get it.
Turner Wildwood, the son of the house's eccentric builder, is growing as reclusive as his father. When Celia turns up at his door, he's drawn by her beauty and bravery. Wary of strangers, he doesn't reveal his identity, but agrees to her request. When she returns to Wildwood in wake of personal tragedy, he's waiting there with a stunning change in his heart. He knows he should tell her the truth, but he doesn't want to ruin their budding friendship.
Celia's curiosity leads her to part of the frightening answers hidden behind Wildwood's doors, but her own troubled past may lead Turner into danger neither of them suspected.
"Would you like to dance?" Mischief sparkled in his blue eyes. "This is one of my favorite songs. Despite my almost solitary upbringing, dance was part of my education."
She felt heat scorch her cheeks. "Not part of mine, I'm afraid."
"I'll teach you." He faced her, putting one hand on her waist and taking her hand in his. "Do the opposite of what I do. I'll count."
He counted in fours, moving in time with the music. Celia stumbled, but after a few moments, she caught on. Turner led her around the room as they spun in circles. She laughed, forgetting her worries. It wasn't a ball and they were both in their nightclothes, but it was as elegant a dance as she could hope for.
Turner grinned as he pulled her a little closer. Their bodies came together, fitting perfectly. He dropped her hand, wrapping both arms around her waist. They stopped moving, standing in the shadow of the mastodon. Dark blond hair fell over his forehead, but it didn't hide the desire on his face.
Her name was a delicate breath of air, and he clung to her as though afraid she was a dream. She was too wide awake to believe that. Her senses seemed sharper than ever. He smelled of the lemony soap Mrs. Southard used for washing the sheets and the coffee he'd had at supper. Even in the muted firelight, she saw him clearly, his golden hair bright as sunbeams, his blue eyes the color of the sky after a storm.
She'd never been a romantic, knowing all too well she'd either be a spinster or a housewife too busy with chores and children to consider stolen kisses. She'd never imagined a man would want to show her stars, or dance with her around the skeleton of an ancient beast. These were moments she could cherish forever, think of when her world came back into focus.
It all had to end.
He lifted his hand to her face, pushing a strand of hair over her ear. "You look upset."
"I'm grateful." She forced the words out. "It's not every day I get escorted around a ballroom."
"You mean it might never happen again." He looked somber. "You'll return to the kind of life you led before we met. One where you're often hungry, alone, and overworked."
She glanced away, hating the truth of his words. "It isn't that bad."
"Somehow I don't believe you."
He wouldn't, not after the way she'd reacted to everything he'd shown her in his life. They were from different places and he could never understand how she'd lived before. She couldn't explain it without risking his pity.
"You could always stay. I'll find something for you to do in the manor. Official book reader. In the evenings you could recount all my favorites and the new ones I don't have time for."
His breath stirred the hair near her ear, tickling her skin.
"I think I prefer the title of cookie sampler. Who wouldn't want to sit in Finny's kitchen all day tasting the items he draws out of the oven." She pressed her cheek against his velvet lapel and closed her eyes. "You should have taken me back to town when you found me at the spring."
"I couldn't do that." There was the slightest hitch in his voice, as though the idea caused him pain.
"I'll be ruined for life outside of Wildwood."
"Good. Then you'll have to come back."
A love of reading turned Allison Merritt into an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She graduated college with a B.A. in mass communications that's gathering dust after it was determined that she's better at writing fluff than hard news.
She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she's not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.
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