I’d like to welcome Lily Bishop to my blog, romantic suspense author. Her tagline is: Strong, smart women and the men who love them… Lily, you say you write strong, smart women – How do you balance that? In other words, how do you write strong, smart women without them coming across as too aggressive or even snarky and unlikeable/relatable to the reader?
Andrea, thanks for having me. I chose that as my writing signature because I was tired of reading so many romance-themed books where the woman gives up everything for the new man in her life, even if she’s only known him a few months, or worse, a few weeks.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love an alpha male as much as the next gal, but I kept wondering why it had to be an experienced, successful alpha pitted against an inexperienced decade-younger woman who has no career to speak of. Yes, I cut my teeth on Harlequin, and still read them, but the titles give me heartburn. (I know the editors pick the titles and not the authors) “The Billionaire’s Bartered Bride,” or “The Billionaire’s Mistress.” Who uses the term mistress these days, anyway? I guess it’s more of a European word, because I’ve never heard it used outside of the romance genre.
No Strings Attached opens in Las Vegas, where consultant Fox Thornton meets Laura Todd at the blackjack table. It turns out they are there for the same conference. Laura is an administrative assistant who just finished her Master’s in Marketing and she has been promised a promotion. Fox likes her at first because she’s beautiful, and she’s winning at blackjack, which is an intriguing combination. She helps him out of a bind with a conference glitch, and when he learns there is a brain behind her beauty, chemistry flies.
The second book , Under His Protection, is based on Fox’s brother Lee, who is opening a security business. His first client, Elizabeth Crowne, is a candidate for State Attorney General, and she has earned the nickname “Beth the Bitch” in the courtroom. She has received death threats, and her father refuses to fund her campaign unless she travels with security. Lee is drawn by her intelligence and her determination to win one of the state’s key legal offices. Elizabeth learns that sometimes she has to listen to experts in fields other than her own and that she should take the threats seriously.
I am currently more than halfway finished writing the third book, which has a working title of either The Missing Piece or No Ordinary Man. It focuses on Laura’s sister Lindsey, a secondary character in the first two books. She has just enrolled in a Master’s program in Mathematics and has a teaching assistantship. Her leading man lives on his own Caribbean island, and she is in school in South Carolina, so working that out while staying true to her career will be difficult. Lindsey is young, and she has doubts about everything—her academic career, her love life, and what she wants to do with her life. One of the challenges of this book is that Lindsey doesn’t like to be touched at all, so that makes the physical aspect interesting.
I believe it’s important for the female character to not be a doormat and to advance her own plot. So she continues with job interviews, even though she’s met “the guy”. Even though she may have to accept help, she tries to solve her own problems. She may need rescuing, but she doesn’t wait for it. In terms of how to be strong without being bitchy, well I think that’s a given. Women don’t have to be snarky to be strong, and they don’t have to be controlling to want their own career.
The books are stand-alone, with a connected mystery that will be resolved in the third book. Some of the themes running through the series include gender discrimination, sexism in the workplace, and ambitions. Settings include Las Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, and resort located on a private island in the Bahamas.
More about No Strings Attached:
A steamy story of a woman torn between duty and desire, truth and betrayal—When wealthy entrepreneur Fox Thornton accepts a contract as interim director of a Miami consulting firm, he never suspects he will be working closely with Laura Todd, the beautiful, ambitious young woman who warmed his bed last weekend in Las Vegas.
Laura attends a Vegas conference to prove that her marketing skills justify a promotion. After a spicy weekend fling, she returns to Miami to find that her boss has been replaced by her Vegas lover. She never expected to see Fox again, but now she works for him, and she’s the only one who can provide the records he needs for his investigation.
Fox finds the numbers don’t add up. The company should be flush with funds but is barely making payroll. He vows to bring the thief to justice, but all signs led to Laura. Can he follow his heart while making sure that justice is served?
For this excerpt, I showed what I think is the moment Fox starts to see Laura differently. They just had a romantic evening in his private penthouse that got interrupted by the butler claiming the conference organizers needed Fox for a critical meeting. He invites Laura to come with him.
An hour later, Fox and the entertainment committee members were no closer to solving the entertainment crisis. The committee couldn’t agree and had asked Fox to help them find a resolution. The three-time Grammy recipient hired to perform at the conference the following evening had laryngitis. The two women on the committee wanted to refund part of the registration fee, while their male counterparts suggested canceling the entertainment and turning the guests loose in the casino. Fox didn’t like either option. Casino Entertainment Manager Mark West warned that he would have trouble finding another top-tier act on such short notice.
Fox had asked Laura to come with him, thinking it would be a quick issue, but now with her eyes half closed, she looked like she was fading fast. He wanted to tell the committee to solve it without them when Laura straightened in her chair.
“I have an idea.”
“Let’s hear it,” Fox said. Hell, even if her idea wouldn’t work, everyone else had stalled.
“You’re not going to get another big-name act by tomorrow night. Why don’t you find a cover band? Since you’ll be paying less for the talent, give out the rest in free drink tickets. With the wholesale cost of the liquor, you’d still come out ahead.”
Mark consulted the schedule before he made a few notes. “That may work. The house band has that night off. I bet those boys would love to do it for some extra cash.”
“From the demographics I saw at the opening reception, I don’t think anybody will care that much who sings. They just want to have some fun,” she offered.
Fox smiled for the first time since he had left his suite. “That’s the best idea I’ve heard tonight. Let’s go with it.” Ten minutes later, Mark had reached an agreement with the band, and the committee members filed out after a nudge from Fox.
After an hour, finally he was alone with Laura. “Wow, what a night.” He slipped his hand around her shoulders. “Thank you. We were all stuck. You still want that cheesecake?”
“I would love to …” Her voice trailed off.
“I hear a but coming.”
“But I am exhausted. The jet lag has caught up with me.” Fox cursed the committee for not resolving the issue without him. He could have been in bed pressed up against her perfect … He forced the thought away. His mother had raised him to be a gentleman. He wanted to be back in his suite, finishing what they started, but he could be patient.
“I’ll walk you back to your room.”
“So how did you get sucked into this committee, anyway?” she asked as they got into the elevator.
“I’ve been an adviser to the association for years, and my family has an ownership stake in this casino.” With a simple Internet search, she would learn that he had money, but for now, he liked that she didn’t know.
“So that’s why you’re in that suite upstairs,” she said.
He shrugged. “It’s a perk.”
They paused outside her door for the second time that day.
“Talk about déjà vu,” she whispered.
He leaned in until his lips barely touched hers. When she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, he followed her lead. He squeezed her bottom and angled her hips against his so she would feel how much he wanted her. When she eventually shifted back, he released her a little at a time.
“I enjoyed dinner,” he said near her ear, wanting to be close to her for as long as he could. “When is your presentation tomorrow?”
“I will find you after. I’ll get tickets to a show and then we can get dinner.”
“That would be great,” she said, her eyes brightening with her smile. “See you then.”
Lily Bishop grew up in Georgia, but currently resides in South Carolina with her husband and two middle school children. By day, she works as a data analyst and by night she spends time with her fictional characters.