Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters.
I’m pleased to introduce today’s guests, Jennifer Wilck and Simon McAlter…
I’m Simon McAlter, and I’m the hero of Jennifer Wilck’s latest romance, A Reckless Heart. Ha! Just writing that line makes me uncomfortable. Hero? No, I’m not a hero. If I were, I would have been able to save my family. And a romance? Not with this face. Jennifer told me I had to write about my passion, which is landscape architecture. I wanted to tell her, “You’re the author, you do it.” But since she is the author, that means she can get rid of me, probably easier than she was able to create me, so it’s in my best interest to listen to her. Not to mention, it gives me a reason to hide in my office while Meg, my way-too-pretty tenant, makes use of my house. She’s not supposed to be here, but the place she rented from me was damaged in the storm, and until it’s fixed, she’s here. So I’m trying to avoid her. Mostly unsuccessfully.
Anyway, landscape architecture. I’ve always loved plants and nature. Their beauty, their medicinal elements, their ability to thrive in the harshest conditions. When I went to college, I studied plants, learned computer design programs, and worked with master gardeners and architects. I learned how to design landscaping that compliments existing buildings and natural features. I thrived, and became more successful than I could have possibly imagined. I traveled to Europe and Asia, and brought my knowledge back home. I’ve designed college campuses, palace gardens, and city parks. I teach students to create beauty. My favorite thing to do is dig in the dirt and see my designs come to life.
My accident changed everything, though. The scarring on my hands makes fine motor skill difficult. Luckily for me, I found a therapy garden, and worked on my hands while designing plantings for the botanical garden. In the beginning, they scheduled my work when people weren’t there—not because of my face, although I was happy not to have anyone see it, but because I, um, tend to curse a lot when things don’t go my way, and they were afraid I’d scare off everyone else. Probably right—what my face doesn’t scare away, my language does. The therapy helped not only my hands but my mind. I created a garden that when fully in bloom, looks like flames. And in the process, I made the nightmares disappear.
I still have fine motor difficulties, but my hands are probably as healed as they’ll ever be. Things take me longer, but I get them done. I avoid people as much as possible. This solitary life on the Maine coast suits me well. I teach my students remotely, design plans—both lesson and garden—on my computer, and live as full a life as possible.
Only lately, my designs are lacking inspiration. I’m supposed to helping the town library committee develop a garden on the property next to them. Somehow, they want to buy the land, rather than let the town sell it to condo developers, and use it for a community garden. My friend, Claire, asked me to design something, and I said yes. Except, every time I sit down to work on it, my mind blanks. Even the designs I’ve made for clients in the past few years are dull. Claire tells me I need to get out more. Yeah, right. One look at my face and everyone runs screaming.
Except Meg. She doesn’t run from me. I wonder why.
Meg Thurgood, former society girl, took the blame for her friend and paid a steep price. Now all she wants is solitude and a chance to rebuild her life. She thinks she’s found that in an isolated house she rents from a mysterious stranger.
Simon McAlter has hidden in his house on the coast of Maine since a fire left him scarred. A successful landscape architect who conducts his business and teaches his classes remotely, he’s lost his inspiration and is trying to pretend he’s not lonely.
Simon’s new neighbor is more than he bargained for. When he learns Meg’s secret, will he retreat into the shadows or will he learn to see past the surface and trust in Meg’s love?
Meg spoke. “These gardens are beautiful.”
“Want to see what I planted when I was here?”
His work was here? “I’d love to.” She hadn’t seen any of his finished projects, just his plans. She was eager to see what he’d done. He led her once again toward the pavilion. In one area, sweeping in an arc, were leafy plants and flowers. At first glance, they looked as if they’d landed there any old way, but as she studied them, a pattern and a purpose emerged. Varying shades of greens and golds merged with reds and oranges.
She gasped. “They look like flames! They’re beautiful.”
He smiled. “When they’re in full bloom in the summer, you can see the design more clearly.”
He’d created this because of his accident. To think he’d intentionally planted to make a thing of beauty out of destruction…her chest swelled, and she blinked away unwanted moisture. She wrapped her arms around him. “Does it help you to look at it?”
He shrugged. “Now, it matters less to me. Then? I needed to remove the image from my mind and this formation helped. Instead of seeing the fire that destroyed my family, I turned those visions into something that created life—flowers that stunned and soothed at the same time. Plus, the ability to do the work myself was therapeutic as well.”
“You’re amazing.” She looked around, turning in a slow circle. “I don’t think I could ever do anything like this.” The car accident and flash bulbs flickered in her mind once again. What beauty could she possibly create from her experience?
He massaged his hand. “Took way longer than it should.”
“And probably involved a lot of cursing.”
Simon huffed. “In the beginning, I made sure to only be here alone. Toward the end, Jed allowed a few select people to work here at the same time as me. But never children. Because, you know, language.”
He draped his arm around her as they meandered along the pathways. At the sound of voices, Meg turned toward them, but Simon steered them away from the other visitors.
She wanted to protest, to convince him he had nothing to fear from strangers, but she acquiesced. She, of all people, understood his fear. Instead, she followed him and absorbed the beauty of the flowers and the gentle scents that mixed and mingled around them.
Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.
In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. When she’s not writing, she loves to laugh with her family and friends, is a pro at finding whatever her kids lost in plain sight, and spends way too much time closing doors that should never have been left open in the first place. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.
She writes contemporary romance, some of which are mainstream and some of which involve Jewish characters. She’s published with The Wild Rose Press and all her books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.