Sunday, October 13, 2013

RHYTHM & BLUEGRASS by Molly Harper: Author Interview, Review, Excerpt & Giveaway

RHYTHM & BLUEGRASS (Bluegrass #2)

by: Molly Harper

An Adult Contemporary novel

Release Date: October 7,  2013


Bonnie Turkle, multimedia historian for the Kentucky Commission of Tourism, is dispatched to Mud Creek, a tiny eastern Kentucky town, with few prospects but many oddballs, to rescue important artifacts from McBride’s Music Hall. Now fallen beyond disrepair, McBride’s was once a jewel of the early American music scene, an intersection of the country-western and rhythm and blues circuits. The former owner’s grandson, Will McBride, who also happens to be Mud Creek’s esteemed mayor, would like nothing more than to see the place bull-dozed in favor of a factory that will provide much-needed jobs to his citizens. But Bonnie finds evidence of a legendary musical event at the music hall and her plans to turn it into a museum put Mud Creek’s economic future at risk – not to mention the growing flirtation between the two of them. If Will and Bonnie can’t find common ground, the town’s past and future will be lost.


I veered off to the shoulder as smoke rolled out from under
my hood in ominous tendrils, pulling flames behind them like
streamers. For a moment, all I could do was stare. This was
actually happening. My car was on fire. How did that even
happen outside of an action movie?
Wait a minute, burning cars led to spectacular explosions in
action movies.
I yelped and yanked the wheel too quickly, nearly sending
my SUV tumbling into the roadside ditch. The flames were
dancing across the bubbling white paint in earnest now, and it
took my fingers a few minutes to catch up to my brain’s message
of “unbuckle your seat belt and get out of this Hindenburg on wheels!”
To my eternal shame, I was not one of those “good in a crisis”
people. It took three tries before I managed to unbelt and jump
out. And even then, all I could do was stand on the pavement,
wring my hands around the strap of my shoulder bag, and mutter
some variation of “Nononono” over and over. I just stood there
trying to blow out the roaring remains of my SUV like it was a
giant birthday candle.
And then I saw my electric-blue laptop bag through the back
“Lola!” I squealed. “My baby!”
I scrambled to open the hatchback and started hauling boxes
to the side of the road like a one-woman moving crew. Of course,
Lola was stuffed securely behind my seat, behind all of the other
equipment, in an impossible-to-reach spot, and I needed my
supplies too much to just toss them out. First, I had to carefully
unload the digital display boards and my projector. Then the
acid-free storage sleeves and boxes. The flames were climbing
higher and Lola was still stuck behind a stack of boxes. Grunting,
I climbed over the tailgate, wedging myself between the ceiling
of the car and the boxes, reaching for Lola’s bag.
This was so my fault. Because I spent so much time on the
road, I was allowed to drive my personal vehicle, under certain
special requirements, such as regularly scheduled maintenance
by the state’s garage staff. Sadie Hutchins, assistant director of
marketing at the Kentucky Commission on Tourism—and my
direct supervisor—had been telling me for weeks that I had to
bring my SUV in for a complete check. But I’d been so busy
wrapping up my other projects to prepare for a long-term stay in
Mud Creek that I’d sort of skipped it, figuring I’d take the car
in for an oil change when I got into town. Sadie’s “I told you so”
would likely involve a three-page memo. Signed by the governor.
I vaguely registered the sound of tires crunching over the
gravel behind me.
“Y’all right there, ma’am?” a thickly accented voice asked.
I turned around to face the person, who was not being
terribly helpful, seeing as I was very obviously not all right at
the moment. Good Lord, he was a country music video come to
life: red-plaid shirt untucked, jeans frayed and worn at the knees,
thick sandy-blond hair mussed by the red baseball cap he was
tucking in his back pocket. His eyes were hidden behind silver
aviator sunglasses. A thin white scar across his chin underlined
his mouth, like he’d suffered an accident just to emphasize those
pearly white teeth.
One might think that, living in Kentucky for most of my
adult life, I ran into the Backroad Cowboy type often. But I lived
in Frankfort, the state capital. The most rural experience I got was
visiting cousins in Smithland, where we held reunion picnics in
the family cemetery. And on the rare occasion when I encountered
the Backroad Cowboy type, he was usually looking past me to
the girl not wearing a Jem and the Holograms T-shirt. Therefore,
my dating history was chock-full of perfectly passive vegan fellas
who would be more useless than I was in this situation.
Mr. Cowboy, on the other hand, seemed tensed to act if I
needed him, though his expression was oddly comical. Like he
ran across damsels in flaming distress all the time and expected
my brand of twitterpated impotence in the face of inferno-esque
car failure. I would have found this insulting, but (a) he was right
and (b) he was so very pretty.
I would take time to be embarrassed on behalf of my gender
Thunderous rumbling from the direction of the engine
brought me out of my cowboy ogling. “I’m trying to get my
baby out of the car,” I called, my voice choked by the gray fog
slowly seeping into the backseat.
“Your baby?” Mr. Cowboy flinched, as if the whole “vehicular
inferno” thing had just become significantly less funny, and
dashed to the driver’s side. He jerked the back door open and
started yanking plastic storage bins and pitching them over his
shoulder. I winced at the way he was tossing things haphazardly
against the hot pavement.
“Where’s the car seat?” he yelled, throwing boxes marked
BEDROOM and KITCHEN in neat block script. “Why the hell
would you put so much crap back here with a baby? What the—
What is all this?”
“Car seat?” I coughed, waving my hand in front of my face to
ward off the smoke. “What are you talking about?” He moved
just the right box of files and I wrenched Lola’s bag free.
“Yes!” I cried, clutching the bag to my chest. “My baby!”
My irritated Samaritan looked at me as if I might be insane.
I grabbed my suitcase and scooted out of the back of the SUV
just as the flames started to creep through the air-conditioning
vents. He was waiting for me by the tailgate and helped me to
my feet. Together, we dragged my stuff as far away from the car
as possible.
 “That is not a baby,” the Cowboy growled as I clutched the
laptop bag to my chest. He took off the sunglasses, tucking them
into his shirt pocket. The piercing blue eyes were not happy
with me or my baby. “You scared the piss outta me for a damn
Oh, right. Most people would construe “my baby” as an actual
living child. This would be what my best friend, Kelsey Wade,
referred to as a “Bonnie-size abuse of language.” I would say that
was unfair, but I had just convinced a man that my nonexistent
infant was at risk of serious injury in a car fire.
“If you knew how important Lola was to me, you would
understand,” I said as he took the bag from me and scanned me
from head to toe in a completely nonsexy, checking-for-boo-boos
sort of way.
“Ya named your damn computer,” he scoffed, wiping his sooty
hand across his forehead. “And ya named it Lola, to boot. Is there
much gas in the tank?”
I shook my head. “Almost empty. I didn’t want to stop when
I was so close to town.”
“Don’t ya have a fire extinguisher?”
“Yes, under the front seat,” I told him. “Which is currently
on fire.”
“Hmm, that won’t help, will it?” he said, pursing his lips.
Why, oh why, did he have to purse his lips like that? He probably
had some beautiful girlfriend at home with long blond hair and
one of those Southern-girl smiles that could sweeten iced tea
from across the room. I’d bet she never got padded bras from her
grandmother in her Christmas stocking. I’d bet her high school
nickname wasn’t “Fraggle Eyes.”
I really needed to get myself under control. Everything I
owned was burning and I was busy seething in resentment
over a stranger’s hypothetical girlfriend. Maybe there were
hallucinogenic qualities to burning tires?
Mr. Cowboy noticed my irritated expression and said, “Well, I
don’t wanna upset ya, but I think you’re gonna have a hard time
drivin’ away from this one.”
It took all I had not to laugh. Because laughing would
probably lead to hysterical crying, and I didn’t want to scare the
nice man. The windows clouded with black film as smoke rolled
out of the back gate, boiling up toward a cloudless late-summer
sky. And that’s when it hit me. My truck was gone. My phone
charger. The Ray Charles biography I’d been reading. The soft,
worn-in denim jacket—stolen from a college boyfriend—that I
kept slung over the passenger seat. They were all gone. I plopped
down on top of one of the plastic bins and stared at the ruined
mess of my SUV.
I’d spent the better part of five years driving around in that
car, visiting schools, remote towns, obscure corners of the state
where my services were needed. I would probably be less upset if
my apartment burned down.
Then again, I didn’t really have an apartment. I had a spare
room in Kelsey’s apartment. I traveled too much to merit getting
my own place. Usually I stayed in one location for a week or
two, long enough to alienate the keepers of the local history
collections and make friends with the motel’s night clerk. Then
I moved on to the next town, the next task, overseeing small
historical restorations, creating special exhibits at public libraries
or local museums, leading special curriculum sections at schools
studying state history.
But this project would be a little different—instead of living
in a motel for a few weeks, I would actually get an apartment of
my own while I was here, which I was really looking forward to.
I’d leased a one-bedroom in a complex called Fernwood Estates.
I had visions of a pretty little white building overlooking Main
Street, or, if I was lucky, a view of the actual forest, which would
be considerably better than the brick wall my window faced back
home. I would have a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom I would
clean myself. I could pretend I had a home of my own for a while
instead of illegally piggybacking on poor Kelsey’s lease.
Apparently my completely spacing out disturbed the
Samaritan, who put his large, warm hand on my shoulder and
gave it a little shake. “Don’t ya worry. I’ll call Fred and set up a
douse or a tow, or whatever needs to be done here. Fred runs the
fire department and the wrecker service, which is pretty damned
convenient. He’ll fix ya right up.” He pulled a battered silver cell
phone from his back pocket and started dialing.
“Thank you,” I said, moving my plastic seat a bit farther from
the heat of the burning car, into the scrubby grass just between
the shoulder and the shards of rock lining the ditch. “Really. I
know I shouldn’t have gone back into the truck for my things,
but I need all of this for work. Plus—” I raised Lola’s bag, making
him roll his eyes a bit. “Baby.”
“What sorta work do ya do?” he asked, the phone pressed
against his ear. His attention wavered as someone picked up on
the other end of the line. “Hey Fred, it’s me. I’ve got a pickup for
ya, mile marker seven by the population sign. Yeah, you’ll love
it. It’s extra crispy.”
“Not funny,” I told him. He held up two fingers to measure
“this much” funny. I shook my head, but I was biting my lips to
stop a smile from forming.
I continued checking the boxes for damage as he said, “Wait,
All of the teasing mirth drained out of the Samaritan—whose
name I was going to have to pick up sometime soon—and he bit
out a curse. “How?” He groaned. “Again? No, it doesn’t really
matter how much sewage it is. It’s sewage. There’s no sewage
scale. We’ve gotta get it stopped up.”
The Cowboy stepped away from me and continued his
conversation. I only heard “library” and “panty hose.” Well, that
didn’t sound good. I supposed between “burning vehicle” and
“ankle-deep sewage,” the burned-plastic smell of smoldering
upholstery wasn’t so bad. He turned back to me with an apologetic
expression on his face. “Look, I’m sorry to leave ya like this,” he
said, “but there’s an emergency, and I’m the only one who can fix
it. I really have to go. Would ya rather ride into town with me?”
“No, thanks. From what I understand, there’s raw sewage
wherever you’re going.”
His eyes narrowed, even as his full lips quirked. “Sharp ears.”
“I tend to pick up on words like ‘sewage,’” I told him. “I’ll
just wait here for Fred. What’s Fred’s last name?”
My mouth fell open. “Really?”
“For at least the next month.”
“Did he lose a bet?” I asked.
He shook his head in mock sadness, a small smile playing on
his lips. “Never put your faith or your dignity in the hands of the
Cincinnati Reds. You’re sure ya don’t want to come with me?”
he asked. I chuckled. “I’ll call Fred later and check on ya. Maybe
I can help ya get a rental out here. We don’t have an agency in
town, but—” He cursed softly when his cell phone rang again.
He checked the screen and groaned. “I’m sorry. I really have to
“Well, thank you,” I said. “I appreciate your attempted babysaving.”
He opened the driver’s side door of his battered red-and-silver
early-model pickup, which was marked with a hand-lettered
logo, MUD CREEK HOME REPAIRS. He tossed me a bottle of water,
dripping with condensation. “Just stay back from the truck, in
case it decides to blow. Drink that. And when Fred shows up, try
not to stare at his eye.”
“What about his eye?” I called as the man climbed into his
truck. “Hey!”
His sandy head bobbed out of his truck cab. “Yeah?”
“What’s your name?”
“Will, and yours?”
“I’ll catch up with ya soon, Bonnie!” he yelled, grinning as he
fired up his engine and pulled onto the highway. “Welcome to
Mud Creek!”


Star Rating: 4 STARS

Heat Rating:  Simmering!

I have been a Molly Harper fan since the Jane Jameson series (a fun and witty paranormal series that started with Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs) and I had "thought" I had read her entire back list until I was asked to review Rhythm and Bluegrass.  Turns out I missed a book, Bluegrass Baby, which is the first book in this series.  No worries!  You can read Rhythm and Bluegrass as a standalone (I did) and be completely fine.  I plan to go back and read it because Molly Harper is so much fun to read!

Rhythm and Bluegrass was a quick, fun, witty, snarky and sweet book that actually taught me a lot about historic preservation (but in a fun-you-don't-realize-you-are-learning-way).  Molly Harper has such a sharp wit and it is reflected in her characters, she is able to create a cast with unique personalities and have them work in wonderful harmony.  This book is a fast paced, you can't put it down kind of book!  The story never hits a lull, the plot is interesting and gives you many interesting connections that ties the whole thing together.

Bonnie and Will have great chemistry and it is very entertaining to watch them spark and interact with one another.  I really liked getting to see these two circle around each other and try and resist their chemistry even when they weren't on the same side.  Mud Creek came to life in Rhythm and Bluegrass and makes you feel part of the town (or makes you want to visit).  You get to know lots of secondary characters that really enhance the story and make you root for the town and for McBride's.  

Molly Harper is a go-to Author for me when I want a fun, flirty story with characters that have spunk and personality!  If you are a fan of small towns and quirky characters then Rhythm and Bluegrass is a definite 1-click!  I recommend any Molly Harper book and this is one is no exception.

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An Interview with Molly Harper:

1.  What kind of snack/drink is a MUST for you when writing?
 A year ago, I would have said Coca-Cola.  I was a 5-6 Coke a day drinker.  The caffeine kept me awake during those 2 a.m. writing sessions.  But one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to eat/drink healthier.   So I cut out the Cokes and I drink “bubbly water” – Perrier, Pellegrino, even carbonated Deer Park.   I’m less alert, but more hydrated.  

2.  What made you start writing?
 I’ve always been a storyteller.  My sister, Manda, and I shared a room growing up and when we couldn’t sleep, I would tell her stories. When I was 8, I borrowed my mom’s manual typewriter and pecked out my first short story about my class at school taking a trip around the world and losing a kid in each city. Mom was concerned, but entertained.  After that, writing was the only thing I wanted to do for a living.

3. What is your biggest inspiration source (where do you get your ideas)
 I get ideas at really weird times, so I always carry a pack of Post-Its in my purse.  Sometimes, it’s just a random absurdity that springs into my brain.  Other times, I see something in a news story, an advice column, a conversation with my husband, and before I know it, I have about ten Post-Its filled with unreadable Molly-scrawl.

4.  Describe your perfect writing space? and where do you actually write?
 I have written every book so far from my comfy brown corduroy couch.  Our house doesn’t have an office, but we’re building one in a few months.  It will be an ideal writing space because it will have 1) a desk and chair and 2) a door that locks.  That is all that I require. Writing from a couch seriously lowers your standards.

5.  Is writing your full time job? If not, what else do you do?
 I was fortunate enough to be able to “retire” from my position with a medical society two years ago so I could write full-time. 

6.  What is one surprising fact about you, that not too many people know?
 I recently started training in Brazilian jiu jitsu.  I just learned how to do a spinning arm bar, which sounds a lot cooler than I look while I’m doing it.

7.  What are you writing now? 
 I am working on a holiday short story based in my vampire Half-Moon Hollow universe.

8.  What is the first Romance book you remember reading?  What is the last book you read?
I think my first romance novel was one of Catherine Coulter’s Sherbrooke Brides books.  And the last romance I read was Alice Clayton’s “Wallbanger.”

9.  Who is your current book boyfriend/crush?
I had a temporary crush on Ryu from Nicole Peeler’s “Jane True” series.  (In my head, he looks like Hugh Dancy.)  But I always come back to Mr. Darcy.

10. What was the last book you read that gave you a "book hangover?"
“Nevermore” by Kelly Creagh.  It is SO GOOD.  I couldn’t put it down.

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