Welcome to Across the Plain of Shining Books, Joel.
Thanks for having me, Pat.Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be proprietor of The Manse Inn and Spa in Tompkins Falls, NY?
I moved back to the Finger Lakes after graduate school because I love the area and wanted to make a contribution to my hometown Tompkins Falls. The Manse was my childhood home, but I had no desire to live there as an adult. Since it’s a gracious mansion and beautifully appointed (my grandmother gets the credit) I turned it into a venue for high-end entertaining. Over time, we expanded the inn, added the spa and function rooms and, most recently, facilities for corporate retreats and training.Sounds like a place I’d like to visit. What is Stepping Up To Love about?
It’s Manda’s and my love story. Manda was working as The Manse’s junior accountant when she decided to walk out on an abusive relationship and to stop drinking. At 22, she was homeless and desperate. She told me her story, and I sent her to AA. Watching her grow and change through the twelve steps was fascinating. Along the way we fell in love and realized we’re soul mates.What did you think the first time you saw Manda?
When I first interviewed her, a few years back, I thought she was a geeky frump. You wouldn’t have believed those oversized glasses and baggy clothes! I didn’t understand that she’d lost weight and shaped up but had no money to update her look.So it wasn’t love at first sight. When did you fall in love with Manda?
I made an early-morning sweep at The Manse the morning after she walked out of that relationship I mentioned, and I caught her using a shower in the spa. She has an amazing body and a spirit to match, so instead of firing her, I fed her breakfast and, an hour later, I was hooked.Joel, Texas Book Nook described you as "completely Swoon-worthy."
[Laughs and blushes] That’s nice to hear, Pat.If I asked Manda to describe you, what do you think she would say?
Manda, the love of my life, immediately saw past the cashmere jacket and suave business persona to the real me. She’d tell you I’m a basic blue-jeans kind of guy, that I care more about my community than turning a profit, and that I’m not afraid of hard work.What do you do to relax?
There’s a porch off my bedroom that overlooks Chestnut Lake, and I meditate out there in any weather. I guess it’s the Celtic in me that’s so tuned into nature. Anyway that’s where I take my troubles, calm my mind, and get in touch with the solution. It works every time. Oh, and I read thrillers—Dennis Lehane especially.What historical figure do you most admire and why?
Mahatma Gandhi, for his dignity and profound, lasting influence. He believed in truth and non-violence—rare qualities for leaders.What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
"Be true to yourself." The exact quote from Shakespeare is on the back of our coins in AA, and it’s something I practice—with difficulty—every day.Good luck with that practice, Joel. Thanks for visiting us today. And now, lets take a peek at Stepping Up To Love.
* * * * *Blurb:
Miracles happen when romance is higher-powered.
A lakeside porch in the Finger Lakes is the perfect spot for a quiet moment or a heart-to-heart with your special someone. Joel and Manda’s first heart-to-heart on the breakfast porch at the Manse Inn and Spa is anything but romantic. Joel the owner of the Manse is furious with his junior accountant for using one of the spa showers. If Manda didn’t have a desperate story and a spectacular body, Joel might not be feeding her breakfast and falling in love. Can Manda get sober, clean up her act, and open her heart to her rich, hunky boss?
Manda turned off the water and drew back the linen curtain dividing the shower stall from the dressing area, and screamed. Standing at the glass door was the big boss. Remy’s boss. Her boss's boss. She wasn’t sure, but Joel Cushman was probably everybody’s boss.
"Geez, Joel, I thought you were a pervert!" she yelled at him. I can’t believe I just called Mr. Cushman "Joel." I am in so much trouble here.
"Manda? What—?" His voice cracked like an adolescent.
Manda stifled a laugh. His eyes were drinking in her body as though he couldn’t believe what she’d been hiding under her baggy clothes. Drink your fill now, Joel, because I am off men for life.
"I thought you were a criminal. What are you doing in the shower at seven fifteen in the morning? And stop batting that curtain around."
Manda tried desperately to grab the linen shower curtain, flapping this way and that in the current created by the open door. "Do you mind?" she scolded him.
Giving up on the curtain, she crossed her arms and turned her back on him. He probably likes that view, too. "Could you hand me a towel, please, or get out of here?" Why am I yelling at the boss? Seriously dumb, Manda.
He was silent now, which was worse. What is he doing, standing there, looking at me? Panic overtook anger, and she turned back to look at him.
He had dropped the admiring once-over and was taking a second look at her purpling bruises. Silently, he handed her a towel from the top of the stack and looked her in the eye.
Manda wondered if he could read the shame and fear clouding her vision.
Joel cleared his throat and ordered, "In my office. Five minutes. Dressed."
* * * * *About Katie O’Boyle:
Once upon a time, at a small college in the Finger Lakes, Katie O’Boyle was a passionate scholar, incurable romantic, and closet substance abuser. Katie credits 12 Step spirituality with helping her clean up her act and become the woman she was meant to be— tech-savvy professor, passionate writer and romance author.
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Stepping Up To Love / Available from