FEATURED AUTHOR: VICTORIA BERNADINE
ABOUT THE BOOKBenjamin Ferrin Macon-Jones has it all: a luxurious lifestyle in Toronto and the love of an intelligent, ambitious woman…until that same woman refuses his marriage proposal, tells him he’s a detriment to her career, and leaves him. Unable to deal with his cantankerous family trying to be supportive, he quietly slips away into the Canadian countryside.
Lou Upjohn has problems of her own. She’s a recluse and agoraphobic, staying safely within the walls of her ancestral home in small town Saskatchewan and depending on Ike, her best and only friend, to deal with the outside world. Only Ike’s just married another woman and now he’s moving to Vancouver. Before he leaves, he hires the new guy in town, Ferrin Jones, to run her errands and do her yard work. Lou isn’t happy, but even she has to admit the stranger looks mildly interesting.
Both their lives could be changed forever if she only has the courage to open the door.
Touring with: Pump Up Your Book
LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT INTERVIEW WITH VICTORIA BERNADINE
A few of your favorite things: Cats, books, summer, Cary Grant, David Tennant, Broadchurch, Star Wars.
Things you need to throw out: My old dishes. YOU GOT NEW DISHES FOR A REASON!!
Things you need in order to write: Something that makes me say, “Hm. I wonder what happens next…”
Things that hamper your writing: Working for a living.
Things you love about writing: The sheer bliss of the ideas taking shape on the page/screen when I’m writing the first draft.
Things you hate about writing: Editing aka smoothing out all the rough edges of that first draft that was so much fun to write.
Things you love about where you live: Low crime rate, high standard of living, free health care, and the Canadian attitude.
Things that make you want to move: An extraordinarily cold winter…or a mild winter…or a normal winter…winter. Just winter.
Things you never want to run out of: Pens and paper.
Things you wish you’d never bought: Every gadget that just sits gathering dust.
Words that describe you: Funny and friendly.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: Lazy, or, more politely, procrastinator.
Favorite foods: Garlic, perogies, steak, potato chips.
Things that make you want to throw up: Liver. UGH.
Favorite music or song: Country music; favourite song at the moment is "Somewhere on a Beach" by Dierks Bentley.
Music that make your ears bleed: Nothing really makes my ears bleed, although I’m not overly fond of jazz or rap or screaming metal.
Favorite beverage: Coca-Cola Classic.
Something that gives you a pickle face: Pepsi…but any port in a storm and at least it’s a cola.
Something you like to do: Travel, especially to a tropical location in the dead of winter.
Something you wish you’d never done: I wish I’d never learned about contracting and procurement, which is my day job. I’m sure I could have found something more exciting to do…right??
Things you always put in your books: Witty banter. At least, I hope it’s witty banter.
Things you never put in your books: Graphic violence. I mean, I have novels with violent events in them, but nothing graphic.
Things to say to an author: “I love your book!" (I’m easy.)
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “You don’t know anything about Character A! They would never have done such a thing!”
People you’d like to invite to dinner: Robert Downey Jr. and David Tennant. I’ve seen/read their interviews; I’d just be sitting there with my mouth hanging open and wondering what the heck they’re talking about now.
People you’d cancel dinner on: Politicians. Any of them.
Favorite things to do: Writing and reading.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: Cleaning house.
Things that make you happy: Warm weather, cats snuggling close and purring, writing, reading, movies.
Things that drive you crazy: People who ask for my advice, don’t follow it, then expect me to clean up the mess they would have avoided if they’d listened to me in the first place. Hm. I seem rather passionate about this one.
Best thing you’ve ever done: I quit my job and took a year off work.
Biggest mistake: Not doing it sooner, or more often.
Most daring thing you’ve ever done: Ziplining, given I have a fear of heights.
Something you chickened out from doing: FINISHING the ziplining course, because there was a “jump into a hole” thing at some point and…no. Just no. I stopped half-way through and went for a beer instead.
“What?” she teases with a fond, slightly mocking smile. “Are you ‘proposing’ because you think it’s what people are supposed to do on New Year’s Eve?”
Ferrin smirks his lopsided, endearing smirk as he lowers himself to one knee and proffers the small, square velvet box he dug out of the pocket of his tuxedo.
The beautiful brunette laughs again. “Oh, Ferrin, get up—you’re being ridiculous! And the joke really isn’t all that funny.”
Olivia glances at the crowd of beaming friends and family surrounding them and Ferrin watches as realization slowly dawns on her face. Her gaze snaps back to his as realization morphs into horror, and Ferrin feels a corresponding sick, sinking feeling grow in his stomach as her expression changes. His own smile slips away and his face freezes into an expressionless mask. Their spectators’ hissed in-drawn breaths and sudden, uncomfortable silence barely register given his complete and utter focus on Olivia.
He knows what she’s going to say before she says it, but like any impending disaster, he can’t seem to look away.
“Oh, my God,” she whispers. “Oh, shit!” She bites her lip, then says in a rush, “I love you, Ferrin, I really, truly do...but I can’t marry you.” Her voice breaks; her eyes fill with tears.
The silence that follows seems to grow and envelop them in a stifling cocoon built from his humiliation and suddenly terrified heart. Ferrin hears, as if through cotton wool, subdued voices and the shuffling of feet as their family and friends gather their things and leave the apartment. In some distant corner of his mind, he’s mildly surprised they're all leaving so quietly...or maybe he just can’t hear them across the yawning divide that’s opened between him and Olivia.
As the door closes, she whispers, “Get up. Your knee must hurt.”
Does it? He can’t tell over the crushing pressure in his chest, his stomach, his head, but he struggles to his feet anyway, like she asks, because she asks, aching and sore and suddenly ancient. He straightens and becomes, as always, self-consciously aware of how big he is in comparison to her, and how his bulk looming over her always makes her edgy. He automatically slouches his shoulders, trying to minimize his size, trying to make her comfortable.
“Say something,” she begs, and her voice breaks.
His voice is cracked, hollow, distant, as he says, “Is this it?”
‘It’, he thinks with despair. Such a tiny word with such a huge meaning.
She hesitates, then nods, not quite looking at him.
“This can’t come as that much of a surprise. Not if you’re honest with yourself.”
Ferrin can’t seem to make his brain work. He shakes his head, trying to force something—anything—loose so his world—his life—will start to make sense again.
“I—I—no. Yes. Why?” he asks, and winces at just how lost he sounds.
Olivia sighs and says, very gently, “I want other things in life than you do, Ferrin. My career means everything to me and I want to make it to the top of Macon-Jones Enterprises, or as high as I can get without being a blood relative.”
Finally, finally, anger flares inside him.
“And I’m holding you back? In my own family’s company?”
Ferrin’s eyes widen. “You really believe it,” he breathes. “When have I ever stood in your way, Olivia?”
This time her sigh is long-suffering. “You’ve never stood in my way, no, but you’ve never actively helped me, either.”
“I didn’t think you wanted me to! If I recall correctly, you told me so in no uncertain terms when we moved in together. That’s only a couple of years ago! What’s changed?”
“I didn’t want you using any undue influence with Abram to get me promotions I didn’t deserve,” Olivia snaps, her own anger flaring. “That didn’t mean I didn’t want you to help me at all!”
Ferrin snorts. “Nobody has undue influence with Abram. You should know that by now!”
“Abram isn’t the point! The point is that I could have used your support when some of my projects came up for a vote before the Board. Instead, you, as always, stayed out of it and gave your vote to the first cousin who asked for it, without any regard to how the decision would impact my career or my projects! Half the time, you didn’t even bother asking me how I wanted you to vote!”
“I never ask anyone about the projects or how they want to use my vote! The cousins know how I play the game and it works well for all of us. Why do you think I’m the only one any of them will talk to without a witness present?”
Olivia throws her hands up in the air as she whirls and paces away. “There! That’s exactly the problem!”
He takes a step back, blinking. “What? The fact that I’m friendly with all my cousins? That’s a problem?”
“No!” She brushes a hand over her face in exasperation. She turns to him, and now he recognizes that look on her face. It’s the one she has when she’s getting ready to lecture him on what, exactly, he’s done wrong, and what he needs to do to avoid making the same mistake again.
She says, “It’s not the fact the cousins all like you that’s the problem; it’s the reason they all like you! You’re such a goddamn fixer, itching to solve everyone’s problems that you’ve become a complete pushover! I don’t want to hurt you, Ferrin, but, let’s face it: you’re a sucker. You’re gullible. And I hate to say this, but you’re also a bit of a wimp. You’ll do whatever anybody tells you to do, and that’s proven in spades by your so-called ‘business investments’! All anybody needs in order to get money out of you is a sob story and a half-assed idea!”
His mouth sags open as he rocks beneath her barrage, every word slamming into his heart and his gut and his mind.
“What the hell?” he chokes.
Olivia deflates, pity in her eyes.
“Look,” she says, and now her voice is calm and firmly matter-of-fact, the way Ferrin has so often heard her speak whenever he’s forced to attend a board meeting with her, “I’m going to be CEO someday of a multi-billion-dollar multinational company. Your family’s multi-billion-dollar multinational company. It’s ruthless and cutthroat, and a spouse’s strengths and talents are just as important to an executive’s rise as the executive’s own skills and talents, especially in Macon-Jones Enterprises. You know how outright Machiavellian your family can be, and that’s when they’re arranging Christmas! If you think they’re ruthless in their personal lives, they’re ten times worse in the boardroom, trust me!”
“Yes, I know,” Ferrin says drily, and is almost glad he’s starting to feel something—anything—now. “I have met my cousins and I’ve even been to a board meeting a time or two. Abram seems to have done all right without a spouse to support him.”
She snorts. “He’s Chair and he was handed the job by your great-grandfather! He’s never had to prove anything to anybody!”
His laugh is harsh and barking. “Now you’re the one who’s forgotten what my cousins are like!” He waves his words away. “Doesn’t matter. You knew when we met that I do everything I can to avoid anything to do with the company.”
“You’re not supposed to avoid it by giving your vote to whichever cousin gets to you first! Besides, you’re your father’s only surviving child, the last of your particular branch of the family! You out of all your cousins shouldn’t avoid the company at all!”
She grimaces. “I’m sorry; that was low...but you know I’m right. You could wield enormous influence and power in the company, and not only with the family when they want something, if you’d just take an interest! If you would listen to me, let me guide you, advise you so you don’t believe everything you’re told, and let me stop Carson, Dyson and Jack from constantly distracting you, you could be the next Chair of the Board instead of Jack!”
“So I’m not only gullible and a wimp, I’m also so stupid I can only trust you to advise me?” he says, incredulous.
“Of course not! But you’re wasting your potential—and your birthright! Your father was Abram’s second-in-command, for God’s sake! All you have to do is step up and follow in his footsteps!” She runs a hand through her hair and groans. “Face it, Ferrin, I’m never going to be CEO if I remain allied with you, not unless you change your approach to the business.”
Ferrin rears back and stares.
“‘Allied’?” he says slowly. “Is that what the last five years have been about, Olivia? An alliance?”
“No! Of course not! I love you. I do! You’re a wonderful man, Ferrin. But you’re...” She spreads her hands and shrugs helplessly.
“Weak,” he says flatly, “and obviously a little stupid. Have I got it right?”
“Ferrin…” She takes a step towards him, but he quickly retreats. She stops and stares at him, her large, brown eyes brimming with tears. For once, he’s unmoved.
“I’m sorry I’ve been such a disappointment to your professional ambitions,” he grates out, a bitter twist to his lips. He turns and heads for the exit.
“Where are you going?”
“I have no idea,” he says, and slams the door behind him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Victoria Bernadine (a pseudonym) is, as the saying goes, a "woman of a certain age." After twenty-something years of writer's block, she began writing again in 2008.
Victoria enjoys reading all genres and particularly loves writing romantic comedy and post-apocalyptic science fiction. What those two have in common is anybody's guess.
She lives in Edmonton with her two cats (The Grunt and The Runt). Along Came Jones is the second novel she felt was good enough to be released into the wild.
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