Nicole Evelina is back today to tell us about a new book, Been Searching For You. Please say hi!
Annabeth is a hopeless romantic who believes in soul mates. In fact, she’s been writing to hers each year on her birthday since she was 16.
Now, at 34, she’s still holding out hope of finding Mr. Right even though he’d be fighting an uphill battle to gain her trust, thanks to a traumatic experience years before that’s left her unable to commit.
When Annabeth meets a handsome literature professor named Alex on her 34th birthday, she thinks her quest may finally be at an end. Things don’t quite go as planned, so Annabeth resolves to do everything she can over the next year to find the unknown recipient of her letters. But blind dates, Meetup events and online singles sites have nothing on what fate has in store for her when a co-worker unexpectedly quits and Annabeth finds herself working in close quarters with both Alex and her long ago ex, Nick. Fighting her attraction to one and loathing for the other, Annabeth is forced to face all of her old insecurities while keeping an eye on a scheming frienemy who may derail her hopes and dreams.
Written in the tradition of Bridget Jones’ Diary, Kim Gruenfelder’s A Total Waste of Makeup, and Melissa Pimental’s Love By The Book, this romantic comedy shows that love on the sweet side can exist for the modern girl, if only she’s willing to trust herself and search hard enough.
Been Searching for You was the winner of the 2015 Romance Writers of America Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
Excerpt from Been Searching For You
When the doorbell rang the following afternoon, I was still in my pajamas. It was Miles and Mia. Again.
“What do you two want?” I said with more than a little annoyance. I loved them, but at some point, one would think they’d learn weekends were sacred alone time for an introvert like me. “I’m all out of chocolate chip pancakes.”
Mia was huddled behind Miles as if she was using his body as a shield. It was very strange. “No, silly, we’re not here for food.”
“That’s a first.”
“We’re here,” Miles picked up the thread of conversation, “on strict orders from MI6.”
I squinted at them. “Did you two do drugs last night?”
“I’m totally serious,” Miles said. “If you will kindly let us in, we’ll explain.”
With a roll of my eyes, I stepped aside. They plunked down on the couch, a large box between them.
I pointed at it. “It’s not ticking, is it?”
Mia smiled. “Nope.”
“As I said”—Miles adopted a serious tone as if he were on one of those TV shows about the CIA—“we were given a clear mission, and it was to deliver this to you.”
I perched on the arm of the couch. “And did this message self-destruct after you received it?”
“Nope. Mia destroyed the evidence by eating it. Girl will eat anything.” Miles snickered, and Mia punched him in the arm.
“So what’s in the box, and who sent it?”
“That’s classified—need to know only, and we didn’t need to know.”
“You guys are really starting to weird me out,” I said in partial honesty.
“Just open it.” Mia pulled me onto her lap and forced my hands around the edges of the paper-wrapped box.
After inspecting it for any signs of who gave them this mysterious “mission,” I tore open the paper. Inside was an expensive white-and-red striped decorative box, the kind in which an uptown woman might store correspondence or invitations to snooty parties. Lifting the lid carefully, I found a single sheet of cream stationery on top covered in Alex’s elegant, Catholic schoolboy handwriting.
Annabeth, since there is much I cannot be with you for in body over the coming months, I wanted to make sure I was there in spirit when you needed me. I made this while I was waiting to hear the final outcome, knowing we’d have use for it eventually even if I didn’t get in at Oxford. Please consider each one of these envelopes a work of love.
The letter ended with his signature and a quote from a Florence and the Machine song about finding a way around an ocean for the sake of love.
Speechless, I handed the letter to Miles. Mia craned her neck around me to see it.
Underneath, standing in neat rows, were at least two dozen multicolored envelopes. Selecting one at random, I pulled out a bright green envelope that reminded me of those glow sticks they used to sell at skating rinks in the eighties. I even had the urge to shake it to see if it would light up. In the upper left corner, where a return address would normally have been, were the words, “Open me when…” In lieu of an address, he had written, “you need a laugh.” Below the words was a giant smiley face sticker. Thumbing through the others, I noticed they all bore the same return address but were meant for different occasions—everything from my moods to situations that might arise at work or in other areas of my life.
Typical Mia, she made a beeline for the only red envelope, which said, “Open me when… you’re Fifty Shades of Horny.” She waved it in my face. “I want to know what’s in this one.”
I made to grab it away, but she squirmed out from under me, scampering around the couch and holding it out of my reach like a schoolyard bully. She shook it. “Too small for even a silver bullet.” Her face lit up with inspiration. “Someone’s getting lucky online,” she sang.
“Damn it, Mia. Give it back.”
Miles calmly got up—unnoticed by Mia because she was too busy capering around—plucked it out of her hand, and tossed it to me. “My darling, we’ve completed our mission. We should probably leave Annabeth alone.”
She gave Miles an incredulous look. “Why, so she can fondle her envelopes? Nope. This calls for a day on the town.”
A Romantic Comedy in an “Interesting” Setting
When the plot of my new romantic comedy, Been Searching for You, plopped itself in my head a few years ago, I didn’t have to think twice where I was going to set it. It had to be Chicago. It’s my favorite city in the country, I’ve been there many times, and it’s not too far from where I live now, so plot-specific research wouldn’t be a problem.
When my agent at the time started to send the book out to publishers, an interesting thing happened. We started getting responses that Chicago was an “interesting” choice for a setting, and they weren’t saying it in a positive way. What the heck? Why should it matter? The only thing we could come up with is that it isn’t the traditional settings of New York City/Manhattan or small town America, both of which are very popular in romance novels.
But here’s the thing – besides my own predilection, I chose Chicago specifically because it isn’t either of these places. As someone in the prime demographic for romantic comedies who can’t afford to live in New York, I find it frustrating that so many are set there. All that says to me is I somehow missed out on something in life since that’s obviously where all the young women are, or at least I feel like I’m being told that’s where I should be. New York is used as a setting so often it’s becoming cliché, plus it’s not realistic or relatable to most of the target audience. As for small towns, again, not all readers live in one of those and there are so many out there (fictional and real) that you can’t twirl your earbuds in a bookstore without hitting one. (Plus, small towns give me panic attacks – true story – so I don’t know that I could set one there.)
To me, Chicago was the perfect compromise. It’s cosmopolitan enough to have the glamour of New York, yet small enough to be relatable no matter where you live. Demographically, it’s a young city, so it’s a logical place for two never-marrieds to fall in love. There are a multitude of cultural options so my characters would never lack for things to do, plus there are the lake, beaches and parks to add variety. I knew my hero was going to be a literature professor, and with the Chicago area being home to more than 119 colleges and universities, I had plenty of places to employ him. In the end, the city of Chicago became almost a character and the novel became my love letter to my future home town, much like Lost in Translation was Sofia Coppola’s ode to Tokyo.
Now when people ask “Why Chicago?” I think, “Why not? After all, it worked for While You Were Sleeping!”
Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her new novel, Been Searching for You, a romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
She also writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Later this year, she will release Madame Presidentess (July 25), a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female Presidential candidate, which was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
Nicole is one of only six authors who completed a week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness. Nicole has traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.
Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, and Sirens (a group supporting female fantasy authors), as well as a member of the Historical Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West, Broad Universe (promoting women in fantasy, science fiction and horror), Alliance of Independent Authors and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Her website is http://nicoleevelina.com. She can be reached online at: