Thursday, July 28, 2016

Melissa Belle ~ Guest Post, Excerpt, & Giveaway!

Hey, Everyone! I'm happy to have Melissa Belle visiting here today! She's here to tell us how she came up with her storyline. Plus, she's giving away an e-copy of her book, Austen's Independence Day! Details for the giveaway are at the bottom of the page! 

Jane Austen Comes to Texas?

Since I published Austen’s Independence Day, readers have been asking me, “however did you come up with the story of Jane Austen’s ghost living in Texas?” 

The truth, as often happens with authors, is that it also surprised me—the story was born out of a combination of coincidence, boredom, and a “what if.” My husband and I had just moved to a small town in the middle of Hill Country, Texas, and we didn’t know anyone yet. It was the middle of summer, and to say it was hot was an understatement. Looking for something to do indoors in the evenings, I returned to my favorite pastime—reading Jane Austen. I reread all her novels and after each one, I would go to the little town library and look for a movie version of the book. I found a surprisingly wide selection of Austen DVD options at the library, and I proceeded to watch all of them. Jane Austen was my companion that summer, as she has been through other transitional times in my life—I even got my husband hooked on her!

Meanwhile, I had been working on a half-finished manuscript of a romance novel based in Texas. And I started thinking, if I could find a way to bring Jane Austen to Texas (through her books and movies), then what if somebody else could too? The idea of the ghost of Jane Austen inhabiting the local saloon came to mind, and I began to work on filling in that part of the story in combination with the bits and pieces I already had of my current manuscript.

And the fictional town of Austen, Texas, named after my favorite romance author, was born: a place where a statue of Jane Austen sits atop the courthouse, presiding over the town, and a British flag hangs from the local library along with a giant poster of the Pride and Prejudice original mini-series. The town’s romantic motto, “Find Your Mr. Darcy” has been around since its founding in the 1800s, and the local bar, the Cowherd Saloon & Chapel, offers Jane Austen specialty drinks and holds Regency-themed weddings year round.

A childhood friends-to-lovers storyline has always been my favorite kind of romance to read and write, and this novel’s main characters, Macey and Morgan, fit that description perfectly. The idea of Macey’s family owning the local bar filled out naturally, with her siblings coming into my head more and more as I wrote. The backstory between her and Morgan was something I really wanted to tell in detail, not just leave it up to the reader to wonder about. Having a journal turned out to be a fun way to do that, and when Macey first read a portion of her childhood diary aloud to Morgan, I liked the way it worked so I made that a bigger part of the storyline.

I have a sequel planned for release next year, with one of Macey’s siblings taking center stage as the town of Austen, Texas is picked for a Pride and Prejudice movie remake, and the Cowherd Saloon & Chapel is a main part of the set. And the sequel to Austen’s Independence Day will continue to feature Jane Austen and her “Texas spirit!” 

Intro to Excerpt for Austen’s Independence Day:

Macey Henwood and Morgan Thornbrush are lifelong friends with occasional benefits, who accompany their best friends, Ginny and Dunce, to Vegas for a wedding. But Macey and Morgan are the ones who wake up married. In the following scene, the newlyweds have just returned home to Austen, Texas. Macey is determined to undo her mistake…

Excerpt from Austen’s Independence Day:

Welcome to Austen, Texas, est. 1863. A Romantic Towne: Come find your Mr. Darcy.

The oversized Jane Austen statue perches atop the town courthouse, where the flag of Great Britain flies right next to those of Texas and America. Right in the center of Austen Square, a giant poster of the Pride and Prejudice original mini-series dangles over the corner building.

My eyes burn with fatigue, and I turn away. Damn romantic fairy tale taking over our town. It’s enough to make a person insane. Maybe Mama was right and having our town named after the Queen of Romance really is more of a curse than a blessing

“Morgan, we need to talk. About last night?”

I guess I didn’t need to bring the elephant in the truck up after all, because Morgan’s already turned onto the lonesome dirt road by the lake. This is the dirt road we’ve “gotten stuck on” so many times before, the road that watched over us for our first time. I swallow and lower my gaze to my left hand.


I look up at him. Despite the dark circles under them from driving for sixteen hours straight, his eyes are bright and focused as he looks back at me steadily. His lashes frame the hazel flecked with emerald in his eyes, and his baseball cap keeps his messy hair in check.

“You know we need to undo this immediately,” I say quickly.

In our quirky Old West but British-adorned town of Austen, being logical about love is a necessity to stay sane and not make stupid mistakes. And that is why, before we lost our virginity to each other, on the day my parents’ fourth divorce became official and Morgan’s mom paid a contractor to build a wall dividing their master bedroom in half so she could peaceably live on one side and her husband could stay on the other, Morgan and I vowed to keep life—and anything romantic between us—casual, temporary, and easy, in a place where real life can never enter and screw everything up.

“Don’t you want to know what happened first?” he asks me. 

God, I wish I weren’t so darn curious sometimes. I gesture for him to tell me.

“Ginny backed out at the last minute,” he begins. “She wanted a white wedding. I personally don’t think those two should ever consider tying the knot, whether they’re here or in Nevada, but I already said that a thousand times before you dragged me off my family ranch and begged me to drive y’all to Vegas.”

“I don’t disagree with you,” I say. “But this is Ginny’s decision.”

“So after she backed out,” he continues, “the minister asked if anyone else wanted to get married. I started laughing and teasingly asked if you were game.”

“But you know I don’t plan to ever marry. You know that. And you feel the same way. We had a pact.”

“You said yes without hesitation.”

I grit my teeth and try to ignore the pounding in my head. “Morgan…”

“Look, I get it. I agree with you. This was kind of an experiment gone wrong, right? Divorce it is.”

“Divorce?” I say. “We have to get a divorce?”

“We consummated the marriage last night,” he reminds me as my cheeks burn. “So an annulment’s out.”

“Right.” I look down at the Regency-style ring on my left hand, the won he won for me when we were sixteen, and I twist it around and around.

“I just want to know one thing first.”

I look back up at his face. “Okay.”

“What is this?”

He surprises me by putting his hand behind my neck and kissing me. God, his lips are the perfect blend of hard and soft. They always were. I open my mouth until his tongue finds mine, and then I close my mouth abruptly and push him away.

“This—” I gasp for air. “This is a fantasy we indulge in once a year or so. It’s not real.”

“So this doesn’t feel real to you?”

Shit, he’s kissing me again. And I want to keep kissing him. My lips are still kissing him. But my head is screaming no.

No, this doesn’t feel real to me. Real is Mama waiting up until three a.m. for Daddy to come home from the bar. Real is her throwing a beer glass across the Cowherd so hard at his head that her eldest daughter steps in between and takes the hit for him.

That scar on my wrist—the scar Mama swears is a curse linking me to the spirit of a famous author locked in the prison cell in our bar—is my reminder. My reminder that real relationships suck the life out of a person one painful moment at a time until all that’s left is a ghost of who you were. A Jane Austen-type ghost, where you may be able to write about eternal love, but you sure as hell can’t actually have it.

“No,” I force out as I pull away again. “Come on, we never even dated. All we’ve done is sleep together once in a while.”

Morgan’s lips part and he starts to speak, but he takes a second look at my face and he shuts his mouth. Then he opens it again with a laugh. “Calm down, Henwood. Enough with the panicked eyes, okay? We were drunk, and we did something dumb. A trial marriage, right? I’m no Mr. Darcy, after all.”

But the sensation of his lips on mine is too intense. The smell of his cologne is on my neck and in my hair. And the ruby ring on my left hand is— 

My hands are shaking so badly I’m afraid they’ve gone into some kind of uncontrollable spasm. I shove them both underneath my legs to try to keep them still.

“Look,” I say. “You know I love—being with you. But what we have together—once a year and best friends the rest of the time—is what I want. I’ll never get into anything serious, with you or any other man. I love my independence. Being alone just works best for me.”

“People break their own rules all the time.”

His slow drawl is even and calm, but his words hit me in the gut. I’m a cornered animal with nothing but my claws for protection. Needing a way out, I make my one shot count.

“Morgan, you were my first crush. Mama married her first crush and look where that got her. Hell in a hand basket. So you and I could never—even if by some miracle I was ever convinced to break my own rule—I’d never break it with you.”

The flash of emotion in Morgan’s eyes makes my stomach lurch before he closes his expression down and takes off his ring.

He puts it into my hand and then places his hands on the steering wheel. As he puts the truck into drive, he says lightly, “No big deal. We’ll have the divorce papers drawn up tomorrow.”

Book Blurb: 

What if you don’t find your Mr. Darcy… until you’ve already lost him? It is universally acknowledged in the tiny town of Austen, Texas that Macey Henwood will never get married. When your hometown is obsessed with freeing Jane Austen’s ghost from the local bar, staying single feels like the only way to stay sane. 

But then Morgan Thornbrush, her lifelong best friend with benefits, gets engaged out of the blue, and it drives Macey crazy, especially when the town anoints the new couple Mr. and Mrs. Darcy. Now she’s smack in the middle of a wedding she wants no part of. From “bonding” with Morgan’s bombshell fiancĂ© to helping him let go of their complicated past, Macey’s forced to face the truth—the perfect arrangement she had with Morgan is over. 

But when the pages of an explosive diary ignite fireworks between her and Morgan as his July fourth wedding approaches, Macey must make a life-changing decision. Can the town’s version of Mr. Darcy really be the man for her after all?

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FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks!

About the Author

Melissa Belle writes steamy romance novels where the hero and heroine are passionate, independent, and good to each other. The first romance book she read (and fell in love with) was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Melissa wrote her first novel riding through Europe on the train, and she travels with her husband (and first reader of all her stories) as much as possible.

Melissa dances in a belly dance troupe. She is a professional tarot and oracle card reader. She also loves songwriting, hooping, and her two rescue kitties. And cupcakes.

Connect with Melissa Belle

Read Meredith's review @ Austenesque Reviews.

* * * GIVEAWAY * * * 

It's giveaway time! Melissa is offering one e-copy of Austen's Independence Day to one lucky person who leaves a comment here at So Little Time...

Thank you, Melissa!

  • One person will win an e-copy of Austen's Independence Day.
  • To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment and include your e-mail or twitter name. If you leave your email, please put parentheses around (at) and (dot). 
  • Open Internationally.
  • Winner will be picked randomly. 
  • Last day to enter the giveaway is August 4, 2016, midnight Pacific Time.

Good luck!

Thanks so much Melissa for visiting us today! I enjoyed hearing how your story came about, and that excerpt has me hooked! I love friends-to-lovers stories! 


  1. Austen sounds like a really fun place! If the success rate of "Find Your Mr Darcy" is high, I think I'm gonna pack up and move down there! 'Cause I sure haven't seen him here in South Carolina. Haha

    I read a lot more historicals than moderns, but this is such a cool premise, and I love stories where best friends become a couple.

    Melissa sounds like an interesting lady, and kudos to her for getting her hubby hooked on Jane Austen! :)

    I recently won a copy of Austen's Independence Day, so no need to include me in the giveaway. I'm looking forward to reading it!

    1. Hey, Monica! Haha! I'd moved to Austen too if I wasn't already married! ;)

      Congratulations on already winning a copy! Can't wait to hear your thoughts on it! Sounds like a book I would enjoy!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Oh, this sounds so fun...a little 'My Best Friend's Wedding-ish', which is my favorite. And I love the idea of Jane Austen's ghost haunting the local bar. I'm excited to read this one. Thanks for the giveaway!!:)

    1. Hi, Kelli! Yes, it does! Meredith made that comparison in her review, too. I definitely like when best friends fall in love!

      And Jane's ghost sounds fun too! I wonder if the town is able to communicate with her?

      Many thanks for stopping by!

  3. This book sounds lovely, I'd really like the chance to read it & visit Austen myself :)

    lotsofgingers (at) hellokitty (dot) com

    1. Hi Kirsten! I agree, it does sound lovely and fun! I hope you do get a chance to read it soon! Thanks for stopping by!

      Also, thanks so much for following So little time...! :)


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