My heroine Julie Joseph has come to Florida not for pleasure, but from a sense of duty. Because she is the only single child left in her family, her aging parents expect her to spend Christmas holidays with them on Longboat Key. Although Julie is thrilled to have escaped the frigid climate of Connecticut and the threat of a blizzard that meteorologist have dubbed "snowmaggedon," she's still disappointed to spend another holiday season with her quarreling, pinochle-playing parents. She wonders if she'll ever find a man to marry and have a family of her own.
Less than twenty-four hours after arriving, however, she meets Thomas Briggs, whose circumstances are similar to her own, underneath a sprawling Bodhi tree in the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. Both Julie and Thomas adore this tropical paradise, which looks out over the Sarasota Bay. The heat of the afternoon, the lushness of the plant life, and the warm bay breeze helps them to let down their reserve and get to know one another.
Their relationship is further fueled by the beauty of the Floridian landscape. Julie and Thomas walk on the white sands of Longboat Key, explore restaurants and shops on nearby Saint Armand's Circle, and begin to consider visiting Florida not as a temporary escape from New England's notoriously chilly weather, but as a test for taking up permanent residence in the Sunshine State.
In Love on Longboat Key, I got a chance to describe a place I know and love well--the barrier islands off Sarasota--and also to describe their extreme weather (the blistering noontime heat, the inevitable afternoon torrential rain). Writing about Florida also gave me a chance to explore my not-so-secret vice: a love of clothing and fashion. I adore dressing my characters as much as I once loved dressing my dolls as a child.
In the opening scene of Love on Longboat Key, Julie reflects on how she has traded in her down coat and knit hat and scarf for a simple T-shirt and lightweight pants. But it's kicking off her weatherproof boots--and donning a pair of red rubber flip-flops (which also adorn the cover of my novel)--that gives her permission to feel free, unencumbered, and open to the possibility of love. Likewise, Thomas sheds his inhibitions when he arrives in Florida and--to his mother's dismay--wears a simple pair of dock shoes without socks.
Julie and Thomas both long to live in a climate that is hospitable to bare feet. Their love for one another takes root in a landscape that blooms year round and on beaches known for their spectacular sunsets. The next two novels in my romance series The Keys to His Heart will continue to pay homage to the beauty of the barrier islands on the west coast of Florida. Readers not lucky enough to have yet visited these enchanting islands hopefully will find vicarious pleasure reading about them and dreaming about visiting someday on their own.