Friday, September 19, 2014
BLOG TOUR: "When You Make It Home" by Claire Ashby, Excerpt, Review and Interview
Meg Michaels, a bookstore owner, has already walked away from two cheating exes. She’s learned her lesson and has her mind set on success—until she gets knocked up. Embarrassed and unwilling to discuss her situation with friends and family, she wears layers to hide the pregnancy.
When Meg gets sick at a party, she’s mortified. Even worse, Theo Taylor, the guest of honor, discovers her secret. Theo, an Army medic wounded in the war, agrees not to reveal her condition, and the two forge a bond of friendship that blossoms into love.
Theo is soon filling all of Meg’s late-night cravings—and not just the pregnancy-induced ones. But can their love overcome all the obstacles that stand between them and creating a happy family?
I first caught sight of Theo at his welcome home party. A mob shifted around him,
jockeying for a position next to the guest of honor. I lingered near the door to the living room
and listened to the joyful words and murmur of good wishes directed toward him.
Someone whispered, “… lucky to be alive.”
The doorbell rang and crowd parted. For a moment, he stood alone. Tears burned the
backs of my eyes. I couldn’t see the luck in what was left of him.
Ellie pinched my arm. “Don’t stare,” she said on her way to the door.
I bit my lip, turning away. But my attention found its way back to him, and I sneaked
another look at his arms, surveying the road map of scars trailing away from bandages. My gaze
traveled to his face, and I gasped. Theo glared at me with defiant hazel eyes, as if to say, Go
ahead and look all you want; I can take it. I knew he’d lived through much worse than I had and
that my own problems paled in comparison with his. I could use some of his strength. But, of
course, I couldn’t tell him that.
“What’s wrong with you?” Ellie hissed, using the same voice as when she caught me
eating the cookies meant for story time at our bookstore.
She steered me into the dining room, and once she had me cornered, she snatched a box
of tissues and pushed them at me. “Get control of your hormones. We already went over this. If
you want to keep your secret, you can’t get all teary eyed.
“I know.” I blinked rapidly, waving the tissues away. “I’m not crying. I’m sorry. I don’t
know what’s wrong with me.” I pressed my lips together, trying to clamp down on the list my
brain rattled off. I had plenty wrong with me. But a party wasn’t the time for a self-directed lashing. I could save that for home, after I dispensed a generous share of support to my best
friend, who was desperate to give her brother-in-law the hero’s welcome he deserved.
Ellie hugged me, and the tension between us evaporated.
“Don’t let Theo see you looking at him with those weepy eyes. He gets pissed whenever
anyone shows him an ounce of sympathy.”
“Deal. But I wish we could do something for him.” I hadn’t meant to gawk at the guy.
With all the progress updates Ellie had shared with me, I knew far too many details about
his surgeries and struggles. Theo often woke up screaming, but no one said whether his cries
came from pain or nightmares. That knowledge haunted me until my overactive imagination
filled in the blanks. I knew too much about the man, and I’d never met him before today. Worse,
all I could do about it was put on a happy face.
I stepped back and reached out to touch the soft cotton of Ellie’s new yellow dress. “You
look fantastic.” The fabric hugged the curve of her belly, erasing any doubt she was pregnant and
not just packing on the pounds.
“Thanks.” She scanned the crowd. “Jake got back late last night,” she whispered. “He
picked Theo up at the rehab facility and brought him to their mom’s house.” The lines around
Ellie’s mouth deepened. “Jake offered to let Theo stay here, but fortunately, their mom didn’t
like that at all. Jake’s optimistic, but I never met Theo before he deployed, you know? I wish I
had.” Ellie rubbed her belly. “Theo’s quiet.”
The doorbell chimed, and Ellie hurried off. I used the chance to slip into the bathroom. I
flipped the exhaust-fan switch and sighed with relief that the hum muffled the noise of the
partygoers. With trembling hands, I turned on the cold water and let the icy stream rush over the
insides of my wrists. I took a deep breath and checked my clothes in the mirror. My new Marc Jacobs jacket covered the basic black T-shirt that hid a waist-contouring
camisole. Skinny jeans and burgundy, open-toed heels completed my look. Almost anywhere
else in the country, my outfit would’ve been perfect for a casual spring evening.
But not in Texas.
Early May, and the temperatures had already soared into the mid-90s. To make matters
worse, my jeans fit tighter than they had the week before. I’d expected they would loosen after I
wore them awhile. At least the cut of the jacket hid my growing belly. My secret is safe for
I licked my lips and swallowed the lump in my throat before rejoining the party. The
chatter and laughter had risen to competitive levels. I couldn't face trying to fit in, and I fell back
into a trance. Theo fumbled around Ellie’s living room, gripping his crutches. One of his arms
was heavily bandaged, and he had a thick square of white gauze taped below his ear. But what
sent a shiver through me was the sight of his leg. He had only one.
“Come on. I’ll introduce you,” Ellie said from behind me. She hooked her arm through
mine and pulled me along. “Theo, this is my friend, Meg Michaels.”
“Hello.” He gave a slight nod, shifting on his crutches to extend his hand to me.
Despite the fact that I’d had my eyes on him for most of the last half hour, I’d failed to
notice his hit-the-pause-button good looks. Theo’s injuries drew attention away from his athletic
build, but there was no hiding the tall, rock-solid composure. Close-cropped dark hair added to
his dangerous edge. But when his full lips lifted into a smile, I could barely stand still at the
unexpected warmth that surged through me. That surge skidded to a halt when his brooding eyes
locked onto mine.
Theo cleared his throat. I reached for his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Did he have any idea how much I
already knew about him? My face heated, and I felt like a big dummy while he appraised me as
though he had all day. Ellie had disappeared, and I didn’t know the proper protocol for
socializing with a man I inexplicably felt intimidated by. Not that Theo seemed to mind.
He appeared all too comfortable with silence, but I needed to speak, if he wasn’t going to.
So I wouldn’t have to yell over the noise of the party, I leaned into him, despite the fluttering in
my chest that made it hard to inhale. “Would you…” Background music and clatter from the
growing crowd swallowed my words.
He angled in closer. “What?”
I kept my eyes on his, refusing to glance at any other part of him. “Can I get you
something to drink? Do you need anything?” I cringed at my voice—too pitchy, too polite.
He shook his head and looked past me.
I mumbled an excuse about helping out with dinner, stepped away from him, and fled to
the back of the house.
Melinda, Ellie’s mother-in-law, darted around the kitchen, yanking covered casserole
dishes from the fridge and shoving them in a row along the counter. How had Theo and Jake
come from such a trim little woman? Her white hair fell in waves around her flushed cheeks.
“Hey there.” I huffed shallow breaths to fend off the strong aroma of browned butter. My
“Hi, Meg.” Melinda's puffy, dark-ringed eyes surveyed the spread in front of her.
“You’re doing an amazing job, but don’t you want to go sit with Theo?” I wrapped my
arm over her shoulders, giving her a squeeze, suddenly aware that no one was looking after her
needs. I wasn’t qualified for that job; mothers were not my thing. “Tell me what to do. I’m here to help.”
“Why did I insist Jake and Ellie give Theo a party?” Her voice cracked and her lip
trembled, but she continued to work, tearing foil off macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and corn
on the cob. “Theo used to be so popular. He always wanted his friends around—they were all so
wild—but only a few of them replied to the invitation.” She slammed her hands down on the
table and lowered her head. Her pale-blue eyes were wet and red rimmed, but she held back her
“It’s okay. He’s going to be fine,” I promised, even though I had no clue if that were true.
“He’s not alone. There are tons of people out there. Ellie invited the staff from the bookstore, and
Jake has plenty of wild friends.”
Melinda turned to me, nodding. “You’re right. You know, I accepted what Theo had been
through… how he had changed. But that was at the hospital and at rehab where he was
surrounded with guys he could relate to, people who were going through the same thing he was.
It’s different here.” She blinked, and tears slipped in two straight lines down her face. “Every
time I look at a young man I think: Theo should be like that. He shouldn’t have to go through
this. It’s not fair.”
“It’s not, and I’m so sorry.” I moved to hug her, but she wiped at her face and turned
away from me.
“It’s okay. I’m fine.” She cleared her throat and squared her shoulders. “Theo needs to
eat. He has to keep his energy up. Can you man the grill? I can’t do the burgers and do this.”
“Trust me, no one wants me in charge of the grill, but I’ll go find Jake. Are you sure
She yanked open the silverware drawer and rummaged around, pulling out a collection of serving spoons. “I am. Thank you, Meg.”
I ducked out of the kitchen, wiggled my way around the thirty or so people in the living
room, dodged conversations with friends, and found Jake and Ellie whispering together near the
front door. Jake’s hand rested on Ellie’s belly, an image I’d seen many times, but today I had to
Watching Jake and Ellie highlighted the loneliness of my pregnancy. I could almost long
for Bradley’s return, but since he disliked public displays of affection, I doubted he’d be much of
a tummy toucher. I had called off our wedding four months earlier, partly because of his business
trips. At first, he’d leave me for a few days or a week at a time. But as his weeks away piled up
on each other, that feeling of a shared life fractured. The longer he stayed away, the less we
connected when he came home.
Especially once I found out he had plenty of time to spend in the company of another
“Hey, break it up, guys,” I said. “Jake, your mom wants you at the grill.”
As he walked by, he patted me on the shoulder, in on my little secret. When one’s best
friend gets married, one learns that even the most classified information is going to echo off an
extra set of ears. I loved Jake, though, so I was okay with it. Ellie’s man was loyal. I’d trusted
him even before she did and had convinced her that she was going to lose a good one if she
didn’t give in to love. In the first year of her marriage, Ellie was already four-and-a-half months
That was the best part of my mistake. While I might have gotten my single self knocked
up, at least my lifelong best friend and soul sister was preggers, too.
“Hey, little momma.” Ellie rubbed her belly, smiling deliberately at mine. “Shush!” I looked over my shoulder and stuffed my hands in my jacket pockets. “Don’t
say that.” I’ve never been a self-conscious person, but since my flat abs had exploded into a
telltale pooch two weeks before, I’d been nearly hysterical, feeling as if I were wearing one of
those "Baby on Board" T-shirts with a big arrow pointing down.
“Sorry, Meg. I just know everything is going to work out for you.” The warmth in Ellie’s
voice triggered a lump in my throat. “Besides, you’ve always got me to lean on.” She squeezed
Scanning the faces in the room, I struggled to breathe. How many of those people thought
they knew all about me? I took a step back, but there was no escaping the pressure that rolled
over me like a wave pulling me under.
My stomach churned under the unrelenting fear of discovery and the weight of choices
before me. The smell of beef cooking on the grill didn’t help. Rising bile in the back of my throat
overwhelmed the familiar metallic taste.
“You don’t look good.” Ellie came to my rescue, as always. “Why don’t you lie down in
my room for a while? I’ll cover for you.”
“Are you sure? I’m supposed to be helping you.” I took a deep breath, determined to pull
myself together, but prickling sweat popped out on my brow.
“Let’s go.” Ellie put her arm around my waist and led me away from the crowd. I looked
over my shoulder. Theo was eating from a plate on a TV tray, carefully chewing each bite.
Melinda sat next to him looking calm and composed.
After Ellie left, I kicked off my heels and hung my jacket and T-shirt over the chair of her
antique vanity in the far corner of the room. The ceiling fan, set to low, spun in lazy circles. I
lifted my hair in a twist and looked down at my body. The camisole that used to conceal my belly accentuated the protruding bump. I couldn’t deny the obvious.
There was a baby on board.
I tugged the hem of my camisole up over my bump and tucked it under my swollen
breasts. The snug top stayed where I’d left it. I couldn’t believe someone was in there. Before,
every choice I’d ever made was calculated. A few random decisions had changed everything.
The bedroom door banged open, and I jumped, expecting Jake or Ellie. Instead, Theo
lumbered in on his crutches and slammed the door behind him.
“Excuse me, do you mind?” I tugged my top in place to cover myself, but Theo’s gaze
took in my bare skin. He watched my movements closely and locked the door. For some reason I
flushed and grew warmer as he came closer to the bed. Could he want to trap me? Of course, the
thought was ridiculous. I was pretty sure my small, five-foot-five-inch, exhausted, knocked-up
self could plow through a one-legged boy covered in bandages if I wanted to get out of there
badly enough. The thing was—I wanted to stay.
“Give me a break.” He hobbled to the king-size bed without looking at me then propped
his crutches against the wall before falling back onto the mattress. “You think you can hide in
here all by yourself?” He hauled what was left of the lower half of his body onto the bed. A flash
of pain crossed his bronzed face. Closing his eyes, he lay back on the striped navy sham. He ran
his good hand through spiky hair the same tawny brown as the week-old scruff on his face. “Hit
the light on your way out,” he barked.
“Hey, I was here first, and I was just about to rest there. Ellie told me I could.” I smacked
a hand over my mouth. “Wait… I’m sorry. That was rude.”
Theo lifted his head off the pillow, squinting from the overhead light. He peered at me in
a slow, thorough inspection that left me fighting not to squirm. “Well, Jake told me I could crash here. Turn off the light and come on.” He patted
the bed next to him. “Forgive me—I didn’t notice you’re expecting.” He rolled his eyes.
The breath shot out of my lungs, and I wrapped my arms around my stomach as if I could
hide the truth. “Stop looking at me,” I said, making my way to the light switch.
Although he’d draped his tan, muscular arm across his forehead, I sensed his eyes
tracking me. I pictured my belly growing with each step, the truth transparent. I switched off the
lights. The sun was on the other side of the house, and fading afternoon light glowed in the room.
I went back around the bed and paused, not sure I really wanted to get in with this hostile-
looking guy who had spent recent years surrounded by sand and weapons.
Theo glared sideways at me. “Don’t flatter yourself. I’m not about to make a move on
some pregnant chick. Either get in or get out—I don’t care.”
My mouth fell open. “Oh… you think I think…” My voice quivered, so I stopped and
tried another tactic. “I don’t…” More quivers. I forced out the only response I could manage.
“Whatever.” I snatched my heels off the floor, ready to go home.
“Wait. What are you doing?” Theo scrubbed his hand over his face. “Don’t go.” His tone
softened. “I shouldn’t be alone right now.” He was giving me those big, puppy-dog eyes, but I
could see his smirk.
“What? Now you want me to stay?” No more quivering. The words flowed when the
focus was on him. “What’s with you?” I itched to make a run for it, but even so, he intrigued me.
“Cut a guy some slack, will you? My social graces are rusty.”
“Oh, please! I’ve been warned not to give you anything that might resemble sympathy.”
“I don’t want your pity.” A spark flared in his eyes. “Are you always this sassy, or is your
condition playing with your hormones?” He had a full-on grin, his white teeth gleaming. leave.”
His audacity got the best of me. “Shut up, or I’m going to take your crutches when I
My threat only made Theo roar with laughter, infuriating me more.
“You’re a bad girl, teasing a hurt man. Just get in bed—you look tired. I’ll leave, if you
really want me to.”
I gave in because he was right: I was worn out. “No, don’t go.” I dropped my shoes, went
to the bed, pulled back the covers, and climbed in, staying as far away from him as I comfortably
could. “Let’s call a truce. I’ll stay over here, you stay over there.” I settled the plush bedding
around me and rolled over to face his direction. The visible side of his body was flawless.
“Fine, but you better not snore or I’m going to flatten a pillow over your head.”
I stifled a giggle. “You’re not at all what I expected.”
He jerked his head toward me, eyeing me suspiciously. “What did you expect?”
“I just thought a war hero would be nice.” I yawned.
“I’m not nice enough for you?” His voice, low and smooth, did nothing to hide his
I relaxed, sinking in the mattress. “No, you’re a total asshole.”
The bed shook with his laughter. “Well, at least you’re honest, but don’t call me a hero.”
I heard the smile in his tone, but my eyes were closed. I really should have just stayed in
bed today, I thought, drifting off to sleep.
My eyes were open before I realized I was awake. Theo, bathed in moonlight, lay
stretched out on top of the covers next to me.
“You don’t have a ring on.” He searched my eyes. “I gave it back when I cancelled the wedding. Bradley wanted me to keep it…” I looked
at my bare hand in the dim room. My ring finger felt naked without the karat-and-a-half,
princess-cut diamond. Sometimes I still caught myself rubbing the area, searching for the
phantom ring. “But I couldn’t.”
“So what, you didn’t want a shotgun wedding?”
“Wait. Bradley’s not the father.” I cringed as soon as the words left my mouth.
His eyes twinkled in the moonlight, and he grinned again.
“So you are a bad girl.”
You read sweet, romantic novels fir the same reason you watch sweet, romantic movies: they have all the same elements and a feel-good vibe, even when they make you cry.
When You Make It Home by Claire Ashby (published by Red Adept Publishing) all of those things and a whole lot more!
Meg Michaels is twenty-four, single and pregnant. She doesn't mind handing pregnancy on her own, because the father is uninterested in her or the baby. She just isn't ready to tell her close loved ones she's with child and without husband.
She attends her best friend Ellie's brother-in-law's welcome home party (Ellie is also pregnant), and her world changes almost instantly.
Theo is sexy, even while severely wounded from his time in Afghanistan. He finds out her secret and keeps it for her...after he steals her heart.
She knows Theo won't be around for long. He has a lot of baggage of his own, least of all "phantom pain" from his missing leg.
But after being abandoned by her mother and two exes, can Meg really handle yet more heartbreak?
It might seem like I gave a lot away up there, but, truth be told, I just scratched the surface!
Mrs. Ashby wrote a beautiful novel about many things: love, trust, family, betrayal and secrets. The secrets, especially, are shocking. At one point, I literally gasped out loud!
Meg is a strong woman, and a wonderful lead character. Her devotion to her baby is so sweet! Theo is dark, sexy AND dedicated, making him as close to the perfect man as possible! All of the supporting characters, from her brother Steve, to her stepmother Nina abd even the nosy elderly employee Hazel, are fantastic and so vivid I felt as if I knew them as I read When You Make It Home.
This book is as twisting as a soap opera, and as moving as a Nicholas Sparks novel. Wonderful read!
1.When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t believe someone normal like me could be a writer. Then one day while getting a cavity filled, I was jacked-up on nitrous and suddenly I felt grandiose. All I could hear was this waaaa waaaa waaaa sound, and clear as day I had the thought: you need to write a book. It wasn’t the first time I’d had that thought, nor the last time, but the next time after that, I sat down and started writing.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
Kurt Vonnegut, Pat Conroy, and e. e. cummings were my favorite childhood authors. I also loved V.C. Andrews and Mary Higgins Clark when I was growing up.
Now I read everything, but I buy anything by Joshilyn Jackson or Maggie Stiefvater the day of release. I also love Susan Wiggs, Jill Shalvis, and Kristin Higgins.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME?
There wasn’t one source of inspiration, but I was intrigued by the idea of a smart woman having an unplanned pregnancy and the dilemma of the father not being the guy everyone around her assumed he would be would be.
4. What would you do if you were Meg (about any and all of her trying situations)?
Well, before getting pregnant Meg is the type of person who just fixes problems on the surface, but once she connects with her unborn baby, she realizes she needs to fix stuff for real. I liked that. I like to think I’d be the same way.
5. Were any of the events/emotions taken from real life?
Not at all. I write fiction. Okay, I may have mother issues. Funny how life weasels its way onto the page.
6. Will we ever see these characters again?
Yes, I’m working on Meg’s brother, Steve’s story. Also, I’m writing a novella with Theo’s friend, Cortez.
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
I’d love to write paranormal, but I doubt I’ll actually write one. I do have a reading weakness for YA Paranormal.
8. What was your original goal while writing WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME?
One of my goals was to show Meg’s journey to motherhood. At first she is terrified about how her life will change. Later she fears that she won’t be a good enough mother for her baby. Ultimately she learns that she has everything in her that her baby needs, and her past heartaches don’t limit her chances at being a fully present, loving mother.
9. What do you hope for Meg's future?
I hope Meg can trust herself as a mother since she never had a strong female role model. I hope the shortcomings of her past relationships don’t haunt her as she moves forward in life.
10. Would you like to see WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME in theaters or on TV? If so, what actors would you like to see play your characters?
I can totally see WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME as a movie. I hate to say it, but I don’t know who I’d cast as Meg and Theo. But that’s no fun, so I’ll say Blake Lively and Theo James.
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
For so long I had it in my head that publishing the book was crossing the finish line. Now that I’m here, I realize I’ve just crossed the starting line. I’m ready to run with it.
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
Reading. Too bad that’s not a paying gig.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
Michael Crichton, Pat Conroy, Joshilyn Jackson, Jennifer Crusie, J. Lynn, Katie McGarry...the list goes on. I’d love to even just shop talk.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with something that may surprise them about you?
I’ve never been much of a dancer, but when I was twelve, I took Irish dancing lessons with a group of friends. Regardless of my shortcomings in other dancing categories, I could bring it when I broke out in a jig. The music, the sound of shoes hitting the floor, the body posture, all of it I loved.
Chanting the steps in your head as you fly around the stage. Hop together; kick out, back one, two, three, four. Arms straight by your sides, hands closed in fist, the flap of the cape as I spun around. These were the easiest smiles of my life.
I danced in a group of five and I had the best spot, in the center. I did this little solo where I’d step up and everyone else would move back. I’ve been fearful of many things in my life, but dancing on stage or in a parade back then, I was fearless. It was so much fun, I don’t remember why we gave it up.
I never choose to listen to Irish music, but whenever I hear it I’m instantly happy. And yes, I’ve done a few performances for my children and apparently it makes them happy as well, because they laugh and laugh.
Purchase When You Make It Home via:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-you-make-it-home-claire-ashby/1119946013?ean=2940149821976&itm=1&usri=2940149821976
Find Claire Ashby online via:
Red Adept Publishing
Facebook (LIKE page)
Amazon Author Page