From the Start
American Valor #3
By: Cheryl Etchison
Releasing May 23, 2017
For many women, Ranger Battalion Surgeon Michael MacGregor is the ideal man. He’s far better than average looking, a generous tipper, not to mention an officer and a doctor. So when he encounters a woman resistant to his charms, he finds himself… intrigued.
Kacie Morgan has had her fill of arrogant military men since the last one left her with a shattered heart and one heck of a career rut. Now, with her prestigious fellowship starting in the fall, all she has to do is survive the summer—and her little sister’s wedding.
When an ill-fitting bridesmaid dress has Kacie wanting to temporarily shake things up in her carefully planned life, she knows just the man to call. They agree to a no-strings, summer fling, although it isn’t long before Michael wants Kacie for forever.
But to win her heart, he’ll have to confront the nightmares from his past if they’re to have any chance at a future.
A fun, well-written story that had me smiling and swooning. I pretty much inhaled the story, it put a hook on me that held until the end.
The characters and the events are very much lifelike, the awkwardness of dating, the doubts about reciprocated feelings, the family drama and the sibling rivalry, it all felt real and the whole story unravels like a friend telling you a story about falling in love and finding their destiny.
Michael MacGregor is a hero that was easy to like. He has a great, warped sense of humor, he carries his responsibilities, he is straightforward, honest, kind, a bit arrogant at times, and sexy as can be. I really liked him and his family-oriented mindset, and the respect he had to his parents made me admire him even more.
Kacie Morgan has had enough hurt and being looked over by men. She has closed off her feelings, she keeps people at arm's length, and can come off as rather prickly at times. She keeps telling Michael that he is arrogant, but she had him beat with that on several occasions.
The chemistry between Michael and Kacie was hot, within the limits Kacie would allow it. In my mind they were perfect together, it just took them longer to see that and figure it all out. But once they start to open up to each other and see themselves what an amazing ally they have on each other, the damage that they had done to their relationship might be too much to overcome.
I enjoyed the family connections they both have, and the big role both of their families play in the story. The tale has an authentic feeling to it throughout, lifelike and genuine, from the relationship with their parents and siblings to their friends and co-workers as fell as the relationship they have with each other. There are many things in the story that made me smile, the fact that Michael's brother calls Kacie a Malibu Barby, and Kacie and her sister call Michael a G.I. Joe gave a great mental image of them, of their beauty, and of their humor.
From the Start is a sweet, lively, and enjoyable story about family, siblings, friends, and lovers. It is about a summer fling that turns into a thing, it is about the awkwardness of a new relationship, and about the joyful, fearful, bliss of falling in love and finding your true mate. A lovely and entertaining story that easily swept me off my feet and held my interest from the start to finish.
~ Four Spoons
Kacie Morgan raised the cloudy glass tumbler to her lips and licked the course salt from its rim, all the while surveying the bar, knowing she was officially in hell. Despite it being a fairly new establishment—and a nice place as far as bars went—it just wasn’t her scene. The cowboy hats and cowboy boots. The painted-on jeans that both the men and women wore. The line dancing and mechanical bull.
Then there was the fact she couldn’t stand country music. She might have been born and raised in the South, but the appreciation for songs about racing pickups down red dirt roads, getting drunk on Jack, and skinny-dipping in farm ponds must have skipped a generation.
She sighed and turned back around, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror behind the bar.
Dear God in the heavens. She shouldn’t have looked.
She squeezed her eyes shut and tossed back the remnants of her margarita on the rocks. A tang and tart shiver raced the length of her spine, her body squirming involuntarily to shake it off.
Her empty glass met the cow-print bar top a little heavier than intended, the upside being it garnered the bartender’s attention. “Another?” He shouted to be heard over the music.
“Sure,” she said. “Why the hell not?”
He came over to clear away the empty glass and his eyes roamed her chest as he took his damn sweet time to read the front of her shirt. She didn’t have to glance at the mirror again to know the club lights ignited the rhinestones across her shirt, the word bridesmaid glimmering in the relative dark like a ’70s disco ball.
“Eight weeks,” she chanted to herself. “Eight. More. Weeks.”
Just eight weeks until the bachelorette weekend, the holiday weekend, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, all of it would be over. Her baby sister would be happily married and, more importantly, her maid of honor duties would be complete. No longer would she have to be overly friendly to women who were not her friends. No longer would she be guilted into wearing questionable attire or spending money she didn’t have on all of the cutesy little things they wanted her to “chip in” on.
Kacie handed the bartender a few bills as he returned with her drink, then resumed leaning against the bar, watching as the country music gave way to hip-hop and the puritans bolted for the bars and seated areas. In the span of a few minutes, the dance floor became an instant bump and grind session for anyone under the age of twenty-five or with more than a few drinks in them.
In a sea of cowboy hats and baseball caps, her baby sister was easy to spot. The rhinestone tiara with attached veil on her head glittered in the pulsing lights as she bopped around the dance floor. And all the other bridesmaids were right there with her.
If she were a better maid of honor, a better big sister, she’d suck it up and join them. But she just couldn’t find it in herself to move. Ever since her well-planned future with a man she loved—or at the very least thought she loved—had taken a deep dive into the toilet nine months earlier, she found having fun an almost impossible feat. How sad. How pathetic.
With a pang, Kacie realized at the age of thirty-one she’d become what she always feared most—a total buzzkill.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I really enjoyed the early interactions between Michael and Kacie for this book but especially the scene where they have sex the first time. The conversation is so shallow and matter-of-fact since they’ve agreed to just use each other for sex.
I also loved the argument between Michael and his sister-in-law. Bree has been more like a sibling to him for so many years that it’s only fair they’d argue in the same way he and his brother argue. Politeness be damned!
What gave you the most trouble with this story?
When I started this book, I hadn’t planned on Michael suffering from PTSD. But when I began the editing process and reading it from the beginning, I realized all the clues were there. He doesn’t really talk about his issues although it’s clear those who know him best realize something is a bit off. And whenever the suggestion is made that he speak to a therapist, he blows it off because he doesn’t believe his problems are bad enough to warrant treatment. Which I think, sadly, is an accurate representation for so many of those who serve in special operations units.
Name three things on your desk right now.
A small crystal pig with pink wings named Penelope. I have always loved the expression “When pigs fly!” and have always taken great pleasure in proving people wrong.
A two-year-old fortune that says “You’ll never know what you can do until you try.” I found it in my fortune cookie at a time when I was debating whether or not I was read to query literary agents.
A small Galah figurine given to me by the Australian family I lived with while on foreign exchange in high school. They had rescued an injured Galah, which is a type of cockatoo, and taught this bird to say my name. That damn bird made me crazy because he would sometimes escape when I came home from school and then proceed to hide high up in a tree while calling my name over and over, taunting me.
If you could have dinner with any three authors (alive or dead), who would you choose and why?
My first instinct was to say Jane Austen, but I fear she’d end up being a disappointment and ruining my perception of her. Ernest Hemingway would have to be my number one since his personal life was as exciting as his stories. Second would be Dorothy Parker since she had zero problem saying exactly what she thought. Throw in the fact she was blacklisted in Hollywood, I can only imagine the dirt she knew. Number three would have to be Stephen King. I’d love to know what his childhood was like and whether or not his own writing gives him nightmares.
What are you favorite types of stories to read?
I absolutely adore historical romances. They are always my go-to read when I’m in a bad mood or a writing rut. I love all that despite a ton of societal rules, there were women who willingly ignored them and threw caution to the wind. Personally, I like to think had I lived during the Regency era that I’d have been one of those women who wore pants and rode astride and basically thumbed her nose to everyone who dared say “You shouldn’t do that!”
How long have you been writing, and what (or who) inspired you to start?
There was a built in desk in my bedroom growing up and it being the only desk in the house, that’s where the Selectric typewriter lived. When I was in elementary school, my mother would write youth soccer recaps for the local paper and when she was done I would sit down and mimic her. I don’t recall ever writing fiction. Instead, I wrote recaps of the Olympics and Super Bowls. In school I always excelled at creative writing but it wasn’t until I was in college, at the encouragement of a professor, I switched from Accounting to Journalism. After graduating, I always wrote for work, but never for myself. Then when my oldest was born, I quit writing altogether for about six years until I found an online community and began writing fanfiction. Through that I made a friend who was a member of RWA and encouraged me to attend the national conference with her in 2011. The rest is history.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
When I began working on this story five years ago, it was the story of a doctor who’d just left the army and was trying to find his way in the civilian world. Sadly, my hero was, in a word, boring. He was too nice. Too polite. He was just… ugh. But I kept at him and gave him a brother and father and he began taking shape. By the time I actually started to like Michael MacGregor, I realized his story would be better if his younger brother’s story came first. So I went back to square one and began working on ONCE AND FOR ALL. When I returned to Michael’s original story last year, I had to scrap most of it because some scenes were more like Danny and other scenes were more like Lucky (the hero in HERE AND NOW). So I had to practically start completely over, but this time I knew exactly who Michael MacGregor was and what he’d been through.
What do you do when you are not writing?
As a mom of three, I’m usually pretty busy when I’m not writing. There’s always a kitchen to be cleaned or laundry to be folded or a kid to be driven somewhere. And now my oldest has her learner’s permit and I’m the one she drives with the most. So that’s always fun. Not really.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I love that I was given the opportunity to bring Michael and Danny’s mother to life in this book thanks to my editor suggesting I include a flashback. If there is one couple I would love to write, it would be their parents. I would love to see Mac MacGregor fall head over heels in love with Lily.
Cheryl Etchison graduated from the University of Oklahoma’s School of Journalism and began her career as an oil and gas reporter. Bored to tears and broke as hell, it wasn’t long before she headed for the promise land of public relations. But that was nearly a lifetime ago and she’s since traded in reporting the facts for making it all up. Currently, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and three daughters.
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