Marron Kaye wrote her first book at the age of 40 in the midst of the pandemic! A long-time lover of soap operas and romantic fiction, she credits her grandmother for introducing her to the genre. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her two sidekicks, her dogs Connor and Bella. The geography of Llyn Lakes is loosely based on a town nearby to her family’s cottage, which is her forever happy place.
Piper is new to town and starting over alone. A terrifying encounter in the woods one day sends her stumbling into the care of a brooding stranger. Now, in an effort to protect her from an uncertain danger, they’re thrown into close quarters and spending all their time together. As their bond grows Aidan reveals the shocking connection between what she witnessed in the clearing and his tragic past. He’s been punishing himself for too long and Piper’s ready to help him finally move on.
Aidan has demons that he's unwilling to face, but he’s determined not to let history repeat itself. He just needs to keep things with Piper distant … professional. Though he tries to fight it, the connection between them is overwhelming. Being around her has those carefully constructed walls of his coming down and his willpower waning, but is he really ready to let her in? One thing’s for certain, he'll do anything to keep her safe.
I return to the library in the afternoon and spend the next few hours in one of the armchairs by the front windows, flipping through the old case files that the chief had let me take; trying and failing not to watch Piper in her element. It’s obvious that she loves her job and is great at it. She’s efficient as she flits around the library shelving books. She’s adorable when she hums to herself while searching out a reference book for a patron, excited while recommending a new series to some pre-teen girls. And she’s tempting as fuck when she bites her lip absentmindedly while typing away on her computer, a small wrinkle appearing between her manicured eyebrows that I desperately want to reach out and smooth away before tilting her head and claiming her mouth.
It’s that mouth that I’m still thinking about hours later as we sit side-by-side on her couch watching TV, an empty pizza box on the coffee table in front of us. Piper put on Netflix and we’d taken turns selecting our favorite Seinfeld episodes, laughing as we recalled some of the more ridiculous situations the characters got themselves into. The conversation’s been effortless, our senses of humor surprisingly well-matched. It’s comfortable. It’s … really nice … and something I haven’t experienced in quite a while.
A pang of regret twists in my chest, but I quickly push it away.
The night is winding down and I’ve caught Piper trying to hide her yawns a few times now. I know I should head to the bathroom to wash up, initiate us going our separate ways to bed, but I don’t want to. She laughs again at something on the TV, but I haven’t really been watching for the last few minutes, too caught up in her. The colorful lights from the screen reflect off her lovely profile as I observe her, unguarded. She glances over and catches me staring. Her lips curve up in a soft smile and I can just make out the faintest flush of her cheeks in the dim light. Her eyes sparkle and suddenly I find myself leaning in as if drawn by a magnet.
Reaching out, I gently tuck a loose strand of her hair behind her ear and then bring my palm to rest on the side of her face, wanting … needing to feel her warmth. Her breath catches and she looks up at me through thick dark lashes. She bites her lip and smiles.
It’s an invitation.
The scent of her invades my nostrils and I suck it in greedily. Wetting my lips, I finally close the distance. Our mouths meet in a soft brush and I pull back slowly, reluctantly. I slide my hand to her jaw, angling her head gently, before leaning in yet again; this time pressing my lips to hers more firmly. She responds eagerly, letting out a soft gasp when I slide my tongue along her bottom lip. Her hands come up to rest on my chest, pausing over my wildly beating heart before she slips them up to clutch at my shoulders, pulling me into her embrace. She opens for me and I sweep my tongue into her mouth, flicking lightly against hers. She’s sweet and warm, and I can’t get enough.
Piper moans low in her throat and her grip on my shoulders tightens as she attempts to tug me impossibly closer. I slide my hands up to card my fingers through her silky hair in response, cupping the back of her head, our tongues dancing, before letting the momentum of her grasp guide me forward. More, I need more. She lets me press her back into the couch and as I settle my weight over her … reality starts to creep in.
I’m not supposed to let this happen.
What the hell am I doing?
I pull away from her abruptly, sitting back against the arm of the couch to put as much distance between us as possible. Piper is staring up at me, breathless and confused. She’s tantalizingly disheveled, her dark tresses mussed-up from my fingers, her cheeks flushed from arousal. Fuck me. I look away, running a hand through my own hair and work to regulate my breathing.
“I’m sorry,” I mutter, pushing up from the couch. “I’m so sorry, Piper. I just can’t.” Taking a deep breath I meet her eyes again, eyes that are now glistening with vulnerability and unshed tears. “I shouldn’t have done that–please forgive me,” I breathe out, before turning my back to her and silently escaping down the hall. Stepping into the bathroom my pulse is racing, thrumming loudly in my ears. I lean up against the door, still breathing heavily; guilt, shame and desire warring in my chest.
Q&A with the Author
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how became an author?
A: I have an honors BA in English from the University of Toronto and took some copy editing courses at Ryerson University as well. I love to read and always thought it would be cool to become a writer, but I struggled for years with motivation rarely ever continuing anything I started. I’m a realtor by day and when the pandemic hit and the market slowed significantly I suddenly had lots of spare time on my hands. I was reading a ton and found myself drawn specifically to romances during that time because I needed the guaranteed happy endings that you don’t always get with other genres.
The more romance I read the more inspired I became and decided to finally give it a real try. I set a loose writing schedule for myself and spent that winter plugging away at it. I took the time to plot out each chapter, whereas in the past I had always just trusted the story to go where it would, and I found this really helped me to stay enthused. Once I made it to the halfway point motivation was no longer an issue and I was excited to get to work on my book every day, ultimately finishing it in approximately four months.
Q: What is your writing process like?
A: The Clearing was my debut novel, but I have four planned in the series and I’m about mid-way through writing the second book at present. Things may change the more I write, but so far I’ve found that I prefer to write in a linear fashion. As previously mentioned, plotting the entire book up front and breaking it down chapter by chapter is what has been working for me, and I tend to stick to that order. I do still at times get struck by a particular scene or conversation that is out of order and that’s when you’ll find me frantically typing it into the note app on my phone so that I don’t forget it for later. I also do let the chapters evolve a little bit as I write - I think this is only natural - and so the plan for following chapters does tend to get adjusted as things progress.
Since I have a day job I have to work to fit writing into my schedule. I’ve found that 3-4 days a week is the sweet spot for me where I don’t feel overwhelmed and can avoid mental burnout. I don’t ever want writing to feel like my job, so I don’t push myself if I’m tired or lacking in inspiration. And I only ever plan on a two hour window for writing, though it often ends up being double or more once I get going.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
A: My favorite thing to do is read, but I’m also very handy and enjoy taking on DIY home reno projects and gardening. I’m a homebody in the winter but in the warmer weather I love to spend time outdoors with my dogs, swimming, hiking, and boating.
Q: How do you celebrate when you are finished writing a book?
A: When I finished The Clearing I had a celebratory dinner out with friends.
Q: How do you celebrate when your books are released?
A: I didn’t tell anyone I knew when The Clearing was being released, so I just showed up at a family dinner with copies of my book and shocked everyone. I did the same thing at work during an office meeting with my colleagues.
Q: Can you tell me how the book/series came about?
A: Once I decided to give it a real try I googled writing prompts until I found one that sparked an idea. After I fleshed out the first book the others just sort of naturally came to me. I knew pretty quickly who the other pairs would be and I also knew which tropes I wanted to try. At that point my subconscious must have taken over because I often found myself waking up in the middle of the night with plot and scene ideas popping into my mind.
Q: Are any of your characters similar to real-life friends or family?
A: Piper is loosely based on my youngest sister and Aidan is reminiscent of an old boyfriend who I often think of as the ‘one that got away’. Many of the other characters, their names or their qualities are influenced by my life as well, though not always consciously. My oldest friend served as a beta reader and she’s the one that kept bringing these little details to my attention as she read!
Q: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
A: Pushing past blocks when I knew what I wanted to say but couldn't find the words. The biggest thing that helped me was not putting any pressure on myself when it just wasn't flowing. I took almost a whole month off about three quarters of the way through the book because I just couldn’t find the energy to write and I refused to let myself feel guilty about it. Oddly enough, listening to country music - which has never been my thing - is what finally broke my mental block!
Q: What part of writing this book was the most fun for you?
A: I really enjoyed when some little bit of fun dialogue came to me. I love reading good banter so anytime I felt like a particular convo was clicking I got excited. Also, the thrill of finishing each chapter as I got closer and closer to the finish line. I would announce it to all my family every time I completed another chapter and it helped to keep me accountable too!
Q: What Authors or other Books have inspired you to write this book?
A: Too many to name, but Deveny Perry/Willa Nash and Claire Kingsley really got me into the whole small town romance thing. I love a little picturesque town where everyone knows each other. Throw in a few quirky residents and its even better. I based Llyn Lakes on the largest town near my family’s cottage so when I’m describing places I have actual locations in mind to draw from.
Q: What is your favorite passage from this book?
A: Hmmm… that’s a tough one. There are a couple I really like that arent PG-13 so I won’t mention them here. This was my first time writing any sex scenes, though, and I’m proud of certain descriptive moments within those chapters.
Honestly I can’t pick, but this paragraph just came to my mind as a moment I like so we’ll go with it:
Looking at Piper now I feel … lighter, like the weight of my grief and guilt is lifting, at least a little, the pain I’ve carried since losing Ava lessening. Framed by the setting sun behind her she’s–Jesus, she’s stunning. She smiles coyly at me then raises her glass to her lips. The pinks and oranges in the sky behind her gild her hair as she sets her glass back down and pushes a loose strand behind her ear. She turns and giggles at something Henry is saying, but I’m too enthralled to follow along. When she throws her head back and laughs in earnest, I’m gone.
Q: If you could meet any of your characters, who would it be and what would you say to them?
A: You mean aside from Aidan, ‘cause he’s hot?! Probably Henry. He’s the eyes and ears of the town as well as a sort of wise father figure for Piper. I’d ask him all about the latest gossip and get his advice on my own love life!