Which leads me to confession number two: I loved this book. Almost from Ian’s first appearance on page 14, I knew he was going to end up in the spotlight on FHF. Because there is no escaping the fact that, contemporary fiction or not, Ian McKay is a bona-fide hero. In fact, the sigh of “happy ending” contentment had barely escaped my lips before I was clicking (as in, “What’s-wrong-with-this-button-I-only-clicked-eleventy-one times-and- it- isn’t-working!” clicking) the hero nomination button. And here we are! Yay! I ask only that the regular contemporary fiction readers to hold back the “I told you so’s” long enough to allow me to (most humbly) introduce Ian McKay.
About Wishing on Willows (released March 19, 2013):
Does a second chance at life and love always involve surrender?
A three-year old son, a struggling café, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Café in small town Peaks, Iowa, she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pulls, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides.
So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her café and a vital town ministry are located, she isn’t about to let go without a fight.
As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won’t give up easily. His family’s business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin’s gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own.
With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances.
Excerpt from Wishing on Willows:
“I’ll be right back with one last cup of coffee.” Robin curled her finger under the handles of the mugs and turned around. And in the turning, he saw her.
His eyes widened. Because Robin, the café owner, was…Janet, the frazzled, pretty woman who almost ran him over outside Sybil’s. She stopped, the smile on her face slowly melting away. Ian crossed his ankle over his knee and waved. She turned around, the porcelain mugs clinking together as she hurried to the counter. Now this was an interesting turn of events. Why would this woman tell him her name was Janet?
She dropped the refills off with Carl and Mimi and approached his table, her steps slow and uncertain. “May I help you?” she asked.
He clasped his hands over his knee. “Either you have an identical twin, or your name isn’t Janet.”
Her face turned red.
“Or maybe Janet’s a nickname?”
“I…” her voice faltered. She glanced over her shoulder at the display counter filled with an assortment of pastries, then at the wall clock hanging behind it.
“Your music…” Really, what could be said about her music? Unlike Carl and Mimi, he’d been to his fair share of concerts. He grew up with a younger sister who loved Chopin and Brahms. Yet he’d never heard anyone play with such passion. It had been palpable. Contagious, even. He draped his elbow over the chair’s back. “What song did you play just now? I didn’t recognize it from anywhere.”
“I write my own.”
She pulled at her earlobe. “We’re closing soon. Would you like something to go?”
He nodded toward the other couple. “Their coffee wasn’t to go.”
The red came back. It made him smile.
“You were here earlier, weren’t you?” she asked.
“You serve very hot coffee.”
She set her hand on top of the chair across from him. A diamond caught the light and sparkled on her finger. He hadn’t noticed it this morning.
“Amanda mentioned that you wanted to speak with me,” she said.
He could have told her about his plans but something held him back. Maybe it was the aftereffects of her music, or the rich scent of coffee in the café, or an instinct he’s inherited from his father. He simply knew now was not the time. “Just wanted to compliment the owner.”
Her forehead wrinkled. “An employee spills coffee on you and you want to compliment the owner? You do realize that’s not a typical response?”
“Maybe I’m not a typical guy.” He leaned across the small table and stuck out his hand. “Ian McKay. I’m in Peaks on business.”
She twisted the ring on her finger. “Didn’t we already do this?”
“I don’t recall meeting any Robins today. A nice lady named Janet who tried to warn me about the hazardous cloud of incense in Sybil’s Antique Shoppe, maybe. But no Robin.”
An uncomfortable laugh escaped her lips as she reached out and shook his hand. Her movement was soaked in hesitation.
Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.
Gallant ScoreIan has a job to do, and he’s good at it. The beauty of this story is watching as Ian’s priorities shift from what he thinks is best for Peaks, to what he knows is best for Peaks, and himself. When it comes right down to choices, Ian takes a stand because it’s the right thing to do. His journey towards full blown white knight-dom is one of the reasons he slam-dunks the orange here.
Wounded ScoreIt’s hard to share the depth of Ian’s wounds without giving something away. Let’s just say Ian knows the meaning of loss in some of its darkest forms. It leaves him with a feeling of inadequacy, and Ian believes he still has something to prove to the world, himself, and especially his dad.
Softie ScoreCan I just say there’s a puppy involved and leave it at that? =) Ian is a softie when it counts. The vulnerable, tender side of him is a perfect foil to the GQ model, “I got this under control.” side.
Stupid StrikesNothing to report here. Ian (like all heroes) has his moments of being less than “perfect”, but nothing strike-worthy.
Swoon ScoreDid I mention the GQ model thing? I did? Oh. Yes. Well, moving right along past the physical appearance….I sooooo want to spill all the itsy-bitsy details of just how sweet Ian is! Have you ever just wanted to hug a character because they’re so awesome and you know how much what they’ve done will mean to the other people in the story? I was there with Ian so many times. Let me condense it for you. In a nutshell, the things that are most precious to Robin become precious to Ian, too. And he shows it in a turn-your-insides-to-mush and explode-your-heart-with-happiness kind of way.
Katie Ganshert is the author of Wildflowers from Winter and Wishing on Willows, both published by Waterbrook Press, a division of Random House. Her debut, Wildflowers from Winter, was a Christian Retailing’s Best and Christy Award finalist in the contemporary romance category and a Carol Award finalist in the debut category. She lives in Iowa with her handsome husband, their dinosaur-loving son, and their goofy black lab, Bubba. When she’s not busy writing or playing or reading or snuggling, she is obsessing over the paperwork and the waiting that comes with adoption, which she and her husband hope to complete sometime before they are fifty. You can learn more about Katie and her books by visiting her website or author Facebook page.
The FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author
Ian McKay is a man who's just trying to do the right thing, but no matter which way he turns, he's going to hurt someone he loves (or is falling in love with). He's got some baggage he's not proud of, a father who's nearly impossible to live up to, and this stubborn woman who is slowly capturing his heart. For all those reasons and more, Ian became one of my favorite characters to write.
Interestingly enough, if you were to read the original draft of Wishing on Willows, you probably wouldn't recognize Ian at all. Somewhere along the line, his name changed, his hair went blonde, he developed that killer crinkly-eyed smile, his personality softened, and he acquired a love for cooking. I even changed his back story and the motivation behind his story goal. Why, you might be wondering? Because I needed to give readers a hero they could fall in love with, someone worthy of Robin's attention. Originally, he was much more the villainous but tortured, shrewd business-man type. I hope readers fall in love with this new, improved Ian McKay much more quickly than they would have with the previous version.