I love the way the landscape of publishing is changing. It’s definitely a fun, exciting time to be a writer.
When I released At the Stars, the first book in my Evergreen Grove series, my heroine landed unexpectedly in a tiny town with no plans. Her first friend in this strange place was a colorful hairdresser/motel handyman named AJ, who had a slightly sketchy past as a male escort. He was so much fun for me, but so “out there,” and as much as I loved him I hadn’t given much consideration to him as a future hero of his own story.
My readers sure did, though. I think the largest percentage of reader mail I got about At the Stars was about AJ. “Is AJ going to get a book? When?” I already had a tortured boxer hero in mind for book 2, Acts of Creation, but as I worked through the series I stared to see more of AJ’s story unfold in my head. I saw a guy show up in the town of Evergreen Grove who AJ would dislike on sight, but who would turn out to be exactly the guy he was meant to have.
Yes, AJ would definitely get a book. In fact, he needed one. My readers wanted him to, I wanted him to, and AJ’d had a hard road. He deserved his HEA. Not to mention, I knew I could. A few years ago I might’ve had people telling me not to, but these days a crossover book in a series is pretty typical.
AJ isn’t typical anything, though. I took pieces of him from someone I used to know and love, so in some ways he always felt like an old friend to me, but he was always his own creation. I had the most fun writing his and Hayden’s story because they were so much fun. They made me laugh even when I wanted to cry, and reminded me that the most important thing is staying true to myself—something I still need to be needled about on occasion, even as many lessons as I’ve had.
Sometimes in love and in fiction you have to break the rules to find your happy ending, but one of AJ’s most important rules is worth remembering:
…if I’m gonna sell my soul, I could easily command seven or eight figures. Screw that shit, I’m priceless.
Rule # 99: If anybody ever tries to tell you that you’re less than priceless, they can fuck themselves right off a cliff.
He thinks I want him because of the rumors around town. Because I think he’s easy. I want AJ, because he’s AJ.
No liars. No suits. Absolutely no straight guys…
AJ Fabin’s list of rules keeps him safe. Since getting kicked out of his parents’ home and attacked by a former escorting client, his rules and his life in the tiny town of Evergreen Grove provide a quiet haven. He may be lonely, and he may stick out like a sore thumb, but the folks like him well enough. When he’s not dodging his old pimp, things are peaceful.
Hayden Price is having a quarter-life crisis. Engaged to a woman he can’t connect to and working a job he secretly hates, he comes to Evergreen Grove to help his mother through a health scare. Returning to his childhood home makes Hayden reevaluate a lot of things, including himself. When he meets AJ and finds he can’t stand the mouthy jerk—almost as much as he can’t stop thinking about him—he has a lot more to change than his career.
To be together, they’ll both have to break all of their rules.
By the Rules is book 3 in the Evergreen Grove series, but reads as a standalone.
Elisabeth Staab loves passionate stories and happy endings. Her books have been called “emotionally delicious,” “action-packed,” and “gloriously snarky.” When not writing romance about vampires and werewolves and emotionally wounded boxers (oh, my!), she enjoys date night with her husband, reading with her kids, and marathoning her favorite books or TV series. Keep up with all the latest shenanigans by following her newsletter, stopping by ElisabethStaab.com, or finding her on Facebook and Twitter.