EskieMama Reads Saturday Spotlight w/Giveaway: Undercovering Camila by Vivian Winslow
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Today we are spotlighting Vivian Winslow's
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Third book in the Wildflower series
Camila Cohen is a highly ambitious and driven third-year NYU law student who works as a part-time bartender to help pay her way through school. She prefers no-strings attached relationships, afraid that anything serious could get in the way of her goals. But when chef Eliseo Perez ditches her for a job in Miami, she realizes even a casual arrangement can leave you feeling burned. Just as Camila’s close to accepting a position at the high-powered law firm of Sullivan & Moore (more appropriately known by its initials, S & M), her uncle Arthur, the head of the Cohen Real Estate dynasty, makes a proposal that compels Camila to question the career path she’d always assumed would be right for her. As she attempts to balance her busy final year of law school with her bartending job, what should have been a random Tinder date for a hot hook-up leads to something unexpected. Meeting the incredibly brilliant and handsome Marshall James forces Camila to face her greatest fears and realize that creating a life for herself means making decisions that could potentially hurt the ones she loves.
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Q & A with Vivian Winslow about Uncovering Camila
Uncovering Camila is the third book in my steamy new adult series, Wildflowers. After finishing The Gilded Flower Trilogies, I thought I’d take a break and return to a women’s fiction manuscript that I’d written a few years back. By the second week of my hiatus, however, a book idea hit me, and Blossoming Flower, the first book in the Wildflowers series, was born.
What initially inspired you to write this book/series?
One of the things I enjoyed when I wrote the Violet Trilogy (the third trilogy of my Gilded Flower Trilogies) was Vi’s falling-in-love story, which didn’t happen in the previous trilogies. It’s challenging to write about that intangible, faceless experience we call Love. So many of today’s Contemporary Romance stories portray what I call “savior-love” where sacrifice is required to love, “stalker-lust” where the character stalks his target with overpowering signs of “love”, or “Instagram-love” where the image and idea of the person drive the feelings as opposed to reality (which is that the person can be a crazy-psycho). Ha. The reality is that falling in love is a strange experience. It asks a lot of us to be able to open ourselves and be vulnerable and to really know who we are and what we want. This isn’t about infatuation, which can be exciting and give you tingles or a lightning bolt. Rather, it’s about true, unadulterated Love and how it pushes us toward something or someone and expands who we are and our sense of self.
So I thought, why not try to write about it? And so I did. Uncovering Camila is the surprise baby of the series because I only expected to birth three books. However, as I edged closer to Poppy’s story (she’s in ALL of my books for a reason), I realized that Camila’s story had to come before Wild Poppy. Camila’s character features briefly as the one Eliseo leaves behind in New York when he moves to Miami in Forbidden Rose. I put a lot of thought behind her character’s backstory and her relationship with Eliseo. It reminded me of what it was like to be with someone who didn’t care about you as much as you did, or as much as you thought you did. So much of relationship is ego projection, and if you can step out of that projection, you can see and learn a lot about yourself. I wanted that for Camila, to see her grow in that way. The Wildflowers series is new adult for this reason. All of the women are in their early to mid-twenties because I find that age to be so critical in learning about yourself, your needs, your wants and discerning the difference. Moreover, the women are strong and educated because I wanted characters who reflect what I think is missing in a lot of Romance, that is, empowered women who stand equal to their male counterparts at every instance. Nothing weakens them, not even love. To me, real love empowers and strengthens, so it’s important to me that all my stories show that.
Tell us a little about the characters in this book.
Camila Cohen is in her third year at New York University School of Law. She’s a very strong and self-directed person who thinks she knows what she wants in life. However, as she nears the end of law school, she’s forced to question her career choice, recognizing that perhaps there’s more to life than career and financial security.
Marshall James is the son of a partner at a prominent law firm in New York and the chief judge of New York’s highest court. He and Camila are very similar in their one-dimensional approach to their careers, so meeting each other showed them a great deal about what’s at stake when career comes first.
Shoshana Cohen, Camila’s cousin, is her polar opposite. She was such fun to write because I created her to show my eternally optimistic and spiritual side. Rarely do I get to insert a bit of my personality in my stories, so I took the chance.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Ensuring the chemistry between the characters. Camila’s serious and occasionally humorless nature made me initially question if there was enough to build upon for her and Marshall. However, I had to remind myself that being part Cuban/Puerto-Rican, she’s fiery and passionate, and I pulled on that part of her to stir things up for them.
Also, I never went to law school, so I had a lot of research to do, including visiting the NYU campus. The law school is on the south end of the picturesque Washington Square Park. It’s probably one of the only times I can include my family in research for my book so I made an afternoon out of it and visited the law school with my husband and son.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Chapter 24 was a fun and challenging chapter to write. It’s a love scene between Camila and Marshall. This was one of the critical moments of growth in the book because she’s daring herself to be vulnerable and open herself up to him. Writing vulnerability isn’t easy, but as you can probably tell by now, I like a challenge.
What are your future project(s)?
Poppy, Poppy, Poppy. I will be sleeping, eating and writing and thinking about Poppy for the next few months. Hers is a story I’ve put off writing for a long time because she’s the most complex character I’ve created thus far, which also makes her one of my favorite characters. (I love them all, but Poppy holds a special place for me).
Wild Poppy, will be Poppy’s new adult story. I’m not sure yet how much of her life it will cover. If you’ve read any of my other books, I hint at a past trauma, decisions and possible regrets throughout her sixty years. It will be set in Paris, where I lived a long time ago. It will be fun to revisit some places in my mind and take readers there with me. I really look forward to sharing her book with everyone because I know so many readers have loved to hate Poppy since Gilded Lily.
Now an exciting excerpt from Uncovering Camila
Soooo, the host,” he says. “Obviously single, no kids . . . .”
Camila shrugs. “Someone new to the school. I’m not in any of his classes, so I don’t know much about him.”
“You’re being weird. You’re always about extraneous details, and now you can’t say the man’s name or look at me.”
“What? I’m making you a cocktail.” Camila forces herself to look at Jared.
He regards her suspiciously. “You’re a terrible liar, my friend. I’ll figure out what you’re hiding.”
It takes all of one second when he sees Marshall walk into the apartment.
“Oh my God, it’s Mr. Gucci,” he whispers into Camila’s ear.
“Shut up. This isn’t the time.”
“Oh, it totally is,” he replies and heads into the adjacent kitchen to introduce himself to Marshall.
“Good evening. I’m Jared. I work with Camila over at L,” he says, hinting he recognizes Marshall from the bar that night.
“It’s great of you to come.” Marshall casually extends a hand.
“Remind me of your drink of choice, and I’ll be sure to keep your glass full tonight.”
“Yeah, that’d be great. You know how to mix a Metropolitan?”
The bartender suppresses a smile. “Funny. Camila really enjoys those too. I’ll be right back.”
“You fucked him didn’t you?” Jared wags a finger at his friend.
“How can you tell? You spoke to him all of two minutes.”
“While you hid in here like a scaredy cat. What happened? Buyer’s remorse? Hard to imagine though.” He turns in the direction of the kitchen and shakes his head. “No way. With that mouth, the way he stands, and his posture. He’s definitely good in the sack.”
Camila makes a face. “I didn’t realize he was my Professor.”
“I thought you said you weren’t in any of his classes.”
“I dropped it on the first day when I saw him. But what’s worse. He’s my faculty advisor for Law Review.”
“That’s classic,” Jared laughs out loud. So loud it gets Marshall’s attention. He spots Camila standing by the bar. “Oh, hey C.,” he begins to say then clears his throat. “Camila, I didn’t realize you were here.”
“I came early to help Jared set up,” she says, finishing her drink in one gulp.
“This is worse than my cousin’s bar mitzvah down in Palm Springs,” Jared groans to Camila when she approaches him for another drink.
“It may kill you to hear this, but this is one of the better networking parties I’ve been to,” she replies.
“That guy in the corner talking to your boyfriend looks like my Uncle Mordy.”
Camila slaps his arm. “Shut up already. And that man happens to be the foremost expert in Trusts and Estates in the country. I think Oprah is his client.”
“Seriously, honey. You do not belong with this crowd. You are so downtown cool, and they’re uptown uptight.”
“For your information, I just spoke with a woman who runs a legal aid office in the Bronx. She said her work was ‘rewarding’. How many people ever say that about their jobs?”
“Most teachers, except middle school ones, and saints.” Jared leans on his elbow. “So fine, not all lawyers are like my Uncle Mordy. But most of them are.” He checks his watch. “Cover for me a minute. I’m going to the bathroom.”
“I thought I was paying Jared to work, not you.” Marshall says.
“He’s taking his Union fifteen,” Camila answers wryly.
“I guess I can’t interfere with that. I would hate to get a letter from a union lawyer.” He holds up his glass. “Would you mind? I think I prefer your Metropolitans to his anyway.”
“I told you it’s because I don’t sweeten it. Besides, I could use something to do.”
“You’re not giving up so quickly, I hope. There are plenty of attorneys I can introduce you to.”
“So this was a plan to get me to consider a different line of work.”
“Not a plan as much as a hope. But I know better than to interfere in your life. You know what you want.”
Camila looks up when she hears that last word. “Up until recently I would’ve agreed with you. But I realized that I’ve been confusing need with want. I need a job.
I don’t know if I want the one I thought I did.”
Marshall furrows his brow. “That’s a tough one. You want to talk about it?” He looks around at the party. More people have arrived. Students are always game for free alcohol, as he knew they would be. However, if he could, he’d snap his fingers and make them all disappear so he could be alone with Camila.
“Maybe later,” she says vaguely, pouring his drink into a clean glass.
Marshall drops five dollars into a tip jar. “Later then.”
“I’m glad you came tonight,” Camila says as she stacks the shakers and places them into a small box. “It was nice to have a friend around.”
“Students are terrible tippers, but you know I’d do anything for you,” Jared replies. He hooks a cord around the box of alcohol and stands. “At least I got to check out your secret boyfriend.”
Camila slaps his thigh. “Shh. He is not.”
“Oh please. You and Felicity should start a club. You guys can make a SLAM book and write Felicity + Todd and Camila + Marshall on the cover. This is so junior high with your sad, longing faces.” He presses his cheeks down. “A crush on your professor, and a crush on your boss, I swear I am living in the middle of a young adult drama.”
“Oh come on. You said they’re probably sleeping together. That’s not happening here.”
Jared puts a hand on his hip. “You’re lying to me, and you’re lying to yourself. I can see what’s going on. My vision is 20/10.”
“Enough. You’re being weird.”
“Pot, kettle, honey. I’ve known you for seven years, and I’ve never seen you act this strange.”
“But he’s my professor,” she whispers as the catering staff bustle around her, clearing out the dishes. Most of the party has emptied out with the exception of a few lawyers who seem to be friends of Marshall’s.
“No he isn’t. He teaches at the law school where you happen to be a student. I’m not an idiot. That’s gray area at best, but still within acceptable boundaries. And I should know a thing or two about boundaries because I’m always breaking them.” Jared hands her the container with the shakers. “Walk down with me and wait while I get a cab.”
Elizabeth Ann Hayes writes Romance under the pen name Vivian Winslow. Elizabeth was born in San Diego, California but has spent most of her adult life as the consummate wanderer. Her nomadic life took her abroad to Paris, Madrid, London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and São Paulo. After eleven moves across four continents over a span of seventeen years, her journey brought her back to New York City in 2011 where, despite the chaotic pace, she’s managed to make it home for herself and her family.
Since 2014, Elizabeth has published nine novellas in her Gilded Flower Trilogies as well as two installments of Wildflowers, a New Adult series of standalone novels. These contemporary romance books are female-driven with strong, beautiful and intelligent women as well as diverse characters, reflecting her own multi-cultural heritage. The inspiration for her books comes from a strong desire to break the mold in the genre, which largely portrays women as weak, subservient and having low self-esteem. Believing that stories have the power to influence attitudes and shift perspectives, Elizabeth writes in order to challenge this paradigm. She doesn’t mind being considered a feminist although she believes balancing the roles of men and women in literature honors both the masculine and feminine in everyone. But more than anything, her sincere hope is that her books foster the reader’s connection to their unique strengths, gifts and desires.