The Congressman’s Wife
by Charlene Keel
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
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All Eden Bancroft has ever been to her high-profile politician husband is a trophy wife, born and bred for the part. She believes she has no choice but to play it—until she meets a talented chef and restaurant heir who makes her feel loved for herself alone. The more her husband uses and belittles her, the more deeply Eden falls for Kaleb. Even with Mitchell’s congressional campaign in full swing, the lovers manage to find brief stolen moments together. When her husband is wounded by a bullet from a disgruntled lobbyist, Eden must stay by his side. What she learns can set her free, if she has the courage to take a stand.
The Insistent Spark
Paulie’s cabin was an old country house, right on the water, on a hill overlooking Hunter Lake. It was freezing inside, so cold they could see their breath in front of them.
“The place has been in the family for a few generations,” Paulie said. He flipped a switch and an overhead light in the living room came on. “Electric is on all year, but we never put in a heater.”
“But there’s a fireplace,” interjected Kaleb. “Why don’t I give the ladies a quick tour while you get a fire going?”
Paulie and Sybil had hit it off immediately. There was a fun kind of chemistry working between them—light and carefree and not at all like the insistent spark that smoldered, low and sweet, between Eden and Kaleb.
“There’s only one condition,” Eden had told Kaleb when she’d agreed to let him and Paulie hang out with her and Sybil for the day. “My husband is a public figure and—”
“And he’s not here,” Kaleb said.
“Some of his constituents may be. I have to be discreet.”
“I’ll walk five feet behind you at all times,” he said and she laughed again.
“I just . . . I don’t want to do anything that might hurt my kids.”
“Me either,” he said. That’s when he touched her for the first time. He took her hand in his and pressed it against his chest. She found the gesture surprisingly intimate.
First they hit the antique stores in Hunter Village. Then, at a gift shop, she bought t-shirts for the kids. After an innocent-looking lunch at the very public Hunter Steak House, they drove over to Ashland apple orchard where they ate warm apple pie with fresh whipped cream. Instead of having dinner at a restaurant, Kaleb had a better idea.
So they’d gone to a little gourmet market where he got some fruit, two loaves of home-baked bread, two local cheeses (cheddar and brie), two bottles of wine and a bottle of cognac. Eden thought Paulie’s cabin was wonderful. The living room had floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on the lake and offered a spectacular view of forest and mountains. There was a wood-burning stove in the small kitchen, along with a modern electric range and microwave oven. When they went back into the living room, Kaleb unwrapped the cheese and a rack of lamb they’d bought at the gourmet market and set it all up in front of the stone fireplace. Paulie had the kindling going, and the logs soon caught flame.
Kaleb got the lamb turning on the spit and made the fondue. Dipping chunks of bread and roasted meat into the warm, rich cheddar, they gorged themselves. Laughing, talking, telling jokes, eating and drinking, they put more logs on the fire and edged closer to it for warmth.
“You know,” Paulie said after a while, rising and helping Sybil up. “I’ve got an electric blanket upstairs somewhere. Want to help me find it?”
As Paulie and Sybil headed upstairs, Kaleb joined Eden, who was sitting on the floor, on a thick, luxurious bear rug. She took the poker and stirred the fire, making the flames leap higher. She had never wanted any man as she wanted Kaleb. She told herself it was the beautiful fall night and the charming old house that made it seem so romantic, but she knew it was more than that.
He watched her for a moment before he gently took the poker from her and rested it against the fireplace. Slowly, carefully, as if she were made of spun glass, he drew her to him. Lightly—so lightly their lips barely met—he kissed her. She tried to move away, but he wouldn’t let her go. He put one hand beneath her chin and lifted her face so he could look into her eyes. She saw the longing in his and her heart filled with a strange new emotion.
Before she lost her nerve, Eden kissed him, drinking from his lips as if she was dying of thirst. She had never been so attracted to a man, and the sheer force of it terrified her.
“I’m sorry.” She pushed him away. “I don’t know what I was thinking. This stops here. My husband is running for congress. This—is impossible.”
He kissed her again, and she responded with a sweet, insistent longing she couldn’t deny. It was the last time, she told herself, absolutely the last time.
Q & A with Charlene Keel
What books/authors have influenced your writing?
The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I’ve read it cover to cover at least 13 times. The story is spellbinding, so the first six or seven times it was for sheer enjoyment. It’s also the most beautiful piece of writing I’ve ever read so over the years, whenever I’d hit a wall with my own work, I’d take it out and read it again.
Also, I have to say—my co-author, Arie Pavlou, on The Congressman’s Wife. Working with him gave me such insight into the emotions of a man who is deeply in love . . . with the wrong woman.
Tell us something you hate doing. Why?
The laundry, because it’s boring and distracting and intrudes on my creative thought process.
What's your pet peeve?
Overuse of the word, very. When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher gave an automatic F to any paper with that word in it (I made the mistake only once). It’s not a great adjective, is it? Her philosophy was (and I agree) that with all the marvelous words in the English language, why would you choose one so nondescript?
Who was your favorite hero?
Wolf, in The Talisman. You have to read it to understand. He makes me laugh. He makes me cry. He gives me hope.
Have you ever had one character you wanted to go one way with but after the book was done the character was totally different?
Oh, yeah. It’s amazing when a character comes to life so strongly she develops a mind of her own and refuses to cooperate with me. It was during my work on Come Slowly, Eden, which was about a young FSU student paying her way through college by working as a call girl, with important political clients. It was banned in my home town, by the way (Tallahassee, FL). Maybe I came too close to the truth.
I had planned to have my character commit suicide at the end of the book but when I got to that point, I hit a three-month writer’s block. My then publisher, Leisure Books, was jumping up and down because I was past deadline—and it suddenly hit me. The character I’d created was too strong for that. After all she’d been through to survive, she would never, under any circumstance, end her own life. Once I figured that out, I was able to complete the book in a week. I’ve since recovered the rights and Come Slowly, Eden will be released by Red Sky Presents sometime soon.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Charlene Keel has written over a dozen novels and how-to books as well as multiple episodes of popular TV shows such as Fantasy Island and Days of our Lives. Her Dell book, Rituals, was the basis for the first made-for-syndication soap opera. Recently she co-authored The Tracks, a YA supernatural trilogy. Shadow Train, the final installment, won a Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewer’s Choice Award. Keel has also written screen adaptations of novels by bestselling authors, and has worked as editor or managing editor for a few international magazines. In her spare time she ghostwrites books and screenplays for celebrities, doctors, corporate moguls, spies, strippers and anyone who has an interesting story to tell.
Arie Pavlou is a popular chef who attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and then perfected his craft at some of the top-rated Michelin restaurants in France and New York. He has lived and worked in France, Cyprus and the U. S. and is an avid world traveler who speaks five languages. He enjoys all sports and has a talent for knife-throwing, which he perfected at Le Cordon Bleu. Currently Chef de Cuisine at the renowned Bridgehampton Inn in New York, his specialties include Caramelized Baked Alaska, Winter Salad, Roast Lamb Fondue, Wild Game and Poached Pears with Mint Ice Cream. The Congressman’s Wife is his first novel, and he’s currently writing a cookbook.