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She can’t forget him…
After dating her childhood sweetheart Max on and off for years, aspiring actress Nicola Charles is finally ready to move on. It’s time for her to focus on her stage career and stay away from Max-before he can break her heart again.
He’s never stopped loving her…
Max regrets hurting Nicola, but he wants another chance. So when his play loses its leading lady, giving Nicola the part seems like the perfect opportunity to win back his old flame.
But the course of true love–and a theater production–never do run smooth.
As Max fights to reignite Nicola’s love, the onstage antics can’t rival the bedlam backstage: a neurotic cast, a prickly crew, and an evil diva of a director who’s got designs on Max. As Nicola and Max battle to keep the drama onstage, Max can’t help wondering if their romance will end with the last performance. Or have the two of them finally captured what they’ve dreamed of all their lives?
For Nicola Charles, the yellow water was the breaking point.
She had already spent several hours working her way through five years of dust as she sorted all her worldly possessions. With her throat parched from that uncomfortable effort, she’d staggered past her friend, Cassie, to get a drink from the kitchen sink.
When Nicola turned on the tap, a long pause ensued followed by several ominous spit-takes from the sink. The faucet finally shot to life with a stream of dark yellow water.
Nicola stared for a long moment then said to Cassie, conversationally, “I’m moving.” With a firm hand, Nicola flicked the tap off and retreated from the sink.
Her friend Cassie, sitting cross-legged on the floor, didn’t even glance up from the old clothes she was sorting. “You just got here, Charlie-girl.”
“My water is yellow.”
Cassie shot her a bright, shit-eating grin. “Welcome back to California, Ms. Charles.”
“Is it too late to go on tour with Oklahoma?” Nicola kicked her way past a graveyard of empty boxes to reach her bed where yet another box lay half sorted.
“Don’t whine,” Cassie said. “It’s unbecoming in a woman your age.”
“What, they revoke your whining rights when you hit twenty-nine?”
“Yes.” Cassie lifted a sweater with a sailboat on the front and held the garment against her own chest, evaluating its merits. “Why is all this stuff so dusty?”
“I haven’t touched it in five years.” Why had Nicola even bothered storing this junk while she was on tour? All this crap was just an annoyance now.
She flung a stack of old script pages into the trash then reached into the moving box for her next armful. Her fingers bumped something metal, and her heart twisted as she realized what she was holding. She pulled the gold-framed photo of her and her ex out of the box.
Max. The name tore its way out of her back-brain, half sigh, half groan.
Stupid Max. She scowled at his blond handsomeness, at the grin on his gorgeous face, at the strong arms draped around her in the picture. Max: the mistake she had made at sixteen. And nineteen. And twenty-five. And —
She scowled at herself in the picture too. Five years younger. Five years dumber.
With an inner wrench, she tore her gaze off the frame and slapped the picture face down on the bed. She whirled toward Cassie. “This is what happens when you box up your life and ignore it for five years.”
“You outgrow it.” Nicola restrained an urge to throw that golden frame across the room. Stupid Max.
Cassie cocked her head to the side, black hair sliding over one pale, tattooed shoulder. “If you don’t want any of this, why did you pay to keep it in storage while you were on the road?”
Because it was easier than sorting through all of this. The photo frame seemed to pulse behind Nicola. The telltale snapshot. Five years ago it had been easier to package up all of her old life and forget it while she escaped unhindered into a new one.
Cassie was still watching her, so Nicola shrugged and said, “Storage seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Uh-huh. No more tours? I thought you were up for Anything Goes. What happened there?”
“I’m sick of touring. I want to stay in one place for more than six weeks. You know how it is. You gave it up too.”
“It’s because my roommate on that last tour was so annoying.” Cassie winked.
Nicola stuck her tongue out. “I’m not the one who snores.”
Cassie flapped her hand, brushing aside this inconvenient truth about herself. “Do you have any auditions out here yet?”
“I’ve got my feelers out.”
“Like a giant fire ant.”
“Sure.” Nicola put her pointer fingers on each side of her forehead and wiggled them like antennae, crossing her eyes at Cassie.
But her friend was not to be distracted; Cassie’s face was gently compassionate. “Nothing?”
“I’ve got prospects.” Nicola popped the lid on yet another banker’s box to avoid her friend’s sympathy. Things would turn around. Soon. Soon. I’ll get a job soon. This was the national anthem of the actor’s life.
“What’s the picture of?” Cassie asked, nodding toward the frame on the bed, obviously hoping to break the depressed silence with a new topic.
Nicola snatched up the infamous photo frame. “Doesn’t matter.” Without letting Cassie see the picture, and without glancing at Max, Nicola hurried to the kitchen trash and dumped the photo in with her empty pizza box from the night before. The picture thunked heavily into the bottom of the bin. “I’m done with the past!” Nicola proclaimed, flinging her arms wide in triumph.
Someone rapped on the door. Nicola jumped at the sound. Cassie raised a questioning eyebrow.
“Probably the landlord.” Nicola crossed to the door and yanked it open.
“Hi, Nicci,” Max said.
At the sight of him, her blood rabbited through her veins with a dizzying, painful thrum.
She stared at him in simple, stupid shock, worried he was some kind of stress-induced mirage.
But no, he was real enough — all six foot three of him standing on her doorstep.
He was still spectacularly good-looking. Handsome, chiseled face. Thick, waving blonde hair that had grown long enough to brush over his ears and forehead. Strong jaw with a scruff of stubble inching into a full-blown beard. A sensuous, mobile mouth. Piercing, sea blue eyes, and those damn laugh lines around them that added an extra layer of charm to his every smile.
Just your basic All-American, Grade-A, prime beefcake demi-god.
Noting her prolonged perusal, a lop-sided grin tucked itself into the corner of Max’s mouth.
The smile — that same teasing grin he’d always used to charm her out of being mad at him — that stupid smile broke his spell. “You always did have impeccable timing,” she said.
And then she slammed the door in his face.
I used to be an actress, and I performed in two productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream within a couple years. I played Hermia once and a fairy once. I can still quote almost the entire play, and if you poke me I can still do a bunch of Hermia’s lines. (Ask me sometime, I will totally do it!) So this play and the theater in general are really near and dear to my heart. I also love romances with actor heroes who actually do their job in the course of the book (as opposed to just swanning around being famous.) I can never find enough actor romances*, though, so I decided to write my own!
*If you know of any good ones please let me know; I am always looking for more actor books to read.
*”Prank Night” is an actual thing among theater-folk. Sometimes people are playing pranks on each other throughout the run of a show, sometimes it’s confined to one night on the last weekend. I remember flashing my bloomers at someone during An Ideal Husband right before they had to go onstage and act seriously. Eating onions and garlic right before kissing scenes is also very popular. I was once on a show where a male actor hid naked behind a potted plant just out of sight of the audience but in sight of one of the other actors who had to do the scene knowing he was there. Naked.
Theater folk are weird.
But fun! 😀
*I spent many years as an aspiring actress myself; I did a bunch of plays and some small films with friends.
*I interviewed several working actors from a local repertory theater company The Theatricum Botanicum.
*I watched all the productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I could get my hands on. My favorite ever was actually a production I saw live a million years ago at another local theater, A Noise Within, where Demetrius actually ran up the wall and flipped in a tiny, tiny blackbox theater.
*For Henry V I think Kenneth Branagh nailed the play overall with his version in the 1980s. I also love how he handles the meta-stuff with the narrator. HOWEVER, Tom Hiddleston made me cry when he did the St. Crispin’s day speech. I haven’t had opportunity to see this live yet, and that makes me sad. 😦
If you liked A Midsummer Night’s Fling, here are some things you might also enjoy:
*Slings & Arrows, a hilarious Canadian TV show about a floundering classical theater festival. Shakespeare references, romance, and hilarity abound.
*Again by Kathleen Gilles Seidel, my favorite “actor romance” ever. The book features a Regency era soap opera, the hero is an actor and the heroine is the head writer/creator of the show. Fabulous romance and so much juicy acting stuff! This is one of my favorite romances period. Seidel is a very talented author.
*All Over You by Sarah Mayberry, another great “actor romance”. The heroine is great. She’s sassy and a fan of vintage fashion. The hero in this is smoking hot.
*Jocelyn O’Roarke murder mystery series by Jane Dentinger. These are mysteries with a dash of romance. The amateur sleuth is a professional theater actress. The behind the scenes theater elements on this series are wonderful. I’ve reviewed the series before if you’re interested.
*Smash TV series is about a Broadway musical on the life of Marilyn Monroe. The show is very uneven, and it only lasted two seasons. But, for all that, when this show gets it right it gets it really right; the pilot and the last few episodes of the first season are particularly good.
*Suggestions for this section are welcome, by the way. I’m always looking for more good actor/theater related books and movies.