A Change of Pace for Gerri Russell

My guest today is well known for her Scottish historical romances, but now she’s branching out.  Her first contemporary romance, Flirting with Felicity is a February release from Amazon Montlake.  As of this posting, it’s #1 in Contemporary Fiction in the Kindle store.  

Congratulations and welcome, Gerri! How did this change of pace come about?

gerri-photoHow I started writing contemporaries isn’t a very exciting story. My editor asked me if I’d like to write a contemporary romance, and I said yes. The interesting part was deciding what to write. I figured if I was going to venture into unknown territory, the most important thing would be to write about something I know. So, I set the book in Seattle, where I live, and made the heroine a chef. I’m no chef, but I do love to cook and I’ve taken many cooking classes from professional chefs over the years…the rest just kind of fell into place.

How does writing in a contemporary setting differ from writing in a historical one?

Writing in a contemporary setting was great fun for a research geek like me. I loved being able to simply walk down the street to find out what something looked like, instead digging through research books or hopping on a plane. Although I did have to hop on a plane in order to research the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The things we have to do in the name of research, right?

One thing I absolutely delighted in while writing my first contemporary was the language. Every day felt like Christmas when I got to use words I could never have typed in my medievals—words like automatic, mesmerize, and picnic. It made writing feel fresh and joyful.

What is Flirting for Felicity about?


Felicity Wright never expected to inherit the hotel where she works as head chef. But now, she’ll do anything to keep the Bancroft Hotel operating—even if that means mixing it up with the late owner’s handsome nephew, Blake Bancroft. He’s here to challenge her unexpected inheritance of the Bancroft Hotel, and there’s no way either of them are walking away without a fight.

When his uncle wills away his family’s oldest property, Blake Bancroft cooks up a plan to get it back. To check out his competition, he’ll need to check in. Too bad his first encounter with Felicity proves to be anything but smooth. As their battle over ownership begins, things begin to heat up between them—and not just in the kitchen. Their attraction may be a recipe for disaster. Yet with the right ingredients, it could turn into a recipe for love…

What keeps Felicity and Blake apart?

Both Felicity and Blake want the Bancroft Hotel, each for their own reasons.

For Blake: The Bancroft is part of Blake’s heritage. The hotel is Bancroft Industries flagship hotel. Blake wants nothing more than to make a shining example of what older hotels can become with regard to Green certification.

For Felicity: She needs the hotel to generate income so her father can have the experimental surgery she’s been saving for years to give him. His brain was damaged years ago in a tragic car accident that killed her mother. Felicity is also desperate to keep the hotel to save her employees’ jobs.

Would you like to share an excerpt?

RussellGerri-FlirtingwithFelicity-FT-v3While her crew finished closing down the kitchen, Felicity headed out to check on things in the bar. After eleven, only Michael and Casper would remain on duty to serve a limited menu to the late-night patrons of the bar. However, she always liked to see how busy they were before heading home. The thought brought a smile. Tonight, her journey home would only involve a trip to the second floor. Living in the hotel had its perks.

The cozy leather wingback chairs were filled with Seattleites and visitors just as in days past. She’d learned today that this very room once hosted the Vanderbilts and the Guggenheims upon opening over 105 years ago. The lounge’s signature drinks still welcomed authors, musicians, and artists. At the highly polished mahogany bar, Ryan, her bartender, garnished a Haute Toddy with a cinnamon stick and a lemon twist before setting it on Valerie’s tray to be delivered to one of their guests.

At her approach, Ryan smiled. “Sit yourself down for a minute.”

Felicity slipped into one of the tall wooden chairs at the busy bar and took off her chef’s cap. She smoothed her fingers over her hair, tidying any loose strands back toward her usual ponytail. “Things are hopping tonight.”

He reached behind him for a tall flute and a bottle of champagne. “Nothing we can’t handle.” He filled the flute with bubbly liquid and set it before her.

“What’s this?”

“A small celebration of your exciting news,” Ryan said with a wide smile. “Not every day a girl inherits a fortune.”

Felicity contemplated the bubbles erupting inside her glass. She ached to talk to someone who would understand the fear and the joy that whispered through her since the reading of Vern’s will. She was tempted to pour out her troubles to the man who had proven more than once what a good listener he was. Instead, she only allowed her fear to take form as a thought: It’s not mine yet. She lifted her glass in a salute. “Cheers.” She took a sip.

“Enjoy, and let me know if I can do anything to help,” he said before moving away to serve another customer.

At this point, she wasn’t sure she could do anything other than trust that she could make Blake see why she so desperately wanted to keep what Vern had given her. She continued to stare down into her glass as the sound of soft, soulful rhythm of Brazilian jazz tried to soothe her.

“Is this seat taken?”

At the sound of Blake’s voice, her heart gave a wild leap. She twisted around to see him.

He stood a few feet behind her, tall and straight. He’d changed out of his suit and into faded blue Levi’s and an expensive-looking gray sweater. If it were possible, he looked even more handsome than he had this morning, despite the loss of his three-thousand-dollar suit.

Great. She’d hoped to look her best the next time they met, not garbed in the most unattractive uniform possible. Her chef’s coat and black pants had always been comforting to her before this moment. “It’s a public place. I can’t stop you from sitting wherever you choose,” she said, trying to recover her balance and ignore the tug of his eyes and voice.

Taking her discouraging words as an invitation, he slid into the seat beside her. “Celebrating?” he asked with a nod at her glass.

She shrugged. “A gift from Ryan,” she said a little breathlessly as she raised her champagne flute and took a sip.

Blake signaled for Ryan. The bartender answered Blake’s summons instantly. “What’ll it be?”

“The same,” he said, motioning to Felicity’s glass.

Ryan turned and filled another flute with champagne. When he returned, he set Blake’s glass before him, then set the bottle between them. “Let me know if you need anything else,” he said before moving away.

“To the next two days together,” Blake toasted as he leaned forward.

Their gazes held. The moment spilled out, lengthened in an odd way that made her heartbeat speed up. “Yes, and may the best person win.” She’d almost said “man,” before she’d caught herself. She didn’t need to give him any more of an edge, even verbally, than he already had.

What’s next for you?

Later this year, I’ll be launching a new contemporary series that begins with Along Came Mr. Right. The series follows four friends who all belong to the Unlucky in Love club.

Flirting with Felicity is available in January as an e-book through the Kindle First program. The book will be released in e-book, print, and audio on February 1st.

For more information about Gerri and her books, you can visit her website, http://gerrirussell.net, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Gerri is giving one commenter today a choice of a paperback copy or a Kindle download of Flirting with Felicity.  So tell us about your favorite book or movie about hotels or chefs.

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  • Jane says:

    Congrats on the upcoming release, Gerri. I’ve enjoyed a few of your Templar books. One of my favorite romances featuring a chef is “Never Resist Temptation” by Miranda Neville.

    • Gerri Russell says:

      Jane, Good morning! Thanks so much for stopping by. I’ve never read NEVER RESIST TEMPTATION. I’ll have to check it out!

    • Jane, congrats on snagging the rooster!

      I love Gerri’s Templars, too. Haven’t read the Miranda Neville, but I’ll have to check it out.

  • flchen1 says:

    How yummy, Gerri! Our family is fascinated by food, so our new addiction is Master Chef Junior 🙂 We’re amazed by the contestants, and if it motivates our kids to learn how to do more cooking themselves, that’s also a win!

    I think one of the movies we’ve found fascinating is Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about an 85-year-old sushi master 🙂 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiro_Dreams_of_Sushi

    • Gerri Russell says:

      I will have to check out Jiro Dreams of Sushi. My kids all love Sushi. Thanks for the link, too. One movie in that same style that we all love around our house is called Tampopo…where a trucker stops at a restaurant and meets a woman who tries to make the best noodle soup. It’s very funny.

    • Hi, Fedora–

      We haven’t seen Master Chef Junior, but it looks like a lot of fun. While sushi is not a big favorite of mine, the boy loves it. This movie sounds very interesting.

  • Cathy P says:

    Congratulations, Gerri! You are a new author for me, so I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of your books yet. I can’t think of any favorite books or movies about hotels or chefs right off hand.

  • Mary Preston says:

    This sounds like a fabulous read.

    I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie movies set in grand hotels. So many unsuspecting & intriguing suspects.

    • Gerri Russell says:

      No doubt about it, Agatha Christie is one of the true writing masters. I read so many of her books as a teenager. It might be time to dust them off and read them again. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.

    • Mary, I didn’t think about Agatha Christie. I haven’t read one of hers in a while.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Gerri

    Congrats on the release this one sounds fantastic 🙂

    I am not a big movie watcher but one book that comes to mind is Kandy Shepherd’s A Diamond in Her Stocking and it is set in a small coastal town here in Australia and centres around a café there 🙂

    Have Fun

    • Gerri Russell says:

      Helen, The movie sounds great! I love a small town setting where you can really get into the characters and their lifestyle. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had have been in small, coastal cafes.

    • Helen, for a while it seemed like there were a fair number of books published in the US with Australian settings, especially historicals. Those seem to have been casualties of the narrowing range of published settings, at least out of NY.

  • Laurie G says:

    The movie SOMEWHERE IN TIME took place in the beautiful THE GRAND HOTEL on Mackinac Island.

  • Patty L. says:

    Congrats in your first contemporary release. I can’t wait to read it. I love the movie Maid In Manhattan, not the chef and owner but the hotel is similar. Have you ever read the Cupcake series by Donna Kauffman? The chef/baker is a favorite of mine.

    • Gerri Russell says:

      Hi Patti, I believe that Maid in Manhattan was filmed at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. That hotel was built in the same era as the hotel in my book. Hotels from that age hard a certain charm that is hard to equal even today.

    • Patti, I’ve never seen Maid in Manhattan, but I’ve heard it’s good. I love those old NY hotels.

  • ellie says:

    Wonderful post which is captivating and perfect for today. I love books about hotels and chefs. My ultimate favorite movie is Mostly Martha.

  • anne says:

    Congratulations on your debut contemporary novel. Sounds appealing. A movie which I enjoyed greatly about a hotel, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

  • jcp says:

    Made in Manhatten with Jennifer Lopez

  • pearl says:

    Your release sounds like a real winner. The Hundred Foot Journey was memorable, emotional and lovely. Food, chefs and much more.

    • Gerri Russell says:

      Pearl, Thanks for stopping by. I ~loved~ The Hundred Foot Journey. Not only was the acting superb, that movie made me hungry! I wanted French cuisine.

      Does that happen to anyone else while watching or reading books with food themes?

      I purposely included the recipes I “created” in FLIRTING WITH FELICITY in the back of the book. Many readers have already emailed me about how much they enjoyed making Felicity’s macaroni and cheese.

    • Pearl, the dh and I have been wanting to see that movie. We missed in theaters (as we so often do).

  • Elaina says:

    So delightful to learn about this great book and a new author for me. This book and series sounds very interesting. Since I am old school a movie which I saw many years ago and loved was Grand Hotel.

    • Hi, Elena–

      I’ve loved everything Gerri has ever written, so I’m sure you would like her books! Grand Hotel is one of those movies we keep meaning to rent and not getting to. I hear it’s great.

      • Gerri Russell says:

        It was the mutual admiration of each other’s writing that introduced Nancy and I in the first place. 🙂 We’ve been friends and supporters of each other ever since.

        • Which is kind of miraculous when you consider that it was through the Golden Heart that we met (the only two finalists in paranormal with magic books, as I recall), that it’s a competition, and that I’m fiercely competitive.

          Gerri’s wonderful book won, and I asked her if I could read it. She said yes, if she could read mine, and that enjoyment of each other’s work cemented a budding friendship.

          We were actually introduced by a mutual friend, an author who has been on the blog from time to time, Eilis Flynn. And then we got to talking at the finalists reception.

    • Gerri Russell says:

      Hi Elaina, Nice to “meet” you! I just looked up the Grand Hotel…the 1932 version. Wow. It looks fun. Lots of big names in that one. I also see that it won an Oscar. Definitely going on the to-watch list.

  • This book looks soooo good! Welcome back to the Lair, Gerri, and congrats on you first contemporary! I just ordered it. 🙂

    The heroes of my first few Desires were all hotel moguls and I’ve always loved that kind of dynamic, romantic, exotic setting. Even when it’s in the middle of a big city, there’s just something wonderful about a grand hotel … right?

    Congrats again and lots of luck with Felicity. 🙂

    • Hi, Kate–

      I love your hotel guys! I’ve read bits of Flirting for Felicity–have my copy ordered for the official sale date–and I love that, too.

    • Gerri Russell says:

      Kate, Thanks for popping in! And thank you also for ordering my book! You are so very sweet.

      I remember those early Desires. They were great. I see you also have a book coming out later this month. :-)I’m going to go over to Amazon and check it out.

  • catslady says:

    Last year I saw 100 foot Journey which was about food and two restaurants in competition – quite enjoyable. Congrats on your new endeavor. Grace Burrowes just put out a contemporary after years of writing historicals. It’s on my tbb list.

    • Catslady, I’ve heard that movie is really good. We keep missing things we want to see, and that was one of them.

      I love Grace’s historicals and am looking forward to her contemporaries.

    • Gerri Russell says:

      Hi Catslady, The One Hundred Foot Journey was fantastic. It seems to be one of the popular movies of the blog today.

      I didn’t know Grace changed to contemporaries. I’ll be on the lookout now!

  • Shannon says:

    There’s something romantic about hotels. And I have had some treat me amazingly well.

    Two different ones have given me suites when I booked a regular room. It really mattered in 2001 when I had no where to do, nothing to do but wait.

    Another hotel was huge and luxurious. There were jet-skis at the pier, multiple pools, a bowling alley, and a night garden with a nightengale or two. On my birthday, they sent up a cake and flowers for the occasion and urged me to have dinner at the roof top restaurant. (Only a luxury hotel would catch my birthdate on my passport.)

    • Shannon, what terrific hotel experiences! We’ve lucked into upgrades on repeat visits a couple of times, but nothing that posh.

      The closest thing is a Marriott where, after I mentioned to the clerk that the dh and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary, surprised us with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in the room when we came back from a day of sightseeing.

    • Gerri Russell says:

      Hi Shannon, Your hotel experiences sound amazing. I’ve only been upgraded once, and that was at the hotel in Seattle that I based the Bancroft Hotel on in FLIRTING WITH FELICITY. Once they knew I was an author and featuring their hotel in a book, they were very accommodating.