Jesse Hayworth on Reunion Romances: We Should Totally Hang Out…Not!

My guest today is a familiar face in two different incarnations.  As Jesse Hayworth she writes terrific contemporary Western romances.  As Jessica Andersen, she gave us the dynamite paranormal Nightkeepers series and several great romantic suspense adventures.  Today she’s going to chat with us about what happens when exes reconnect.  Welcome, Jesse, and take it away! 

Headshot_3_sept_12124Howdy! Jesse Hayworth here, and I’m delighted to be back at the Romance Bandits to celebrate a new Book Birthday. Whee! *Confetti.* *Party horns.*

Yes, indeedy, Harvest at Mustang Ridge is available today! This is the third Mustang Ridge book, but it can be read alone if you haven’t discovered the series yet. These contemporary romances are set at a Wyoming dude ranch, and have lots of down-home ranch cooking, family dynamics, animals that tug on heartstrings and provide comic relief … and, of course, hot romances with sassy cowgirls and hunky cowboys.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I love a good reunion romance. There’s something really awesome about two people who used to be crazy in love finding their ways back to each other after many years. More, it can be a fun way to pick up the pace of a story, because the hero and heroine already know lots about each other, and their long-ago breakup provides some solid conflict from the get-go. (Cue me thinking about my first boyfriend walking back into my life …)

As Jessica Andersen, I have enjoyed writing reunions into many of my action-adventure romances—this works nicely because the plot usually forces the hero and heroine to work together (or against each other), making them spend time together even when their instincts are telling them to stay away from that tempting—but toxic—hottie. So I was looking forward to writing Krista and Wyatt’s reunion romance under my Jesse Hayworth pseudonym. I mean, what’s not to like? The young female owner of a luxury dude ranch hooks back up with the rodeo cowboy-turned-metal sculptor who broke her heart back in college, and sparks fly! When I actually started writing, though, I quickly ran into an unexpected challenge.

Raise your hand if, upon running into the guy who broke your heart back in the day, your first instinct would be to say, “Yeah, we should totally train a mustang together. When can you start?”

*Jesse looks around for raised hands. Doesn’t see many.*

Cover_with_updated_quoteYeah. That was an issue. Because without invoking a Big Cliché like stranding Krista and Wyatt together in a blizzard (it’s the wrong time of year), whipping out a will that requires them to live together for a year before inheriting (I didn’t want to kill off Gran or Big Skye!) or pulling out of thin air a secret baby that somehow hadn’t been in the first two books, I was stuck wondering why, when Krista runs into Wyatt for the first time in a decade, she doesn’t just head for the hills. Or maybe make awkward “hey, how are you” conversation for a minute before agreeing that they should totally get together, then losing his number as she walks away.

I mean, sure, there are sparks, but heartbreak has a way of teaching us that sparks aren’t always enough, right? Granted, chemistry is a big part of the reason why Krista and Wyatt do end up working together to train that mustang for a big competition that will fund her next big dream. But there had to be other reasons, too, and it took me a while to find them. In the end, it all boils down to tough choices, doesn’t it?

So how about you? If you ran into your ex, would you hug him? Pretend not to recognize him? Push him into the nearest alligator-infested swamp? Or, if you don’t want to go there, do you like reunion romances, and do you have any recommendations for me? All of today’s commenters will be entered to win a copy of Harvest at Mustang Ridge by random drawing!

In the meantime, please check out my website for an excerpt (, like me on Facebook (, follow me on Twitter ( and sign up for my newsletter (

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  • flchen1 says:

    Ooh, Jesse! Can’t believe I’m already a couple books behind in this fantastic series! Can’t wait to get caught up! As for reunion romances, I tend to be a sucker for them–I love that idea that there’s a second chance for many of us, and it’s so lovely when that second chance pans out for some of these characters!

    As for me though, I’m not sure how I’d react. I think because I can see that these exes weren’t the best fit, I would probably try to be cordial and then quickly move on. I think the key to the successful reunion story is seeing that the two are still a good match, maybe an even better match because they’ve grown in ways that make them better suited for partnership…

    A few favorite reunion stories–Line of Scrimmage by Marie Force; About That Night by Julie James; Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey; Love’s Rhythm by Lexxie Couper; Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas…

    • flchen1 says:

      Oh, and Molly O’Keefe’s Crazy Thing Called Love–that was great!

      • flchen1 says:

        Oh, and Addison Fox’s Just in Time–also a great second-chance story…

      • flchen1 says:

        Jeannie Watt’s The Baby Truce…

        And actually RG Alexander’s The Playboy’s Menage is actually a second-chance story as well.

        Guess I’ve been reading a lot of second-chance stories recently!

    • Hee! It sure looks like you’ve been doing your homework, Fedora! That’s a great list, and I think you make an excellent point that it’s important that the hero and heroine are a better match the second time around (or at least have the potential to become so by the end of the book).

    • Fedora, I’d forgotten About That Night. I love that book!

      Looks like the GR is coming to plague–er, visit you today. He’s been kind of snippy lately, so don’t hesitate to call him to order.

  • Amy Conley says:

    Love reunion romances. And there are three exes I would just grab and hug, but several others I would pretend not to see.

    • That’s cool that you’ve got any exes that fall under the ‘hug’ category, Amy! My hubby is that guy–his first GF came to our wedding (with her hubby), and is lovely, and he has only good things to say about the others. Me … well, I’m not that generous! Mine would range from awkward conversation and a quick escape to ‘gaaaahhhhh!’ (Muppet flail as I bolt.)

    • Amy, I’m so with you on the not seeing! I’ve always been glad I don’t move in the same circles as the ex I’d rather not encounter.

      • Amy Conley says:

        After thinking about this all day, thdre’s really 4. If one hadn’t passed away there would be 5.
        There is a great song by Night Ranger titled ” Forever ( All Over Again)”. If I ever get the chance to write my own book, this will be the title and it will be exes coming back together after several years apart.

  • Mary Preston says:

    I’m looking forward to reading about how you pulled the story altogether without either party resorting to Google maps re: alligator swamps.

    Whenever I run into someone from my past, I generally let them know, in no uncertain terms, how deliriously happy I am. That could be the alcohol talking though.

    • ROFLOL on Google maps re: alligator swamps. That’s an awesome way to start the morning, thank you, Mary! As for pulling the story together, I fervently hope that I did! This book was hard for me to write, for a number of reasons. Though often those are the ones that work the best, because I’ve put in the extra blood, sweat and tears.

    • Mary, I also love the alligator swamps reference. And I’d just like to remind everyone the Okefenokee is 700 square miles of alligator habitat. Just sayin’ *g*

      I totally agree that happiness is the best revenge. If alcohol helps, why not?

  • Helen says:

    Hi Jesse

    Congrats on the release I really need to get these books and them find some more time to catch up on my TBR pile 🙂

    I too love reunion stories and I don’t have any exes really LOL I have been married for 37 years and we started dating when I was 15 and he 17 🙂

    Sarah Morgan’s story Suddenly Last Summer 🙂

    Have Fun

    • Awwww, congrats on 37 years, Helen! That’s lovely. And I wouldn’t say you’re missing anything by not having an ex story! Ohh, I read Suddenly Last Summer. That was a *fun* book 🙂

    • Helen, I think we’d all like more time for our TBR piles. They just grow so fast….

      Congrats to you and Hubby for the 37 years! You’re not missing anything by not having exes.

  • Howdy, all! *big wave* I’m thrilled to be here today to celebrate the launch of HARVEST! Nancy, thanks so much for having me 🙂

    I’m headed out for a few hours (morning chores at the horse rescue where I volunteer a couple of days a week), but will catch up with comments around noon EST. Can’t wait to chat with you then!

  • Laney4 says:

    I would probably hug my previous boyfriend (from 35 years ago) if I recognized him and he recognized me at the same time. (Otherwise I might pretend not to see him and keep on trucking.) Any boyfriends previous to that I would probably be awkward with, as I didn’t date them for very long. (They dumped me when I didn’t do what they wanted me to do … ahem.)
    That being said, I DID write a sympathy card for my old BF’s dad when the mom died of cancer a couple of years ago. A couple of weeks later, the old BF phoned me. We caught up on our respective marriages and adult children, and he asked me to meet him for coffee. That’s when I said no. I was OK with talking on the phone, but I didn’t want people talking about us, as it might hurt my husband’s feelings, even though I know he trusts me. It really was a good phone conversation, though, and I hung up feeling like he was my high-school friend and not my BF.

  • Kate Sparks says:

    Man, I’d just ignore him.

  • Jesse, I love this post! As for what I would do if I were to meet an ex, well, that would depend on which one. There’s one I would have no time for and not make any bones about it–which is exactly what he should expect if his brain cells are still powering his memory.

    The others, I could mostly have a brief, casual chat with except for the one or two who were my friends first and still are even though we’re not often in touch.

    I love reunions of exes, but now that you’ve asked, I’m drawing a total blank. I’ll have to come back to that later in the day. After more caffeine. 🙂

    • Snort on “brain cells still powering his memory” … we are talking about a guy, yanno. (Looks around guiltily to make sure Arizona isn’t reading over my shoulder.) Addendum: a guy dumb enough to treat you wrong in the first place! So, brain cells aren’t a given. And yes, he should stay in the past!

  • Joan Kayse says:

    Mornin’ ladies.

    Reunions can be fun…except high school :0

    No ex’s to worry about from me BUT my Mom’s fondest memories from her single years was a DUDE ranch…she never elaborated though 😀

    Love your NIghtkeepers and know I’ll love this series too!

  • sandyg265 says:

    I don’t have any past relationships that were that serious so I’d probably just say hi.

  • bn100 says:

    not a fan of reunion books

  • I truly doubt I’d recognize any of my exes as that was 40+ years ago. I went to a high school reunion a few years back and barely recognized anyone! LOL. So much time has passed that should I meet any of them, we’d sit down and have a long chat. Life’s been good – I have no regrets.

    But had I bumped into them maybe three or four years after we broke up – well, that would have been awkward. As I was generally the one breaking it off, I might be the one in that alligator swamp! 🙂

    Sounds like a great emotional read, Jesse!

    • Donna, that’s a good point about recognition. I’ve changed a lot since high school–or I think I have, anyway–and I would imagine guys have, too.

    • I love that you’re in such a good place, Donna! And I guess you’ve got a point about the distance of time. My most recent ex? No way. The others? Yeah, coffee would be fine.

  • Cassondra says:

    Wow, Jesse, great question. I don’t want to see old boyfriends. Nope. Don’t. I’d go out of my way to NOT see them. And I absolutely love reunion stories, and I always think it’s amazing what authors come up with to force people together. I recently re-read Jill Shalvis’s story about Ford and Tara (Book 2 in Lucky Harbor– I can’t ever remember the titles of those books, only the characters). And *SPOILER ALERT******that’s one of the best twists I’ve ever seen–having the baby they gave up when they were kids show up to get to know her birth parents. Talk about forcing a couple together….yeah, that’ll do it.

    I admit that I sometimes go “Oh, a blizzard trope,” or “Oh a matchmaker trope” when I start a book and one of the cliche tropes is used to force them together. But you know what? I generally accept it and keep on reading, because I want the ride with the couple. I think I like reunion stories because the potential for deeper pain means potential for a deeper connection. I don’t know for sure but I know I love stories like these.

    • Oooh, Cassondra, I like your point about the depth of the pain adding layers to the present conflict. And I’m with you on being willing to roll with a trope, especially if it’s well written.

    • Cassondra, that was a great story, the Shalvis one. I know what you mean about tropes. I follow along anyway, too, because they’re really just a springboard for the story.

      I have to echo Jesse’s appreciation for your comment about pain and connection. Very insightful!

  • catslady says:

    Have to say how much I enjoyed your Nightkeepers series! I really don’t have any exes because I married my first love. I’m pretty sure though that I’d be a hard sell if I did have one. My one daughter has had 3 or 4 and will never say anything bad about them and has kept friendly enough with them although mostly they think that means she would get back together with them but she is smarter than that (at least in her case – none of them deserved another chance lol) but I like the idea of them redeeming themselves if they really, really changed lol.

  • I actively avoid exs. I do feel that a few of them should be placed in an airtight glass box filled with hungry, malaria-infested mosquitoes for 24 hours. That’d be super fun! It’d be the gift that keeps on giving.

  • Love reunion stories and am so looking forward to reading Krista and Wyatt ‘ tale.

    As for the “ex”, we’ll I can say without a doubt, there will be no hugs doled out by me. The ones who came before him? Sure, I’d give them hugs and I’d tell them all thanks, because they helped point me in the right direction to finding my Prince Charming, who is worth every toad I had to kiss.

    • Gail, I so agree with you. Finding the prince is worth wading through a few toads (and nice guys, too) along the way!

    • Gail, that’s a really good point–I’m grateful to Those Who Came Before because from them (in part) I learned the things I needed to in order to be ready to meet Arizona … or so says the grownup part of me. (The stunted teenager within just grumbles ‘whatev’.) LOL!

  • Rita Wray says:

    I would say “hi” and walk away. I don’t want to be mean because sometimes things don’t work out and that is how life is.

    I do like reunion stories, they are fun reading.

  • Paula R. says:

    I love reunion stories. Maybe it’s that hopeless romantic in me…lol! It’s great to see how the hero and heroine overcome the obstacles they faced before so they can find love and happiness together now. I’m not sure I would love it as much in real life though.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

    • Hi, Paula–I don’t think the ex thing works as smoothly in real life, either, though a couple of my friends, who who dated in high school, broke up in college, and married other people, met at a reunion after they were both divorced and are now married. For them, it’s working. For me, even if the dh were not in the picture, I don’t think it would.

    • Ditto Paula (and hey, girlfriend!). LOL, Nancy–that’s a cool story, and I agree that your friends are probably the exception rather than the rule!

  • Jesse, welcome back to the lair! The new book sounds fabulous and I love the cover! I’ve had a yen to go to Wyoming ever since I was a horse mad little girl and I read the Mary O’Hara books over and over again. She made that part of America sound just so breathtakingly beautiful.

    Had to laugh at your options for getting your characters to stay together. Yeah, a sudden secret baby might have caused a few eyebrows to lift for people who had read the earlier stories! Myself, I’m very fond of a blizzard or two! At least at a distance and at least if the possibility of being trapped with a hot cowboy exists! 🙂

    Good luck with the new release! I hope it sells a motzer!

    • Hi, Anna–

      All the covers for these books are gorgeous, aren’t they? I love the cheery Western aura they evoke.

    • Hi Anna! *waves* Thanks for the kind words, and snicker on the super-sekrit baby (you know, the one that neither the hero or heroine knows about …). I’m a fan of blizzards, tis true, but having used one in the prior book–and, well, this one being set in the summer–I had to stretch. LOL!

  • Liz F says:

    Well….one of my exes would get big hugs and “how are ya’s!” because we didn’t break up because we didn’t like each other any more, I just had to move. Another one however, I’m not sure if I would ignore him or just ask him if he cut the apron strings yet. He had Mommy issues…really bad.

    Happy Release Day!!

  • Shannon says:

    Meeting exes–it would depend on the ex. I keep avoiding my ex-husband’s repeated requests to friend him on Facebook. Why would I be interested in his new wife, their babies, and his 100 mile bicycle races. Yes, I know someone who IS his Facebook friend.

    I did meet my first boyfriend about 20 years later. His former roommate and I got together for dinner. He was a passionate young man, and he was a passionate adult–he had become a complete health nut and an extreme conservative politically and religiously. After talking with him, I was so glad we never went further than we did. His roommate whom I always liked was still as nice and kind as ever.

    There is one ex I wouldn’t mind seeing again. I know he married his old high school sweetheart. And no, I haven’t looked on Facebook to find him. *g*

    As for reunion stories, I’m not a huge fan. Mama Mia comes to mind. Someone mentioned Sarah Morgan’s latest; delightful. A Dragon’s Bride by Jo Beverley comes to mind, although her other tropes/novels appeal to me more.

    Congrats on the release.

    • Shannon, I’d forgotten Mamma Mia! I love the music.

      Facebook can be a boon or a curse. I can’t imagine an ex on there except for the ones who were originally, and then were again, friends.

    • Hi Shannon! Thanks for the congrats and for sharing your story! I enjoyed it, and did some nod-nod while reading. And I’ll confess–I’ve never seen Mama Mia!

  • Becke says:

    If you ran into your ex, would you hug him?
    I didn’t really have an X because I dated lots of guys, but never really had a guy that was special until my dh.

    I like the reunion romance because it’s fun to see if they get it right the second time around.

    Maybe the dude ranch is suffering and a sculpture from his would give her press.

  • Maureen says:

    Congratulations on the new book Jesse! I do like reunion romances but they must be tough to write because there has to be a reason that they aren’t together anymore.

    • Hi, Maureen. Reunion stories could run the gamut, I guess, from mutual fault to one person being a jerk, though he (or she) would have a lot of redeeming to do.

    • Hey Maureen! And nod-nod to the challenge, especially when you don’t have a mystery or prophecy or whatnot forcing the characters together. I love writing the Mustang Ridge books, but some days I’m tempted to toss in a demon or two-LOL.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Jesse, I am one who digs a reunion romance. It’s tough, though, when there is significant history or there was a messy breakup. It’s easier if he ran off to, you know, fight in the Peninsular War or something. Harder if he dumped the heroine for a gum-popping hottie with big hooters, you know?

    I was actually thinking about this recently, because I was talking to my hairdresser about the guy who really, really broke my heart. The one I was desperately in love with who moved to the other side of the country. What would I do if I saw him again? I’m sure I would smile and give him a big hug! For one thing, I’m very safely and happily married, so it’s no risk to my heart. For another, it’s been almost 30 years and time heals those wounds and leaves virtually no scarring. I would love to catch up with him now. And wonder “what if” a few thousand more times! 😀

    • Hi Caren! LOLOL on the big hooters! That’s so true, and part of what got me in trouble with this book, in that the hero, Wyatt, left the heroine for the open road, and still has that same tendency. So even though I knew that he had changed, it wasn’t easy to get it on the page!

      Love that you’d go with the big hug 🙂

  • Caren, yes, way easier if the end is a noble sacrifice rather than just a dumping.:-)

  • Kimh says:

    Ignore him , congrats on book

  • Well, folks, that’s it for me. Thanks so much for having me, Nancy, and for the Banditas and your readers for swinging by and helping me celebrate my new release, and dish about our exes! (And mosquito torture …)

    Stay tuned for a winner, and happy reading!


  • Marcy Shuler says:

    I love reunion romances because it’s so fun to see how people have changed…and how they’ve stayed the same since they were last together.

    And if my ex was around I would just walk on by. He’s an ex for a reason. 😉