Cleve Black Horse won me a lovely golden statue.
This is the RITA Award, given annually in several categories by Romance Writers of America. THIS TIME FOREVER won for Best Single Title Contemporary Romance in 1993. Yes, that would be coming up on 20 years ago, but I would say it’s a book that stands the test of time. And to prove it, the book has just been reborn. Terrific new cover, wonderful new publisher—Bell Bridge Books, of course—and three new formats—e-book, audio, and trade paperback. We made a few editorial tweaks, but no wall phones have been traded in for cellular, and Cleve is still a Vietnam vet. We discussed updating a few gizmos, my editor and I, but setting is an integral part of this story, and while I think its appeal is pretty timeless, I know that one change would have led to another, and we would have ended up with a different book. And we’d lose this one.
THIS TIME FOREVER—on sale now in e-book, audio and trade paperback formats—is the story of a down-on-his-luck cowboy who is sent to prison for a murder he didn’t commit and an ER nurse who’s on the jury that convicts him. The idea came from a story a good friend told me of her experience on a jury. It was a murder trial, and she was quite young, and the accused was an American Indian. She felt that the evidence was circumstantial, and she held out as the only “not guilty” vote, but eventually she caved. She was the only one, so maybe she was missing something, maybe she was naive, maybe, maybe. But it haunted her. The man served two years before the real murderer turned up.
Okay, so what if…
What if the juror crossed paths with the prisoner again? What she found out she needed something from him? A crime and a courtroom setup has the emotions and the conflict built in, but bring in a tense relationship—bigtime approach-avoidance—and you have the makings of an unusual romance.
Set in Bismarck, Mandan and Fort Yates, North Dakota, this is a story in which setting is almost a character. I was living there when I wrote it—had been for many years—but research into the courts and the penitentiary was extensive. I’ll have to tell you about my prison visits sometime. There were editors who felt that the idea couldn’t work, that Cleve and Susan would spend too much of the book apart. They were wrong. When the two aren’t in each other’s face, they’re in each other’s head.
I’m so glad Bell Bridge Books is giving new life to this book. It’s been out of print for years, which means there aren’t that many used copies left, and I still get notes from readers who say they’ve hung onto their copies and read it several times.
The Prologue begins with an owl’s call, and I hear one outside in my woods right now. Cleve doesn’t like that sound much, but I do. I’ve always been a night owl. Best time to hunt for stories.
Is there a book you keep around for the occasional re-read? Tell us about it. What draws you back to a story for another reading? I’ll draw one name among today’s commenters and e-mail that person a $5.00 Amazon gift certificate.
THIS TIME FOREVER is available in print now at Barnes & Noble and will soon be for sale there for Nook.