Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Excerpt - ONE VOW FOR SEPTEMBER (Christian Contemporary Romance)

Today, I’m posting an excerpt from Liwen Ho’s Christian Contemporary Romance, One Vow for September, which will be one of the books in the Christian Wedding Romance anthology, Save the Date.

Here’s the back cover description:

She’s a writer with an unconventional assignment, he’s the jaded coworker playing her husband; together they’re one odd couple about to find out how real love is.

Magazine writer September Yu has a great idea for an article—a “how to” piece on renewing one’s wedding vows on a budget. Her only problem? She’s missing a husband that her boss wants her to bring along for research. With her boyfriend across the country, there’s no other man she can turn to but her annoyingly handsome coworker.

Dumped at the altar years ago, Tristan Hu has sworn off relationships—a decision that should have stopped him from volunteering to help September. There’s no rhyme or reason why he should care, except that he can’t get her off his mind. He just needs to get through one week of playing pretend, a task that seems easy enough until the sparks between them become all too real.

For better or worse, these frenemies will have to work together to overcome the challenges thrown their way—including feeding each other cake! After all is wed and done, will this fake marriage turn into a love that lasts a lifetime?

I interviewed Liwen in a two part interview—part 1 is here and part 2 is here. Be sure to check them out since especially part 2 talks a bit more about One Vow for September.

Excerpt of chapter one:


“Morning, everyone.” Maggie, our boss, calls the meeting to order. “I hope you spent your day off working hard to come up with stellar ideas.” 

The room goes silent as everyone attempts to avoid eye contact with Maggie. She’s the kind of boss who thinks Labor Day is meant for laboring. As usual, she’s all business in a navy pin-striped pantsuit and tortoise shell glasses. The rest of us are just as professionally dressed, except for Tristan. Somehow he’s allowed to live in jeans and black T-shirts and she doesn’t even bat an eye. She does however give him one of her rare smiles. “Let’s start with you, Tristan. What theme do you have in mind for our March issue?”

He rubs his jaw as he looks around the room. All our colleagues are silent and literally on the edges of their seats waiting for his answer. Everyone but me. Honestly, after what he said about Chad, I’m not interested in hearing more of his ideas. But that doesn’t stop him from staring straight at me as he answers, “Relationships. It’s the one thing people need the most help with.”

A round of oohs and ahhs fills the air. I half expect everyone to break out into applause. No matter what Tristan says, there’s always one woman—or five—who thinks he can walk on water. We all know there was only one man who could do that and He was God. Tristan only acts like one. 

My neck grows hot under the collar of my white blouse. His eyes are still trained on my face, studying my reaction. I have a sneaking suspicion the “people” he’s referring to is me. His know-it-all attitude has always gotten on my nerves, but moreso today. My first inclination is to put him in his place. I know I should be the bigger person, but it’s hard to do when his ego is taking up so much space. “We’re already covering love for our February issue. What about something related to the changing of seasons? Like spring cleaning. Our readers love that kind of thing.”

“Out with the old, in with the new? Not bad.” He gives me a condescending smile, like he’s talking to a child. “That idea works well with relationships, too.”

Maggie points her pen in Tristan’s direction. “I like where you’re going with that. Tell me more.”

“With pleasure.” He has the nerve to flash me a smug smile before he continues. “I’m thinking we focus on renewal. Giving up things in our lives that are outdated, unnecessary, and unhealthy. And incorporating new beliefs, habits, and relationships that are good for us.”

He nods and leans back proudly in his chair. One would think he just shared the key to world peace instead of spouting off some mumbo jumbo self-help stuff. I can’t believe anyone is buying his spiel. But everyone around the table is already jotting down notes. 

“Bravo! Yes! Renewal is the perfect theme for the changing of seasons.” Maggie’s hazel eyes light up as she starts clapping. “Well done, Tristan.”

I fight to keep my jaw from dropping. She just gave him credit for my idea! Okay, so it wasn’t completely mine, but I did pitch in. Why does he get all the recognition? Just because he has a sexy voice and smoldering good looks?

“It was a team effort.” He surprises me with a wink. “I’m sure September has more great ideas up her sleeve. Don’t you?”

My jaw does drop now. Is Tristan actually being nice to me, or is he putting me on the spot to make me squirm? I have no idea, but I’m not going to waste this chance. I flash him a tight smile, then straighten in my seat. It’s finally my time to shine. Good thing I did some brainstorming over the weekend for my “September’s Savings” column. Yes, my parents named me after the ninth month of the year. Their reason? The number nine—which in Chinese sounds like the word for everlasting—brings fortune. As far as I’m concerned, the reason I’m debt free is because I’m an expert at being frugal. That’s why readers love my tips. 

“How about home makeovers on a budget? I can talk about using thrift store finds, such as furniture and clothing, and repurposing them. Or we can focus completely on what people already have in their closets.” I suddenly remember an article I read recently. “Did you know there’s a business that helps women upcycle their wedding gowns? It’s a fun and creative way to turn a once-in-a-lifetime memory into a piece of jewelry, an ornament, or a christening gown that can be passed down to future generations. I bet this would be a big hit with our readers.”

I can’t help the grin that overtakes my face. I know nothing about baseball, but I feel like I just hit a home run. Now it’s my turn to sit back and wait for the applause. 

And... nothing. A few moments pass and I look around the room, listening to the sound of crickets. My mouth grows dry. I kind of hope a swarm of locusts will appear to put an end to my misery. 

“Well…” Maggie nods reluctantly, her brows drawn together. “It’s a start. But let’s keep our theme in mind. We really want to drive home the idea of renewal.” 

“Right. We can’t forget about Tristan’s theme.” Oops. My tone is more sarcastic than I intend it to be. Sigh. I really need an attitude adjustment. It’s not like I’m Ms. Perfect. I need God’s grace as much as anyone. So I choose to put on my big-girl pants and focus on doing my job, not keeping score. And that’s when a brilliant idea pops into my head. “Vow renewals! What about a how-to article on renewing your wedding vows on a budget?”

There are gasps of surprise and delight all around the table. Maggie gives me a thumbs-up, making me beam with pride. Her reaction is almost as good as getting The Pulitzer Prize. I’m floating on cloud nine hundred and ninety-nine when she says, “I want you to do some serious research for this, September. It has to be believable.”

“Of course. I’ll call around and get quotes from multiple vendors. I’ll read all of their reviews, too, and make sure they offer quality services. I want this to be a factual and helpful article for our readers.”

“Then I think it’s best if you go in person and try them out. There’s no better way to know what a cake tastes like unless you eat it.”

I wonder if I’m understanding her correctly. “You’re saying you want me to pretend to plan a vow renewal ceremony?”

“Bingo!”

“B-but I don’t have a husband to renew my vows with.”

“Pish posh. You don’t need a real one. Take a friend or a cousin—I don’t care who.” Maggie waves her red-painted nails in the air. “Just write the article and make it good.”

My heart sinks. Other than Chad, the males in my life are my girlfriends’ significant others, and asking for their help doesn’t feel right. The only other guy I know—Mr. I’m Too Sexy and I Know It—is completely out of the question. But something in me—most likely desperation—makes me look over at Tristan.

That’s when I hear his low, confident voice declare, “I’ll do it. I’ll be your pretend husband.”

***

Camy here: Liwen is one of the twelve authors participating with me in the Christian Contemporary Romance anthology, Save the Date, which releases September 15! Preorder now to get 12 novellas for only 99 cents!

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