floats from her siren lips,
a snare for the gullible.
Her nectar garners
a contract of one-sided
As a Gibbons girl,
she always saps honey from
her sugar daddies.
The queen bee designs
her honeycomb to entrap
men’s hearts, not her own.
But you know what they say about the best-laid plans. . .
By A. C.
Enjoy Some Hot Deception on a Romance Platter with the latest installment
in the Gibbons Gold Digger series!
The Player & the Game
It’s business as usual for the infamous gold digging Gibbons women of Chesterton, Virginia. But this time, middle sister, Stephanie, may be the one getting played. . .
Stephanie Gibbons thinks she’s finally hit the jackpot— the Gibbons family’s Holy Grail. Her new sugar daddy, Isaac Beardan, is loaded and treating her in high style. When he proposes, Stephanie is sure she’s set for life—until she finds her bank account empty, Isaac gone, and a strange—but very attractive—man following her.
Private investigator Keith Hendricks has tracked Isaac down to Chesterton, Va., and stumbles upon Stephanie. He’s not sure if she’s Isaac’s accomplice or his next victim, but what he is certain of is his overwhelming attraction to her—an attraction she shares. As the pair follows the con man’s trail into the Deep South, Stephanie faces a dilemma: True love… or the gold-digging game. Which will she choose?
What makes The Player and the Game stand out among other African American romances out there?
My editor likes to describe the books in my Gibbons Gold Digger series as romance but with a little something different, or romance with extra spice. And this extra spice isn’t just sexual. I don’t write erotica, but I like to do romances that are sexy with a dynamic storyline. I like to write stories that are a hybrid between the typical romance and evening soap operas—making them more than a tale of boy meets girl and then they eventually find their happily-ever-after. The Player and the Game is a blend of romance, mystery, road-trip adventure, some laugh-out-loud moments, and moral lessons thrown into the mix. I hope readers have a ball reading it. I had fun writing it.
What would it take for a player like Stephanie to be reformed?
I can’t reveal too much, but Stephanie goes through a humbling experience in the beginning of the novel that starts her on her journey to reformation. Falling in love for the first time in her life also helps reform her.
In the first installment of the series, Can’t Stand the Heat, Lauren is a chef who leaves an abusive marriage & proves she can hold her own in and out of the kitchen. What would be a great recipe for writing the perfect romance?
I don’t know what the perfect recipe is, but I think I know what doesn’t work. Try not to go with typical ingredients/tropes of romance. Romance should be like an exotic, spicy curry, not a boring vanilla cake made with mix out of a box. Both may taste good, but one definitely required a lot more thought and originality than the other.
Try to avoid the insecure hero who doesn’t think he’s good enough for the heroine, or the bad boy who’s reformed by his love for the good girl. Try to avoid snowstorms that lock a couple together in a cabin, forcing them to confront their feelings for each other. Don’t have novels with the heroine waking up in the morning, looking in her mirror, or talking to her girlfriends over drinks at a bar or restaurant. Try to keep the reader guessing what’s going to happen next, as opposed to them thinking, “Hey, haven’t I read this before?”
The Gibbons sisters have their own playbook in which they maneuver the rules wisely with their men. What would be the ultimate playbook for women in our society to use while searching for that spicy romance?
You know, it’s funny. I try to write spicy romances, but my personal preference is a lot tamer. Love and compatibility are more important to me. Humor also can get you through the rougher patches. Spice is nice, but it’s not essential. (And honestly, it can fade overtime even with the hottest of couples.)
So what rules/playbook should one follow to find the best romance? Have an open heart; have an open mind; know your self-worth and be willing to assert it; and make sure that any man you want to treat you like a princess, you’re willing to treat him like a prince. Don’t forget, you’re equal partners in this story!
What tips would you give to writers who are trying to balance writing and parenthood?
I just became a mom four months ago, so I’m still trying to find that balance. But, no matter what, I’m a mother first, and a writer second. Even if I’m in the middle of a great writing jag and the words are flowing like crazy, if my baby starts crying, I have to step away from my laptop and address her cries. But I also know now to accept help when you can get it. If your mom or your hubby is willing to watch the baby for awhile, take advantage of it! Nap times are also a godsend. Use those quiet moments to work on your novels and catch up on badly needed rest/sleep.
We writers create characters that are close to our hearts, and we want our readers to establish a relationship with them. We want our characters to leave an aftereffect on our readers. What aftereffect do you want the Gibbons sisters to leave on your readers?
The Gibbons sisters are deeply flawed characters, but I still think they’re likeable. They come from a good place, even if that place is a bit screwed up. I want readers to have the takeaway to be careful of judging others on face value.
Also, the lives of the sisters can serve as a cautionary tale. Each sister has made decisions that have negatively affected their lives because they were taught that wealth and prestige are what’s most important. They all experience things that make them question that belief.
Here’s an excerpt:
Busy, busy, busy, Stephanie Gibbons thought as she hurried toward her silver BMW that was parallel parked in the reserved space near her office. Her stilettos clicked on the sidewalk as she walked. Her short, pleated skirt swayed around her hips and supple, brown legs with each stride.
She shouldn’t have gone to the nail salon before lunch, but her French manicure had been badly in need of a touch-up. Unfortunately, that slight detour had thrown off the entire day’s schedule and now she was running ten minutes late for the open house.
The spring day was unseasonably warm, but it was tempered by a light breeze that blew steadily, making the newly grown leaves flutter on the numerous maples lining Main Street in downtown Chesterton, her hometown. The breeze now lifted Stephanie’s hair from her shoulders and raised her already dangerously short skirt even higher.
She adjusted the realtor name tag near her suit jacket lapel, casually ran her fingers through her long tresses, and reached into her purse. She pulled out her cell phone and quickly dialed her assistant’s number. Thankfully, the young woman picked up on the second ring.
“Carrie, honey, I’m running late . . . Yes, I know . . . Are you already at the open house?” Stephanie asked distractedly as she dug for her keys in her purse’s depths. “Are any buyers there yet? . . . OK, OK, don’t freak out. . . . Yes, just take over for now. Put out a plate of cookies and set the music on low. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes . . . I know . . . I have every confidence in you. See you soon.”
She hung up.
With car keys finally retrieved, Stephanie pressed the remote button to open her car doors. The car beeped. The headlights flashed. She jogged to the driver’s-side door and opened it. As she started to climb inside the vehicle, she had the distinct feeling of being watched.
Stephanie paused to look up, only to find a man standing twenty feet away from her. He casually leaned against the brick front of one of the many shops on Main Street. He was partially hidden by the shadows of an overhead awning.
He looked like one of many jobless men you would find wandering the streets midday, hanging out in front of stores because they had little else to do and nowhere else to go. Except this bored vagrant was a lot more attractive than the ones she was used to seeing. He also was distinct from the other vagrants in town because she had seen him several times today and earlier this week.
Stephanie had spotted him when she walked into the nail salon and again as she left, absently waving her nails as they dried. He had been sitting in the driver’s seat of a tired-looking Ford Explorer in the lot across the street from the salon. Though he hadn’t said anything to her or even looked up at her as she walked back to her car, she had the feeling he had been waiting for her.
She had seen him also on Wednesday, strolling along the sidewalk while she had been on her date with her new boyfriend, Isaac. The man had walked past the restaurant’s storefront window where she and Isaac had been sitting and enjoying their candlelit dinner. When Stephanie looked up from her menu and glanced out the window, her eyes locked with the stroller’s. The mystery man abruptly broke their mutual gaze and kept walking. He disappeared at the end of the block.
The mystery man had a face that was hard to forget—sensual, hooded dark eyes, a full mouth, and a rock-hard chin. He stood at about six feet with a muscular build. Today, he was wearing a plain white T-shirt and wrinkled jeans. Though his short hair was neatly trimmed, he had thick beard stubble on his chin and dark-skinned cheeks.
“Are you following me?” Stephanie called to him, her open house now forgotten.
He blinked in surprise. “What?” He pointed at his chest. “You mean me?”
“Yes, I mean you!” She placed a hand on her hip. “Are you following me? Why do I keep seeing you around?”
He chuckled softly. “Why would I be following you? Lady, I’m just standing here.”
He wasn’t just standing there. She sensed it.
“Well, this is a small town. Loitering is illegal in Chesterton. You could get arrested!”
“It’s illegal to stand in front of a building?” Laughter was in his voice. He slowly shook his head.
“We’re still in America, right? Last time I checked, I was well within my rights to stand here, honey. Besides, I’m not panhandling. I’m just enjoying the warm sunshine.” His face broke into a charming, dimpled smile that would have made most women’s knees weak. “Is that a crime?”
Stephanie narrowed her eyes at him warily.
She didn’t like him or his condescending tone. He was attractive, but something emanated from him that made her . . . uncomfortable. It made her heartbeat quicken and her palms sweat. She wasn’t used to reacting to men this way. Usually her emotions were firmly in control around them, but they weren’t around this guy. She didn’t like him one bit.
“If . . . if I catch you standing here when I get back, I’ll . . . I’ll call the cops,” she said weakly.
At that, he raised an eyebrow. “You do that,” he challenged, casually licking his lips and shoving his hands into his jean pockets. Defiantly, he slumped against the brick building again.
Stephanie took a deep breath, willing her heart to slow its rapid pace. She climbed into her car and shut the driver’s-side door behind her with a slam. She shifted the car into drive and pulled off, watching him in her rearview mirror until she reached the end of block. He was still standing in front of the building, still leaning under the shadows of the awning, still looking smug as she drove to the end of Main Street and made a right.
Finally, she lost sight of him.
Copyright © 2013 by Shelly Ellis
Connect with Shelly Ellis:
Website: http://shellyellisbooks.com/ (a great resource for personal and professional insight into the writing life and the publishing industry.)
The Player & The Game is available on August 27, 2013.