Thank you so much, Rhonda, for hosting me on your blog. I’m a Florida girl through and through, and I’ve always been fascinated by creatures that crawl, swim, and slither in the sea. One of my all-time favorite shows when I was a kid was Flipper, which spurred my lifelong love affair with dolphins.
I’ve learned a lot about these intelligent, complex, and charismatic mammals since then, and I know their lives in the wild and in human care generally aren’t as idyllic as I once believed. I don’t attach mystical qualities to dolphins like some people do, either. I’ve learned to appreciate them for what they are and what they aren’t.
Dolphins play a pivotal role in my Gulf Shore contemporary romance series. Those who know me won’t be surprised I’ve chosen to write about an aquarium and a west-central Florida beach town. Both locales are near and dear to my heart.
Gulf Shore Aquarium isn’t based on any one facility I’ve visited or yearned to see. It’s a composite of the best of what they have to offer. I’ve tried not to idealize, but I want readers to see GSA as a place where the animals are as content as they possibly can be and their needs are paramount.
That’s not to say, however, that GSA is controversy free. Animal rights activists, for better or worse, are keeping a close eye on the place. And even the employees struggle at times with the seemingly never-ending argument about freedom vs. captivity. My characters and my books wouldn’t be realistic if those topics didn’t come up, but my intent isn’t to preach or draw any proverbial lines in the sugary white sand.
My primary mission is to entertain and make you fall in love with the animals and the people of Gulf Shore and its aquarium. And who knows? You just might learn something, too.
Gulf Shore is a popular tourist destination that’s managed to maintain its small-town feel. It’s a place where you’ll taste salt on your skin and feel the Florida sun on your shoulders, a sea breeze ruffling your hair, and shells beneath your feet. You’ll meet swoon-worthy alpha males who aren’t embarrassed to cuddle a rescued baby dolphin in their muscular arms, and accomplished women looking for an equal partner who thinks that smart is sexy.
You’ll get up close and personal with sea life and fall in love with a talking parrot named Ozzie who acts like a little boy in a bird suit. You’ll go behind-the-scenes at the aquarium and out to the beach to rescue marine animals in distress and to cheer others as they return to the wild.
Like many writers, I draw on my personal experiences when creating my characters and locales. For instance, there really is an African gray parrot named Ozzie. He’s one of my extremely spoiled pets, and he does talk in context sometimes, as he does in The Shore Thing, Gulf Shore Book 1.
I’ve also learned a lot about undersea life and aquarium operations as a volunteer at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of movie star dolphins Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale films. Let me be clear, though, that I am not writing about the people, policies, and animals at the world-famous Clearwater facility in my Gulf Shore series.
My latest book, Shore to Please, the third installment in the series, spotlights one of my favorite characters, Paul “Flipper” O’Riley, head dolphin trainer at GSA. He’s loyal, funny, and hard-working, and he’s fighting an attraction to a woman who couldn’t be more wrong for him.
Tara Langley is cofounder of SWADS, short for Stop Whale and Dolphin Suffering. She thought she’d found the love of her life, but he betrayed her with another woman. So she buried herself in her mission: convincing Gulf Shore Aquarium that dolphins and whales belong in the wild, not in artificial pools.
If Tara had her way, Flipper would lose the job he loves, and for him that’s an impossible scenario. The aquarium’s dolphins are his babies, and his life revolves around them. While he’s open to having a real family one day, Tara is the last person he’d choose to be his wife and the mother of his children.
These two should be sworn enemies, after all. He certainly swears at the sight of her. And his surfer-dude looks and lover-boy reputation aren’t exactly what Ms. Prim and Tidy had in mind when she pictured her ideal man.
There’s no possible way a relationship between Flipper and Tara could work, right? They’re like fire and gasoline. So why do they both want so badly to light the match?
As the two struggle to find common ground amid the quicksand, Flipper and his coworkers become the targets of an increasingly more menacing campaign to force the aquarium to release the dolphins under its care.
Tara, whose group has picketed the aquarium in the past, immediately becomes suspect. Is she being falsely accused? Flipper is quick to defend her, but is she deceiving him along with the police? Or do more sinister forces have Gulf Shore Aquarium in their sights?
Gulf Shore Police Detective Joanna Tompkins is racing to catch those responsible before it’s too late.
While Shore to Please revolves around Flipper, Tara and the threats to the aquarium, the book also advances the story lines of other favorite characters, including Evan and Dani, Cosby and Monica, and Jo and Kelsey. Readers will meet a few new faces, too, and a couple more adorable critters join the cast as well.
Paul “Flipper” O’Riley backed away from the note as if he expected it to somehow lunge at his throat. The outrage, disgust, and, yes, he’d admit it, fear he felt at reading the vile threats composed on the single page of common white printer paper had his stomach roiling ominously.
The letters of each word had been cut from what looked like a glossy magazine and glued on like a ransom note from a classic crime drama. If the message hadn’t been so loathsome, Flipper might’ve laughed at how cartoonish it looked.
But the warning had been nailed to the front door of the cottage he rented across the street from the beach, and that in itself represented an alarming development. It meant, of course, that the animal rights crusaders who’d been hounding Flipper’s employer now knew where he lived.
With a hand he fought to keep from shaking, he drew his cell phone out of the case attached to his belt, scrolled through his contacts, and pressed a familiar number. It rang several times before the person on the other end answered with an impatient huff.
“Jo?” Flipper asked. “Is that you?”
“No, it’s the queen of England. What do you want?”
Joanna Tompkins’ characteristic grumpiness and brusque manner usually amused him, but Flipper wasn’t in the mood for her tough-chick act right now.
“I’ve got something here at my place that you need to see. Can you come over?”
“How many times do I have to tell you, Fish Brain? Even if you show me yours, I’m not going to show you mine. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.” She gave a chuckle that he didn’t appreciate, given the circumstances.
“Hilarious, but I’m serious. Another of those nasty notes came, and this one’s even more personal than the others.”
Jo’s tone immediately changed into her no-nonsense cop voice. “It mentioned you specifically by name?”
“No, but it’s nailed to my front door.”
“At your cottage?” She sounded even more concerned now.
“Don’t touch it. I’ll be right over with a tech to dust for fingerprints.”
“I know the drill. I’m hanging up now and calling Kenshin.”
“See if he can meet me at your place. That’ll save me a trip to the aquarium.”
“And if you’re still on your doorstep, haul your happy ass inside right now and lock the door until I get there.”
“Did you call me for help or not?”
“All right, all right. You’re the boss.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
Wary now, Flipper looked around before doing as she ordered. Then he called his boss, Kenshin Hamasaki, supervisor of marine mammals at Gulf Shore Aquarium, and filled him in. Kenshin promised to drop what he was doing and be right over.
Flipper looked around his cozy living room—with its bland, impersonal furnishings straight from the rental property decorators’ manual—and then moved to his front windows to fully close the mini blinds. He wasn’t too proud to acknowledge Jo’s admonition had freaked him out, and he was too antsy to sit. Not that he’d feel safe settling onto either the loveseat or his favorite recliner, both near windows. He yanked his hand through his hair, annoyed with himself for letting the situation unsettle him and pissed off at whoever was disrupting his life this way.
Who would’ve thought being a dolphin trainer carried such potential for danger?
Liquid Silver Books: http://www.lsbooks.com/shore-to-please-p1026.php
As a girl, Annette dreamed of being an astronaut, but she stank at science and math and became motion sick riding the bus home from school. So she went with her second choice—newspaper journalist—and stuck with it for more than three decades. After years of ignoring well-meaning people who said, “You should write a book,” she finally did. And then she wrote a few more. When she’s not working, Annette usually has her nose in someone else’s novel or her gaze glued to sports on TV. She has three totally spoiled pets, enjoys being the designated sightseer on her husband’s Harley, and volunteers at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home of diva dolphins Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale films.
Connect with Annette
Website and blog: www.annettemardis.com/