Published March 2019
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All he ever wanted was to go home.
Leaving his life as a noble hostage behind him, Gryff has fled from one danger to another, never safe, always longing for a forbidden return to his conquered Welsh homeland. Held captive by villainous men, his unlikely savior is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen – and the most deadly. Her silence is unnerving, her generosity unexpected, and her pointed warning that she will not be an object of lust is perfectly clear.
Nan has no doubt the ragged Welshman she has saved from certain death was born to better things, far different from the servant’s life she’s led. Though the last thing she wants is a companion on her journey to find her cherished sister, she is compelled to help the man with haunted eyes and a mysterious past. But she feels the pull of his fascination every instant, and her own unexpected desire soon takes them places neither could have foreseen.
My Unofficial Summary of the Book
In addition to the real, full, professionalish book description (above), I traditionally provide a more casual description in the spirit of Real Talk, like how I pitch it to my friends:
Alternate Title: I Will Cut A Bitch, I Swear To God
It has angst! And falcons! And a heroine who throws knives!
First, an important note: Yes, it's part of a series BUT it's a standalone and I worked very hard to make it so you can enjoy it without having read any others in the series. There are recurring characters from the other Welsh Blades books, because everyone's lives and politics are very intertwined - but a reader can understand and enjoy Desire Lines even if this is the first you're hearing of them all.
I legit don't know what to say about the book that doesn't give anything away. The heroine is the patron saint of personal boundaries. She loves pork pies and has a cute dog and kills eight people on page one. The hero is a noble in hiding who keeps falcons and is a total wreck when we first meet him. He has a lot to learn and sense enough to humble himself when he needs to so he can learn it. (And I'd tell you more about him but that'd give stuff away.)
It's a road trip novel, and though our principles do find true love and all, I still think it's ultimately the worst road trip ever because there are no Cheez-Its.
It really is hard to say anything without spoilering, so let me just sum up:
Knife-throwing badass heroine!
Did I mention the bit with the dog?
Sad lack of Cheez-Its!
There, that should really sell it.
PS: The dog lives, nothing bad happens to him at all, he gets treats and belly rubs and aside from a little anxiety around the falcons & hawks, he's 100% filled with doggie joy for the whole book.
Writing Desire Lines
It was like pulling Vaseline-smeared teeth with faulty pliers, people. And while it's tempting to think that was because the story or characters were so hard to get right, honestly: no, that's not why. It's just that it was in my head for way too long before I began writing it. Let me explain.
The character of Nan came to me right after I finished Fair, Bright, and Terrible, very early in 2017. I did this kind of last call, in my head, checking in with various characters to see if anyone had anything to tell me. Naturally I started with William, who completely ignored me, then moved on to Kit (who laughed at me) and Joan (who politely ignored me, as she's busy having children and really doesn't have time for romance) and Davydd and Susanna (who patiently reiterated that they had, like, an ANECDOTE more than a whole book) and little Robin (who just waited for me to figure out he's gay and really not taking any other questions at this time, thank you) until I figured that was it, okay, done for now with this Welsh Blades world, move on, woohoo!
So I thought Okay, Marie-Anne, you're up! But just as I was turning away, a knife whizzed by my ear and thunked itself into a tree. (I mean, I was standing in my kitchen and this was obvs my imagination, but it was awfully vivid.) "Well," I said out loud, as one does when one is a goofy creative type. "Who the hell is that?" And there was Nan, of all people, and when I asked how the hell she got from where I'd just left her to this place of knife-wielding badassery, she basically recited the contents of Nan to me. Before she was done - heck, almost before she'd started - I already knew who she'd fall in love with and what his whole deal was, and I couldn't imagine how for the life of me THAT was gonna happen. So it was...interesting.
Anyway, I started some research reading and then early that summer I figured out the whole story, including the sequence of scenes and everything. (In my head, as I drove on a road trip.) In the meantime, I'd begun writing House of Cads and was having fun so I figured what the heck, might as well try to write two books at once. That didn't work out so well - though I did write on both for a few months, my creative brain demanded that I focus on just one. Since Desire Lines was very strongly in my head and clearly not going anywhere, I knew I could safely put it on the back burner. So I stuck with House of Cads and finished it.
And every single day, all the while, the story of Desire Lines was front and center in my head. Which I thought was great, but now I think ultimately was a sign that I should've written it when it was fresh. Because when I DID finally sit down to write it in summer 2018 - nearly a year and a half after it first came to me - my brain was just so over it. It had been in there, in such detail, for so long that putting it down on the page felt like unnecessary and life-sapping busywork. I had already written it in my head, and now I had to write it AGAIN.
It was the worst. So many times, I wrote whole pages and chapters that were immediately deleted because they were wrong and/or just did not belong. (This is normal process for many writers, but is incredibly rare for me.) I've had to wrestle a story onto the page before, but this was the first time the story wrestled back. It was exhausting and demoralizing and now I know, without a doubt, never to do this to myself again. Next time a story comes into my head and refuses to fade even a little, I know to write it and not wait.
Despite all that, it's weirdly the fastest I've written a novel. Like 8 months. But it felt like 8 years. Eight torturous, neverending years in which I ripped my hair out and despaired on the daily. I mostly like how it turned out, and I love the characters and their story, but good lord the AGONY of it all.