Once Upon a Groom

Karen Rose Smith
Once Upon a Groom


Harlequin Special Edition
Release Date
September 2011
Book 2 of Reunion Brides
Contemporary Romance


Those were the words Jenny Farber had always longed to hear Zack Decker say. But marrying him would have meant leaving the only home she'd ever really known. So instead of following her high school sweetheart to L.A., she stayed on at his family's ranch, training the horses she adored. Zack never knew about the secret she carried…or how much she still loved him. Until a near-tragedy brought him home again….

Fifteen years ago, Jenny broke Zack's heart. Seeing her again rekindles all the sweet passion they once shared. But Zack came home to Miners Bluff only to deal with a family crisis—then he's pulling up stakes again. So why is Jenny making him dream of settling down in the one place he'd vowed to leave forever?

BOOK INTERVIEW on October 2011
Interview by Laura

Karen, how awesome! The next book in the Reunion Brides series is here! Congratulations on your recent release, ONCE UPON A GROOM!

Q: Please tell us more about the Reunion Brides series.

ONCE UPON A GROOM is officially scheduled as a October release but it was available on September 20 in print form, e-book is October 1. And, yes, it is the next book, book 2, in my REUNION BRIDES series. The series revolves around a fifteenth year high school reunion in Miners Bluff, Arizona. Sparks fly when high school classmates reunite and find chemistry and meaning in old friendships. Who can't remember their first love? Their first kiss? Their first bonds as a couple. I'll tell you more about ONCE UPON A GROOM below.

In book 3, Mikala—a music therapist—helps Dawson's son recover from trauma. But along the way, deep feelings and friendship become so much more. In book 4, Brenna comes home to Miner's Bluff with Riley's infant son! Much more than conversation went on the night of the reunion. But with their feuding families, they have a rocky road to find everlasting love.

Q: Looks like we have more great books to look forward to! The title ONCE UPON A GROOM has a fairy-tale feel to it. What made you choose this title? Would you say this title is apt for the story? Why or why not?

This title is perfect for this story. It's a modern twist on the fairytale. In this book, the heroine helps the hero's heart heal. It is also a play on words. Jenny, my heroine, began as a groom on the Rocky D ranch! Both she and Zack have a gift for gentling horses.

Q: Please tell us about Jenny Farber. What kind of person is she? Why does she crave the roots she'd found in Zack's parents' ranch?

Jenny lost her mother and is practically deserted by her father, a rodeo cowboy, in his grief over losing his wife. Often she was looked after by a recalcitrant neighbor when he was on the road. She has loved horses all of her life and took an internship on the Rocky D, Zack Decker's home, when she was in high school. While there, Zack's mom takes her under her wing and his dad respects her talent with horses. She has found a place to belong. So when in high school, she and Zack fall in love and he asks her to come with him to follow his dream, she can't tear herself from the roots that have grounded her, the surrogate parents she has always needed. She sees Zack's dream as a chase for the future like her dad always tried to grasp. She stays at the Rocky D but has a secret.

Q: I love secrets! I guess I'll have to wait to find out what Jenny's secret is. Let's go to Zack Decker, who is a film director! I imagine Hollywood and glamor and fame. Why did you give him that occupation? Do tell us more about him and what makes him tick!

Zack wasn't chasing fame as much as the chance to do what he loved most—make movies. But behind making movies was always the desire to find the real relationship, to get to know the horse, to learn more than the eye could see. His parents fought and his dad gambled and had affairs. He needed an escape. Yes, he had a talent for gentling horses, but he wanted to show his dad he could be a success away from Miners Bluff. His father always wanted him to take over running the Rocky D someday and wouldn't support his son's desire for a different future.

Zack is always his most intense self behind the lens. That's his home. That's where he is most comfortable. Jenny hurt him deeply by not following him to Los Angeles when he won a film scholarship before graduation. He has always tried to escape that hurt. When he returns to the Rocky D, he never expects to face his past and find a new future.

Q: How had Zack's life as a film director change his personality and character? In as much as the years and experiences would change a person, what part of him remained unchanged?

Except with Jenny, Zack has hidden his true feelings all his life. His parents' marriage has given him a distorted view of it and he never intends to marry. All these years, he has blamed his father for his mother's death and their relationship has been tense, to say the least. As an Oscar winning film director, he proved he could succeed. He's part of the scene in L.A. but stays removed from it. No one really knows him there. But through the years he's kept in touch with his old friends from high school, heroes of book 1 and 3 in the REUNION BRIDES series. He trusts them. Zack has always been a man of integrity who wants to show the truth. But caught up in hurt and bitterness, he couldn't find his own truth. Until he returned to the Rocky D and Jenny.

Q: Jenny and Zack have a past together, no matter how short. Why did you think it was important for them to have that past in order to get to their future?

Even though Jenny and Zack were only serious their senior year in high school, they opened each other's hearts. Life and circumstances and pain intervened. But those old feelings never died. It took a crisis at the Rocky D to bring them back together again. Once they are together, they can't deny who they were and who they've become. They also can't deny the deep feelings that continue to grow when they're together.

Q: What is it about horses that drew both Jenny and Zack?

When Zack wanted to escape his parents' fights, he went to the barn. He made a connection with the horses. They are intuitive animals (can you tell I love them, too?) and they listen without judgement! Zack found communicating with them much easier than communicating with his parents. He studied them through the lens of his camera and realized they have a language of their own, just like people do. He understood that language.

Jenny fell in love with a Shetland pony when she rode one at a celebration in the town square. She liked the feeling of guiding the animal and feeling as if she was on top of the world when she rode. She has a deep compassion that transmits itself to horses. She's intent on rescuing abused ones and teaching them that humans can be kind. She herself feels rescued by Zack's parents and this is one way she can give back.

Q: Yet, they also have opposing opinions about Silas Decker, Zack's father. How did this happen? What was Silas to each of them?

Silas Decker had deep insecurities that led him to gamble and have affairs when he was married. But underneath all that, he was a man who felt deeply and didn't know how to express it. Silas saw Zack as his heir and when Zack didn't want to follow the plan Silas had mapped out, Silas was inflexible thinking that would make Zack do what he wanted. It didn't work. Zack became more determined to leave the Rocky D and Miners Bluff. Jenny became the daughter Silas and his wife Olivia never had. She wanted to train the horses and learn about managing the ranch. She adored Olivia and respected Silas for the man underneath the bluster. She felt like a daughter.

Zack was in film school when Silas lost Olivia—she found out about one of his affairs and took off in a small plane on a stormy night. Zack hated the part Silas played in that and for the hurt he'd caused his mother. After the funeral he didn't come home again until the reunion. Jenny has told him over the years that his father has changed but through his resentful haze, Zack never believed her. But when he comes home, he realizes his father has stopped drinking, gambling and has even started going to church. More than that, he finally comes to realize the past is never one-sided.

Besides Jenny and Zack's romance, this book is about the relationship between children and parents.

Q: Despite how their lives have diverged since parting fifteen years ago, why is Jenny still the one for Zack? And why is Zack still the one for Jenny?

They can accept each other for who they are. They open each other's hearts and unlock their deepest longings and secrets. The chemistry and love they once felt still draws them together in a way they've never been drawn to anyone else.

Q: What's the most romantic moment in the book?

The most romantic moment in the book is when Zack places his mother's pearl necklace around Jenny's neck.

Q: Aw, how sweet. What's your favorite scene? Why?

In this scene, Jenny has flown to L.A. with Zack to experience his life. She's never been passed the borders of Arizona. They are at Zack's house in Malibu. This is one of my favorite scenes because it spotlights who Zack and Jenny really are with each other and the deep feelings growing between them. Enjoy!

Zack plopped the bags on the yellow settee. "What do you want to do next?"

"How about a walk on the beach?"

He looked surprised she might want to do that and she added, "I want to get a real feel for the ocean."

He tilted his head in agreement. "A walk on the beach it is. Better grab a jacket. It's getting colder."

"Cold is Miners Bluff in January. I think I can handle this."

Again he studied her with something close to penetrating attention. How she wished she knew what kind of thoughts clicked through his mind. But Zack had become an enigma to her and she only caught glimpses of the boy she'd known once in a great while.

The sun was hanging close to the horizon. Gray and purple stole into the sky as they walked without talking from the deck and down the steps to the beach. She thought she might not be able to keep up with Zack, but he didn't seem to be in a hurry.

"Do you do this often?"

"Whenever I can. I often jog on the beach in the morning when I'm here."

"You know what Michael said was true. As much as you like horses, I'm surprised you don't have a place with a couple of them here. You could ride whenever you wanted."

"I'd probably have to move farther north and have a longer commute."

"Wouldn't it be worth it?"

He stopped in the loose sand and faced her. "What are you trying to do, Jenny? Get me to admit I miss the Rocky D?"

"I'm not trying to do that. I just think, well...if I moved my life from the Rocky D, across the country somewhere, I'd still want to be around horses. Our passions are part of us, and whether you admit it or not, when you're gentling Dusty, your passion still shows."

"Out here I have to worry about paparazzi," he grumbled. "Back at the Rocky D, I have to be concerned about you and my dad watching me every move I make."

"It's not like that," she protested.

His brows arched. "Try to fit your pretty feet in my shoes."

"You actually think my feet are pretty?" she teased, turning backwards, still trying to talk to him as she walked that way. She didn't want to fight. Teasing was more fun.

"I always thought they were. Take your shoes off and feel the sand. Or are you afraid to because your nails are painted fuchsia or lime, or some fashionable color?"

Actually they were. They were a sparkly purple this week but she certainly didn't want him to know that.

He saw something in her face though.

"They are painted a wild color and you don't want me to know."

"Now, Zack."

He started running after her and then she did take off, running for all her life.

The loose sand and high tufts of grass made running difficult and she had to make sure she didn't twist an ankle.

He was used to jogging on the sand, used to catching up to anyone he wanted to catch up to.

"You're pretty good," he said when he caught her and twirled her around. "But I beat you, so I get to see your feet."

"I don't think I remember that being part of the deal!"

"We can wait until we go back to my house and I could explore them there."

Out of frustration and some embarrassment, she sank down onto the sand and pulled off her shoe, then her sock. He witnessed the glory of purple nail polish on a foot that seemed demure in every other way. Back in high school, he'd known she wasn't demure, not by the way she responded to his kisses and touches, not the way she'd responded that night they'd made love. Now he looked at her as if he were considering his next move.

His smile crookedly boyish, he said, "I think we should really explore your wild side."

"I don't like that look in your eye."

"You wanted to experience the ocean, right?"


He scooped her up off the sand and she felt like a rag doll in his arms. She kept protesting, but he didn't hear. Or if he did hear, he was intent on doing what he wanted to do anyway. That was Zack.

And she loved him. She was in love with him all over again.

That realization hit about the same moment he plunged into the cold waves, drenching them both in surf. She screamed, but she found it wasn't in dismay. She screamed, then laughed, because she was enjoying this wild idea of Zack's as much as he was. Laughing, too, he twirled them around and the surf splashed them all over. Then he was running with her back to the shore, back to the safety of just his arms and the California night. She held on tight as he sprinted back to his house. At the bottom of the steps, he set her down but she didn't let go. Her arms were still around his neck as she stood on tiptoe, reaching up to him.

There were no words for that moment. Yes, they were wet and she was starting to shiver, but she could feel Zack's warmth and wanted more of it.

As soon as his lips came down on hers, she wasn't cold. All she could feel was the heat the two of them generated. All she knew was that she didn't want to be separated from this man.

He broke the kiss only to come back for more, again and again and again.

The breeze blew by them and Zack tightened his arms and separated from her for a moment. "We have to get inside and get these clothes off."

She didn't disagree. She took his hand as they ran up the steps, as they crossed the deck, as he tugged her inside the sunroom, away from the surf and the wind. As he kissed her again, her fingers tunneled under his shirt, seeking the warmth of his chest.

He trailed kisses down her neck, but then asked in a murmur, "Are you sure?"

"Oh, yes," she answered, "I'm sure." She'd been fighting to keep her feet under her for too long. She'd been fighting all the feelings that had never been resolved. She'd been fighting the idea of loving Zack again. In his arms, she couldn't imagine why.

Q: What a lovely excerpt! Thank you. Which among your heroines in this series do you identify with the most? Why?

I think I identify most with my next heroine in book 3, Mikala Conti. She is a music therapist. Music has always been a wonderful and meaningful part of my life. It was easy for my feelings about it to become Mikala's. I had also been on my way to a Masters degree in Counseling when I sold my first book. Beyond that, I was quiet in high school, didn't date much but had terrific friends who meant everything to me and who made those years worthwhile. I think all of this is reflected in Mikala's personality.

Q: Please share with us an interesting fact or unique behind-the-scenes experience when you write this story or series.

I took a research trip to northern Arizona before writing this series. Flagstaff was my base. This area is awesome—from the Red Rocks in Sedona to Oak Creek Canyon to the Grand Canyon. We visited the mining town of Jerome which gave me the idea for Miners Bluff and the history that went with it. I believe my love for this area comes through in this series.

Q: What's up for you in the coming months?

In the coming months I'll be finishing book 4 of the REUNION BRIDES, tentatively titled WEDDING BELLS AND BABY BOOTIES. I've also epubbed some backlist titles and just released an original novella ALWAYS DEVOTED which is book 3 in my SEARCH FOR LOVE ebook series. The first two books are updated re-releases. But ALWAYS DEVOTED is a romance/mystery that was so much fun to write because I could stretch the boundaries of romance. In the coming months I hope to epub another original book for the series that I found in my archives! All I have to do is write the last chapter and edit it. To keep up with all of my projects, readers can go to my website and follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I like to chat and welcome reader feedback. You can email me directly through my website or email karen@karenrosesmith.com.

Thanks a lot for this awesome insight into your newest book!


Karen Rose Smith was born in Pennsylvania in the Susquehanna Valley. As a teenager, music became as important to her as reading. The Beatles were her favorite group. She and her cousin took their first sojourn into writing by collaborating on a script for the MONKEES television program. They sent that script to every concert venue where the group appeared that summer!

In college, Karen began writing poetry and also met her husband to be. They both started married life as teachers, but when their son was born, Karen decided to try her hand at a home decorating business. She returned to teaching for a while but changes in her life led her to writing romance fiction. Now she writes full time. Her first romance was published in 1992; her 75th novel will be published in 2012 with Harlequin Special Edition. A winner of New Jersey's Golden Leaf Award in Short Contemporary Romance, Colorado Romance Writers Award Of Excellence for short contemporary, as well as the Phoenix Desert Rose Chapter's Golden Quill for Traditional Romance, she has also been honored with Cataromance.com's award for Best Special Edition. Her romances have made both the USA TODAY list, Borders Group Bestseller list for Series Romance as well as the Amazon Contemporary Romance Bestseller list.

Married to her college sweetheart, believing in the power of love and commitment, she envisions herself writing relationship novels for a long time to come!

Website: http://www.karenrosesmith.com
Blog: Cats, Roses...and Books!
E-zine: In Touch With Karen Rose Smith
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Karen-Rose-Smith/113599841764
Twitter: @karenrosesmith


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The Texas Billionaire's Baby


Karen Rose Smith is giving away 1 signed paperback of ONCE UPON A GROOM (US/Canada residents only) and 1 digital copy of an original novella, ALWAYS DEVOTED, book 3 in the Search for Love ebook series!


Simply write a comment or ask a question in the comment box below to be entered into the giveaway!

Contest ends October 31.

Winners will be announced in November.
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