Priscilla Oliveras--Characters: The Lifeblood of the Story

Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras

Priscilla Oliveras talks about Characters: The Lifeblood of the story.

Characters that touch the reader…that’s what I strive to create when I dive into my story world. With my debut series, MATCHED TO PERFECTION, my hope is that the Fernández sisters, their heroes and loved ones become like familia to my readers—just as they have become for me. I have cried, laughed, sighed and swooned through the pages of all three novels, but at the same time, caring so strongly for the three sisters has in some measure made my job as author a little more difficult.


Characters: The Lifeblood of the Story

For me, as a reader and writer, the characters are the lifeblood of the story. They’re what draws me in, makes me care, and has me thinking about them when life intervenes and I’m forced to put their book down for a while.

I’d say 99% of the books on my Keeper Shelf are there because the characters spoke to me or affected me in such a way, I want to revisit them again and again. Suzanne Brockmann’s novels and the characters that inhabit their pages have always engendered this sentiment in me. Her Troubleshooter series is filled with heroes and heroines that I would love to hang out with. 

Characters that touch the reader…that’s what I strive to create when I dive into my story world. With my debut series, MATCHED TO PERFECTION, my hope is that the Fernández sisters, their heroes and loved ones become like familia to my readers—just as they have become for me. I have cried, laughed, sighed and swooned through the pages of all three novels, but at the same time, caring so strongly for the three sisters has in some measure made my job as author a little more difficult.

Case in point, book two, HER PERFECT AFFAIR, features Rosa Fernández, the quiet, conservative middle sister. Rosa is my smart librarian who’s reached a place in her life where she’s wondering about the value of always playing it safe. And whether or not there’s a way for her to stretch her wings, maybe take a little walk on the wild side and go for something she desperately longs for, but when she does…she’s met with huge consequences.

I’ll be honest here; I struggled with Rosa’s story. Mostly because I really really love her, and I just wanted her to be happy. But that sentimental side of me also had me holding back when it came to challenging her and increasing the conflict in the plot. I mean, who wants to create problems for someone they love? Well, that’s a huge problem for an author because without conflict, your story’s done. Or worse, it drags on with very little happening, which makes the book a snoozefest.

So, the challenge for me became about setting aside my emotional attachment to this (fictional) person and tackling the manuscript armed with the craft tools and tips I’ve gleaned over the years as an RWA member and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program.  Thankfully, switching my mindset from “friend” to “author” worked. I’m not gonna lie, having a looming deadline helped speed up the process—the ticking clock is a powerful motivator, in a book’s plot and life in general. J

HER PERFECT AFFAIR, Rosa’s story, is my “sophomore” book—my second published novel—and I discovered what many experienced authors, as well as my agent, have shared with me is a common experience…the weight of doubt or fear we place on ourselves, wondering if book one might have been a fluke. Maybe not all authors feel this, but I don’t mind sharing that I definitely grappled with it. And, if hearing about my struggle helps another author in some small way, even if it’s simply to realize they’re not alone when doubts start plague them, then admitting that writing isn’t always easy for me turns into a positive.

To my readers, or those considering spending some time with my Fernández sisters, know that my heart and soul are on the pages of each book. And my hope is that when you reach the end, you feel like you’ve made some new friends, ones you may even want to share with your loved ones, and come back to visit again.

I wish you all many hours of happy reading!

Abrazos/Hugs,

Priscilla

Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras

Book title: HER PERFECT AFFAIR

Series: MATCHED TO PERFECTION

Release Date: March 27, 2018

Publisher: Kensington Publishing, Zebra Shout

Series: MATCHED TO PERFECTION

Rosa Fernandez doesn’t act on impulse—she’s the responsible one, planning her career with precision, finally landing a job as the librarian at conservative Queen of Peace Academy, confining her strongest emotions to her secret poetry journal. But she’s been harboring a secret crush on dreamy Jeremy Taylor, and after one dance with him at her sister’s wedding, Rosa longs to let loose for the first time. She deserves some fun, after all. So what if she doesn’t have a shot with Jeremy, not with his wealthy pedigree and high profile lifestyle. But one dance leads to one kiss, and soon Rosa is head-over-heels…

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Excerpt:

Moments later, after a short discussion with the wedding planner, Rosa learned all was in order. She wasn’t needed anymore. Just like at home now that Papi was gone and Lilí was off to college.

Uncertainty weighed heavy in her chest.

She glanced from her peers, excitedly dancing, to the older couples chatting at the circular tables. Most people here would say she fit in better with the older, more reserved crowd. Not that she could blame them. It’s where she typically gravitated. She heaved a sigh weighty with resignation.

No one knew about the increasing number of times lately that she wondered how it might feel to shake up the status quo. Do something just because it felt good, without worrying about the consequences.

Although, shaking things up might not be what the Catholic diocesan school board at Queen of Peace Academy in their quiet Chicago suburb of Oakmont, Illinois, wanted from their new librarian. She’d worked hard to finish her MLS on time so she could take over when Mrs. Patterson had retired this past summer. Now was Rosa’s chance to carve her own niche amongst the staff, moving from former student to colleague. Allowing her to work on becoming a mentor to her students.

So what if she felt something was missing. It would pass.

Feeling out of sorts, Rosa edged her way toward the back of the ballroom near one of the portable drink stations.

“One ginger ale with a lime twist for the señorita, coming right up,” the bartender said as she approached.

“You remembered!”

The gray-haired man filled a cup with ice and smiled at her. “Why aren’t you enjoying yourself with the other young people?”

“I was just about to ask her the same question.”

 Rosa started at the deep voice coming from behind her.

She glanced over her shoulder, thrilled to find Jeremy Taylor standing close by. His broad shoulders and football-player physique filled out his navy pinstriped suit to perfection. Even though her heels added a good four inches to her five-foot-six height, Jeremy still towered over her. He smiled, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners. A thrill shivered down her spine.

“I’ll have what she’s having, please,” Jeremy said.

“Ginger ale?” the old bartender asked.

Jeremy blinked in surprise before he slowly shook his head. “Rosa, Rosa, Rosa. How can you celebrate your sister’s marriage without enjoying some champagne? C’mon, share a glass with me?”

            Longing seared through her, fast and hot. Ay, little did he know that she’d share pretty much anything with him.

Jeremy tilted his head toward her, urging her to say yes. But not pushing.

Ever since Yaz had introduced the two of them almost four years ago, Jeremy had been nothing but friendly, almost brotherly. After Papi’s death back in January, Jeremy had been amazingly supportive. A perfect gentleman.

Just not her perfect gentleman.

Now he waited for her answer, an expectant gleam in his blue eyes.

Technically she was off the clock. The wedding planner had said she’d wrap things up and touch base on Monday.

What could one glass of champagne amongst friends hurt?

Before she could change her mind, Rosa nodded, pleased by the way Jeremy’s grin widened at her response. He held up two fingers at the bartender, who winked at Rosa.

“Buen provecho,” the old man murmured.

She gave him a shy smile of thanks as she reached for the proffered champagne flute, then sidled away from the bar.

Jeremy fell into step alongside her and her heart rate blipped with glee.

“What did he say when he handed you your drink?” he asked. “Good something, right?”

She nodded, remembering Jeremy’s recent decision to start learning Spanish. “Literally it means, ‘enjoy your meal,’ but in this sense, it’s more like, ‘enjoy.’”

“Well then”—leaning closer to her, he clinked his flute against hers—“buen pro-pro—”

Provecho,” she finished, her belly flip-flopping at his chagrined smile.

They walked a few more steps before she worked up the courage to ask, “So, um, where’s your date?”

The tall blonde who’d been his plus-one was the epitome of old money and high class, a glaring reminder that Jeremy came from a wealthy, established Chicago family. Rosa, on the other hand, came from a small town on the Island, her parents having transplanted from Puerto Rico to the Humboldt Park area of Chicago when they were first married, then later to Oakton in the suburbs.

She and Jeremy, not to mention his date, weren’t quite the same pedigree.

“Cecile?”

“Uh-huh. Is she your . . . ?” Rosa let her voice trail off, wondering what his response might be.

“Family friend. I mean, we dated years ago, but decided we’re better as friends.”

Rosa breathed a soft sigh of relief.

“Anyway, she ditched me a while ago.” Jeremy brushed it off like his date leaving him behind didn’t bother him. “Her parents are hosting a charity event over on Michigan Avenue and she wanted to put in an appearance.”

“You didn’t want to go?”

“And miss this fun?” He jutted his chin out at the people dancing to a well-known merengue hit. Couples packed the floor, some more seasoned and coordinated than others, but all having a great time.

They reached an empty table and Jeremy pulled out a chair for her.

“I haven’t seen you out there,” he said. “How come?”

He sat down to join her, his muscular thigh inadvertently brushing against hers. Tingles of awareness danced a cha-cha down her leg.

“Um, well.” Hyper-attuned to his nearness, it took Rosa a second to find her words. “This is more Yazmine and Lilí’s scene. I guess I tend to be a much better party planner than a partygoer.”

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that.” Jeremy’s lips quirked as he slid her a teasing glance. “I seem to recall you play a mean game of charades.”

Rosa laughed, remembering Lilí’s birthday this past spring. It’d been their first family celebration since Papi’s death, so Lilí had kept it an intimate affair at home with the three sisters; Tomás; his six-year-old daughter, Maria; Jeremy; and a few other close friends.

She and Jeremy had wound up on the same charades team. That night, they’d been on a similar wavelength or something, quickly guessing each other’s clues before anyone else.

Lilí had cried foul play.

Yaz had dubbed them the dynamic duo.

Rosa had soaked up the shared moment, their uncanny connection. Later, she’d composed a few verses about it in her private poetry journal.

“By the way, Yaz mentioned how you stepped in to help so she wouldn’t stress as much today. Everything turned out great.” The pleasure in his bright smile, directed right at her, made Rosa’s pulse skip.

She ducked her head, embarrassed by his praise. “It wasn’t that much.”

“Right,” Jeremy answered, his tone dripping with disbelief.

She peeked at him from under her lashes. At some point in the evening, he’d shed his suit jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves, revealing his muscular forearms. As always, she was drawn by his ruffled dark blond hair and square jaw. But even more so by his friendly eyes and the easy camaraderie they shared.

He took a swig of his champagne, eyeing her over the rim.

What did he see when he looked at her?

Anxiety fluttered in her chest at the thought.

No way did she measure up to Cecile, or any of the other women who traveled in his family’s social circle. Cecile’s diamonds had been real. Rosa wore costume jewelry she’d found on sale. Her red taffeta bridesmaid dress, bought off the rack, was far from designer label.

She tugged at her hem, uncomfortable with the short style Lilí had preferred. Hating the fact that even among her sisters she sometimes felt like she didn’t measure up.

They were movers and shakers, life-of-the-party people.

She was the low-key Fernandez sister.

For a long time, she’d preferred it that way, especially after . . .

It was simply safer.

The thing was, safer often also meant lonely.

“How come you didn’t bring your own plus-one tonight?” Jeremy angled toward her to be heard over the music, his shoulder bumping into hers. His earthy cologne teased her senses.

She shrugged, her bare shoulder rubbing against the cool material of his shirt sleeve. “Pretty much everyone I know was already coming. Plus, I thought it’d be rude to leave a date alone if the caterer or someone needed help.”

Besides, the only man she would have liked to ask was already on the invite list. With his own plus-one. And probably way out of her league.

Not that Jeremy had any inkling of her major crush on him.

“Always thinking of others, huh? You’re pretty amazing, Rosa Fernandez.” Jeremy raised his glass in salute with a playful wink.

“Thanks,” she murmured. His flattery and sincere tone caused heat to flood her cheeks, reminding her of Héctor’s earlier Red Rosie comment. She despised the nickname that dated back to her freshman public-speaking class and the vicious blushing episodes she’d suffered.

Rather than press her flute to her warm face, Rosa settled for a gulp of the cold champagne.

Mis amigos, it’s almost closing time.” The DJ’s rich baritone elicited a groan of disapproval from the partiers. “We’ll play our last slow song, then finish the night with a bang. Gracias por venir esta noche! For you gringos, that means ‘thanks for coming tonight’ to celebrate Yazmine and Tomás’s wedding! Now, here’s one for all you couples out there.”

The beginning strains of an old Spanish love song drifted from the speakers. Regret and loss tightened Rosa’s throat when she recognized the tune as one Papi and his trío had often played at their gigs throughout the years.

Around the ballroom, dancers quickly paired up. Rosa watched a young teen work up the nerve to ask a pretty girl from their church to join him. The girl hesitated, hands clasped behind her back. Rosa waited, anxiously hoping the poor boy’s spirits weren’t about to be crushed.

Dios, her adolescent memories were pockmarked with similar self-esteem-diminishing moments. Waiting for this cute boy or that smart one to invite her to a school dance, or out for ice cream. Or even for a library study date. The one time she’d tried taking the initiative, she’d bungled it. Badly. Eventually, she’d given up wishing for a date. Books were far safer companions.

Finally, the girl gave a shy nod and the young couple moved to join the others. Out of the corner of her eye, Rosa noticed Jeremy pushing his seat back. She turned to say good-bye, only to find him holding out a hand to her.

“You’re not going to let the night end without allowing me one dance, are you?” His blue eyes warmed with a plea for her to say yes.

Surprised anticipation hummed in her chest.

She’d wanted an invite from him all night, but figured his date wouldn’t appreciate it. Now that the statuesque socialite was out of the picture. . . .

Behind him, Rosa caught Lilí laughing with her partner, enjoying herself, having done very little tonight to help behind the scenes.

Diviértete, Lilí had chided her earlier during the wedding party dance.

Her little sister was right. It was time for her to have a little fun. The thought had Rosa’s pulse pounding like she’d already started dancing a salsa.

Rising to her feet, she set her hand in Jeremy’s larger one.

His fingers closed around hers, the tight grip welcome, reassuring. He led the way to the edge of the dance floor, where he pulled her close to him.

 

 

About the Author:

PRISCILLA OLIVERAS is a 2018 RWA® RITA® double finalist who writes sweet contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor. Proud of her Puerto Rican-Mexican heritage, she strives to bring authenticity to her novels by sharing her Latinx culture with readers. Her debut release, His Perfect Partner, and the second book in her Matched to Perfection series, Her Perfect Affair, both earned Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Since earning an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, she serves as English adjunct faculty at her local college and teaches an on-line course titled “Romance Writing” for ed2go. Priscilla is a sports fan, a beach lover, a half-marathon runner and a consummate traveler who often practices the art of napping in her backyard hammock. To follow along on her fun-filled and hectic life, visit her on the web at www.prisoliveras.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/prisoliveras  or on Twitter via @prisoliveras.

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