As the hour of the ceremony draws near, Colin, his family, and friends, can’t help but recall the many poignant moments that have shaped and led him to the altar. Utilizing a sentimental blend of flashbacks reminiscent of “The Notebook” and How I Met Your Mother,” these memories propel the story forward by closing in on the present and offering clues as to who the bride will be: Cindy, Haley, Tessa, Monique or Cara.
Written almost exclusively from the perspective of the groom and his family, “To Have and To Hold” is a rare reversal of romantic focus that turns a simple love story set in the suburbs of New York City, into a timeless family saga. Fun and light with a compelling subplot involving the identity of the bride, this novel is sure to charm anyone who enjoys happy endings, mysteries or both.
Targeted Age Group:: 15+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
As a kid I was inspired to write and create by comic books and Dungeons and Dragons, so it was a big surprise when this family saga/contemporary romance came out first! As an adult, I think its life’s natural magic. The spine tingling moments, the lump in the throat moments that happen to us all every day. Trying to capture them on paper is what inspires me now. For this book in particular, it was the bride’s entrance to the church that got the ball rolling. It’s such a dramatic real-life moment, and I thought it would be really cool for readers if I could make that moment larger than life by keeping the bride’s identity a mystery until she walks in. The whole book grew from that initial seed.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Organic trial and error. I needed a big family to introduce my bevy of “suspect” girlfriends and deliver the clues as to which of them would be walking down the altar. So just the setup of 5 girlfriends, the groom and his friends and family populated the book with 13 characters to start with! Obviously some are more developed than others, but the girlfriends were hardest because I wanted the reader to be conflicted with who they would root for to be under the veil or there would be no mystery. Two of the most rewarding comments I’ve received about the book so far are: “I think Colin married the wrong girl…” and “I hate that guy Foster, how can Colin even be friends with him?” When I hear that, it makes me feel like I’ve done my job well as a writer.
At the heart of “To Have and To Hold” is the strong central bond shared by the MacLann family. For them, and all of us I suppose, happily ever after isn’t the final result. It needs to grow and breathe and mature through crisis if it’s going to survive and thrive in the future. This is one of the lighter “crisis” moments of the novel, and very illustrative of the uplifting, light, feel good tone you can expect from “To Have and To Hold.”
“Really Mommy really,” Dillon whined as Colin trudged in behind Matt and closed the front door.
“You two,” Jill called from the kitchen. “Upstairs and clean up for dinner.”
“Okay, Mom,” the boys said in unison before heading up to the bathroom.
“Maa-ahhm!” Dillon cried again.
“Tim?” Jill looked for her husband. He had come in quickly, gone into the kitchen bathroom and was just now coming back out again.
“What are you doing?” Jill’s tone was unmistakably accusatory.
“Where were you?” she asked. “I didn’t see you in the garage.”
“Daddy! Daddy!” Dillon burst into the kitchen. “There’s a puppy living behind your chair!”
“Really?” Tim avoided Jill’s question by tuning completely in to Dillon. “All by himself?”
“He has his own house and everything!”
“Wow! It must be a tiny house to fit behind my chair.”
“Come see! Come see!” Dillon grabbed his hand.
Tim moved off toward the living room, “Maybe you should come too, hon—”
Jill flared. “Do you want to eat tonight? Then maybe it’s time to do something about the make-believe zoo we have around here. We’re getting a little old for imaginary—”
“It’s not make-believe Mommy. It’s true!”
“I’ll, uh, check it out,” said Tim with a serious nod.
“Do something about it,” she mouthed. “I can’t take it anymore.” Words that Tim, no matter how he juggled them, could not take as a good sign.
“You see! You see!” Dillon pointed behind the chair, jumping up and down.
“Mmmhmm,” Tim admitted for Dillon, then quickly posed for Jill’s scrutiny with the air of one grasping a complicated problem.
“He has a house and everything, just like I said. Right, Daddy?”
“Mmm,” Tim fingered his chin thoughtfully.
“I don’t know why Mommy doesn’t believe me.”
That was it. The uneasy silence of the kitchen was firmly demolished by the clamor of plates slamming on the dining-room table. Tim’s risked a hurried glance and found himself snared and filleted by Jill’s frown.
This really seemed like a good idea at the time. Hell, it’s still a good idea! Tim decided right then and there to just roll with it. After all, he had brought the dog home, and if Jill was going to be mad, well then shit! He may as well double up on his losses and hope to break even.
“What kind of puppy do you see under there, Dillon?” he asked. A hard sigh followed Jill back into the kitchen.
“I don’t know, kind of black and white, but he has two different eyes!”
“A blue one and a brown one.”
“Wow! Hey hon, did you hear—”
“Anything so ridiculous in my life? I should say not.”
“Well, I was kind of going for … unusual.” Tim supplied a smile.
A throaty rumble of displeasure gobbled up the casual attempt to sweeten his words, a mere snack for the Irish lioness. “You think this is funny don’t you? We talked about this Tim.”
The game Tim was playing was hurtling closer and closer toward one obvious and calamitous conclusion. “I know,” he said, “but maybe if you came over and—”
“No! We can’t keep humoring him.”
“Aawoooo!” The unexpected howl froze Tim instantly. Jill’s eyes positively seethed, and he hung on her next words.
“You see?” She nodded toward Dillon, crawling around the chair on his hands and knees, screeching in delight. “Good job, Tim.”
The little howl came again, and Tim bit his tongue. She really thinks that’s—
“Enough Dillon!” Jill slapped the utensils down. “Come in and sit down.”
“Do I have to?”
“Dillon, don’t make me tell you again.”
The boy clambered to his feet in the manner a five-year-old will. “I guess Mommy doesn’t like puppies. How can you not like puppies? And what are we going to do with this one?” He tugged on his father’s pocket. “I really want to keep him, Daddy.”
“Well, uh … You know Jill, maybe you should come over here and—”
“For the last time, no!” More plates banged on the table. “Dillon, I told you to come and sit down.”
“No buts today, young man. Sit down now. And no more barking.”
Dillon shuffled to his regular seat. Tim held his breath, waiting for the unmistakable, cataclysmic yowl that was sure to follow now that Dillon was at the table.
Normally, such a moment is exactly what Fate would be waiting for, but today it was having way too much fun, so instead, the doorbell rang. “I must be in the Twilight Zone,” Tim mumbled under his breath.
As Jill went to the back door, he weighed his options. All of them seemed to involve an inordinate amount of home repair and no sex.
The silence was broken yet again, this time by the streaming thunder of footsteps racing down into the living room.
Matt and Colin!
Matt whirled around. “What was that?”
The kid doesn’t miss anything.
Matt and Colin stood motionless, their eyes sweeping the floor like mine detectors. Tim made a good effort. “That was Dillon. Sit down. How was school today?” But something so out of place and unacceptable by Mom’s standards as a blanket behind his chair could not escape observation. As if on cue, a little, white paw poked through the wire-mesh door of the carrier, and both brothers gasped.
Matt leapt forward, pointing.
“Quiet!” Tim hissed.
“But!” Colin tried.
Both boys looked about to burst. Surely there would be no quelling their excitement for any length of time, but then it got better. “Your mother doesn’t know yet,” Tim whispered.
“What?” Matt bubbled with such incredulity and delight that he spun around in a circle. “You got a dog and didn’t tell Mom?!”
“It’s a surprise!” Time whispered through his teeth. “Now sit down and don’t blow it!”
“I’ve never seen anything like him before,” Colin stooped to peer under the blanket. “Looks like a little wolf.”
Seeing Colin in such close proximity to the puppy was too much for Dillon. He was out of his seat immediately and quickly lying on the floor chattering softly with Colin. “Isn’t he great! He’s got one blue eye and one brown eye.”
“Wow! Look at that! Hey Matt, check this out!”
“Get away from there!” Tim rose from his chair to add more urgency to his words. “Your mother’s coming—”
“What’s going on in here?” Jill stormed into the dining room. Colin and Dillon sprang to their feet, and all four of them stood there like garden gnomes. Jill made eye contact with each of them. Her husband the last in line.
“Who was that at the door?” Tim asked.
A stony silence followed.
“We’ll talk later. Dillon, I told you to sit down. Matt, grab two chairs from the basement. Mrs. Lewis has to go to work, her husband was going to take Stacy and her friend to McDonald’s, but now he’s working late too, and they’re going to eat with us.”
Colin fidgeted in his chair. Friend? Friend who? Could it possibly be?
Matt, only fifteen then, put on his bestest, thoughtfulest, solemnest look. “Nice knowing ya Dad.”
“Get the chairs wise guy. I’ll tell Mom you brought the dog home.” The color drained from Matt’s face. “And no matter what you say, she’s going to believe me.”
Matt ran down to the basement. When he came back up with the chairs, Colin heard his voice drift in from the hall, “Hi Stacy. Hi Haley.”
Colin sat straighter in his seat.
Jill sat the girls next to Dillon with Matt, Colin, and an empty seat opposite. “Where is—”
“I’m home!” Candace flew in the back door. “Am I late?”
“Close enough.” Jill waited for her to take her seat next to Colin. “All right, I think we have everything and everybody.”
Tim glanced discreetly over his shoulder. Not everybody.
Jill took her place at one end of the table with Tim opposite, nearest the living room.
Sitting in the middle, directly across from the object of his affection, Colin mumbled his way through grace, while the rest of his brain tried to find something to talk about with Haley. The meal went on, the hush of appetites at work until the fearless whisper of a child climbed into the silence: “We have a dog.”
Haley winked back at Dillon, who then laid a conspiratorial glance around the table. Nobody acknowledged him; all the assurance a five-year-old needed for the all-clear.
The silence went on again.
Candace kicked Colin under the table. He answered the silent question with a shrug.
Matt snorted. Jill, still distracted by Tim’s lack of enthusiasm to resolve the zoo situation, felt her attention redirected by the ping of her innate radar. Her gaze flickered around the table, and instantly set about dismantling the secret telegraphs it detected pitching from plate to plate.
A small giggle probed into the mysterious quiet. “Dillon, eat your food.”
Feeling the sudden urge to lay a foundation for survival, Tim said, “This is great, Jill.”
“Mmmhmm,” and Tim knew Jill had just torched that bridge without even uttering a word. Well, it was worth a try.
Tim peered casually over his shoulder again, and the game took a new turn. Dillon must have inadvertently tripped the lock while sticking his fingers in the cage, or the puppy had somehow sprung it himself. Either way, the blanket he had laid over the carrier was unspooling across the living-room floor.
It won’t be long now!
Tim forgot himself and chortled.
“Something you want to share with the rest of us, husband?”
“Well, now that you mention it, uh.” A furry blur rubbed his ankle. Tim reached down, but it was gone. Damn! Pulling that puppy out of thin air would have given Jill a conniption!
Matt and Colin must have known it too, because they began to wiggle and laugh down at their plates.
“Since we’re all here, I kind of do have an announcement … of sorts,” Tim said.
“I’m not going to like this, am I?” Jill eyed Matt and Colin suspiciously.
Tim rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well …”
“Mom,” Dillon initiated a rescue attempt that made his father proud, “you really shouldn’t be mad. I’ve been telling you the whole time and—”
Jill pointed at him with a fork. “No dog stories, Dillon,” and the five-year-old responded with the exasperated sigh given to those who just don’t get it.
Jill unleashed a final, threatening squint on her youngest son, then trained her full attention on the chief conspirator. “What’s going on Tim?”
“Well, Jill, the truth of it is …” Tim took a breath, hesitating. Then Jill stiffened, and her eyes opened so wide that Tim though they might slip right out of their sockets and into her dish. Frustrated perhaps by Tim’s stalling, the truth had chosen that moment to reveal itself, and did so by sniffing and licking Jill’s right foot.
Tim remembered the last time he’d seen that look on Jill’s face; Colin had been caught kissing Monique behind the garage. That hadn’t gone to well either.
Jill’s fork fell to the table in slow motion, and clanged against the plate.
I hope this is worth it.
“Eeeeee!” Jill screamed, kicking and thrashing her legs under the table.
“Aahhhh!” Tim slammed his hands on the table as dramatically as he could, watching happily as his shout detonated an instantaneous chorus of panic in the dining room.
“What? What? What?” Candace, every bit her mother, was already turning white when she saw it race out from under the table and into the kitchen out of sight. “It’s a skunk! It’s a skunk!” she cried.
“Yaaahhhh!” Stacy, Haley, and Candace all pulled their feet up.
Hopping back and forth with a butter knife in one hand and the napkin holder in the other, Jill screamed repeatedly into the din, “Where is it? Where is it?” and whirled on every flicker in the corner of her eye, which more often then not, was one of the napkins she was inadvertently tossing on the floor.
“Mommymommy! No! No!” The panic was overwhelming poor little Dillon, and tears began to stream down his face as he imagined his mother carving up the puppy with one blue eye and one brown eye. “It’s not a skunk! It’s not a skunk!”
But hearing only “Skunk! Skunk!” the girls raised another round of fearful cries and began climbing onto their chairs.
The shouts of “where-there!” and “no-no!” raged back and forth for some time as the black-and-white “storm” blurred happily under, behind, and around the furniture.
And in the eye of the storm was Tim. Reveling in the bedlam, he looked on as fits of uncontrolled laughter knocked Matt and Colin out of their chairs. When they cracked their heads on the radiator behind them, they just laughed harder. All of it, he knew, was just a wistful countdown until Jill regained control, a moment that would signify the end of existence as he knew it. But that had only lasted for a little while, and a lot less longer than he had expected it to.
About the Author:
I was lucky enough to grow up in College Point, New York, at a time when kids could still be kids and sometimes were for too long. Today I still reside just outside The City, and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
I graduated from Wagner College, where as a senior, I won the Jack J. Boies Award for Creative Writing with a science fiction story called “Guns.”
Growing up, my friends and I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, so you can imagine how elated I was when my first published work, a mini-adventure called “Mayhem at Midnight,” appeared in the pages of DUNGEON Magazine (Issue #43).
Writers need stories to tell. They also have to pay the bills, so I joined the NYPD in 1992. Ten years later, on the strength of a work sample that eventually became the basis for No Regrets (THTH Chapter 10), I was transferred to the Department’s in house magazine: SPRING 3100. After collecting lots of great stories (and hopefully writing a few too), nine years of Medal Day Madness, earning a Certificate in Journalism from NYU, meeting lots of interesting people, and quite a few memorable Christmas parties, Detective Stratton retired to fill an urgent opening in a newly created position at home: Mr. Mom.
I work harder than ever now, but I also laugh much more, and get to do it in “civilian clothes” all day, and more often than not, my pajamas for most of the morning.
While working full time, getting engaged at the Empire State Building, getting married, buying a house, coping with 9/11, and becoming a father, my first novel “To Have and To Hold” took me over 12 years to write, edit and publish. Set just before the advent of the digital age, it’s a heartwarming walk through yesterday, a time not too long ago when your neighborhood really could be your whole world.
Going forward, I hope to have better luck outwitting the forces of time and space to make time at the keyboard and complete subsequent novels at a faster clip.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Link to Buy To Have and To Hold Print Edition at Amazon
Link to Buy To Have and To Hold Print Edition at Barnes and Noble
Link to To Have and To Hold Print book for sale via at CreateSpace
Links to Purchase eBooks
Link To Buy To Have and To Hold On Amazon
Have you read this book? Tell us what you thought!