Who here likes the idea of a first date? A hot guy choosing you, the thrill of maybe a new outfit, flutters of anticipation… Okay, now who likes the reality of a first date? The stomach-clenching worry of boring him/him boring you, realizing you can’t afford a new outfit (especially if he turns out to be a dud), the angst of deciding if you can go ahead and order an appetizer and dessert, or if he’ll think you’re a gold-digger trying to test the buoyancy of his bank account….
Let’s face it, first dates can be scary. And more like filling out a job application than establishing a personal connection. You run down a list of questions: age, college, major, job, etc. These things are necessary. They’re also about as romantic as a bouquet of plungers. And when it comes to a book, and the main characters methodically covering those bullet points? Not exactly a page turner.
In UP TO ME, the first book in my new Shore Secrets trilogy, the hero and heroine skip the first date. They share their first kiss on a hotel staircase the night they meet. And the next day, Gray discovers he can’t date Ella until the whole town gives their approval (Yes, it’s a contemporary romance, and it’s a funny but complicated reason, I promise. Just go read the book.) Ella proposes a work-around: non-date dates. Unsexy, non-romantic things like sharing breakfast. No wine, no cleavage-baring dresses, and they only ask things that would never be allowed on a first date. Ella even offered a prize for the best anti-date question and started with politics.
“Oh, so you admit you tried to game me?” He leaned forward, hands braced on the edge of the green wrought iron table. “Planned to throw softballs until I caved and asked you something predictable and against the rules? Like the name of your movie star crush or your favorite boy band?”
The moment she decided to change tactics, Gray knew. She telegraphed it with a tiny uptilt of her right eyebrow. If he hadn’t been staring at her eyes, trying to drink them in, trying to pinpoint their exact combination of green and yellow and caramel, then he would’ve missed it. However hotly she’d planned to deny ever crushing on a boy band—something he wouldn’t believe for a second—Gray knew that moment had passed.
“It was a warm-up question.” She flicked it away. “I had to test and see if you were up to the challenge. I’ll admit, you impressed me when you lobbed right back with the one about the latest scandal at the Vatican.”
Without the pressure and awkwardness of a first date (not to mention already getting their first kiss out of the way), Ella and Gray have the chance to actually connect, rather than dryly interview each other. It’s sort of like eating dessert first. Because really, the good stuff doesn’t until people let down their guard and get real. And that never happens on a first date. Ella and Gray do—eventually–get their first ‘official’ date. Since he knows her so well at that point, Gray can pull out all the stops and romance her in a way he’d never have been able to pull off without the knowledge gleaned from two weeks straight of non-date dates. Skipping the first date removes all the stress. I dare you to give it a try.
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