Monday, November 21, 2011

Decisive Moments by Toni Noel-Guest Post & Giveaway: Featured Author


The Darker the Romance the Better

Growing up I memorized Edgar Alan Poe's The Raven because I liked the poem so much, and read all his fiction. Never once did I imagine I'd grow up to write dark romance, too.
What makes my latest release a dark romance?
The hero has a past.
The hero has secrets.
The hero was traumatized as a child.
The hero is reclusive.
The hero is a tormented man.
The hero refuses to enter his childhood home.
The heroine senses his angst and is determined to change his outlook on life.
The heroine, a widow, has an unhappy past, too.
The heroine's five-year-old daughter longs for a father.
The heroine refuses to consider marriage again.
The heroine suspects the ghost of the hero's dead mother haunts his house.

Nothing about this book sounds romantic until you meet Amy Millington, the gutsy photographer who turns architect Charles Harding's life upside down. She reads the deep sadness in his eyes, feels his sorrow, and with her daughter Marta's help tries to change his outlook on life.

Although Charles has accepted his life was forever changed because of what his mother did before abandoning him at an early age, he's receptive to change. Few of his memories are pleasant ones, but Amy and Marta force him out of his reclusive ways and into the sunlight, where they teach him to relax, to enjoy life, and to laugh.

He begins to daydream about a better life, one that includes Amy and Marta, even allows Amy inside to photograph his childhood home once he's removed the boards covering the windows. She has an affinity for the house she's unable to explain, and feels welcoming arms around her each time she enters the house.

Charles still cannot enter his former home, scene of a murder and suicide when he was four, but begins seeing Amy and her winsome little girl away from Harding House for dinner, a bicycle ride, and lunch. He takes Amy for a romantic picnic at the lake. She has no desire to remarry and later denies her attraction to Charles, insisting there can be no permanent place for him in their lives.

Then Marta disappears while Amy's photographing in the study of Harding House and Charles finally enters his house to help in the search. He finds Marta holding the key to his tragic past. Freed from his feelings of abandonment by his mother's suicide letter, his life takes a different turn. Not Amy's. She can't let go of the past, but Charles insists she learn the truth about her late husband's suspected infidelity.  Her efforts take her back to Las Vegas and the military housing they once shared, to no avail. She's lost all contact with their Naval Air Force friends.   

Then the Navy Lieutenant who caused her heartache shows up at Amy's door, a Captain in the Naval Air Force now and Amy learns the truth. Her late husband had been faithful to Amy, had resisted the sexy officer's advances. He'd never stopped loving Amy, and she has nothing to forgive.

Dark clouds no longer hang over their heads, so the sun begins to shine on Amy and Charles. He readies his house for occupancy and when the two of them start making marriage plans Marta realizes her dreams of having a home, a father and being part of a family may all come true.  

 Here's a buy link at Desert Breeze 
Or download from your favorite eBook source.

About the Author


         While growing up in the South and completing seventh grade Toni Noel, writing under another name, laboriously typed each copy of the newspaper she published and circulated at church.

When she was fourteen Toni began an autobiography, but after only three chapters realized she had not lived long enough to give her life story an arc. She concluded her effort in the fourth chapter by giving her heroine an incurable disease.

She later edited her high school paper and one of her editorials earned her membership in Quill and Scroll. She also wrote a weekly fishing column, perhaps her first published work of fiction, for at that time she had never held a fishing pole.

For two of those high school years a weekly column about the happenings of her high school friends earned Toni a byline in a Scripps-Howard daily newspaper and a neighborhood weekly, the first income earned from her writing, money her father faithfully set aside for her to attend college.

Toni thrived on spending time in the library, loved to do research and write term papers.  She would finish her theme well ahead of the due date so she could type the papers of classmates, a lucrative way to add to her college fund.

She met her husband of fifty-nine years her first week on campus and at the end of her freshman year gave up her dream of teaching to marry the first-year teacher who had captured her heart.  He retired in 2010, ending a sixty year teaching career. ...Profile is continued on her website.



Find Toni Noel on the Web:



To satisfy the requirements for her Master's Degree in fine art photography, Amy Millington needs to photograph Charles Harding’s childhood home, but his boarded-up-house holds painful memories for Charles. Without those photographs Amy cannot secure her young daughter Marta's future. Charles denies the gutsy widow's request. Her efforts to show him how to have fun lead him to allow her to photograph his home. Then Marta gets lost and Charles must help search his house for her. He finds Marta and his mother's long-lost suicide note. Knowing the reason his mother shot his father, then turned the gun on herself, frees Charles from his past, but can he free Amy from her painful past and teach her to love again?

Enter HERE and comment on this post below for a chance to win a digital copy of Decisive Moments.
Giveaway ends Dec. 3rd 11:59 PM CST. 

The receptionist on a mission to block her path was no match for Amy Millington. On a mission herself, she darted past.
Her destination loomed ahead, the two closed mahogany doors leading to the office of Charles A. Harding, Architect.
So far, so good.
Now to outsmart the sedately dressed secretary seated at the desk just outside those doors. This formidable woman screened the architect's calls and had, on a daily basis for the last two months, refused Amy's request for an appointment.
Failure to accomplish her mission meant postponing graduation for six more months. No way. Too much was riding on her master's degree. Maybe even a Guggenheim Fellowship. Amy's new career, for sure, and with it, a secure future for her daughter. No way would she allow Harding's secretary to stop her now.
Taking a deep breath, Amy charged around the woman's desk to the doors and yanked, sending one crashing back against the wall.
The dark-haired man seated behind a massive desk looked up, surprised. His finely tailored suit matched the toasted pecan color of his eyes. His white shirt seemed almost too harsh for his silk tie softly patterned in rust and bark.
Amy's heart beat erratically, making her lightheaded right when she needed to be at her best. She didn't have much time. Building security would show up soon.
She met the man's unreadable gaze and forced her best smile. Three more strides brought her close enough to inhale the woodsy scent of his aftershave. "Mr. Harding, I--"
His threshold guard interrupted. "I'm sorry, Mr. Harding. This young woman wouldn't stop."
He frowned, but a hint of curiosity lit his eyes. "Never mind, Julia." He nodded at his secretary and she left the room, though Amy noticed she didn't close the door.
Then he returned his attention to the blueprints on his desk. The nerve of him. Like a naughty child in the principal's office, he made her wait.
A fresh wave of irritation at all her wasted time washed over her. Weeks of thwarted attempts to see this illusive man, and what did he do once she'd breached his gates? Ignored her best smile. Ignored the stylish suit she'd purchased just for this moment, a suit bought with money she'd managed to cut from her school supply budget over the last six months. It looked like she wouldn't earn a second glance from this reclusive architect.
Finally he stopped shuffling the blueprints, rolled them up and stood. "Five minutes."
She extended her hand, ignoring his cold demeanor. "My name is Amy Millington." When he reluctantly offered his, she shook his hand, an artist's hand with long fingers, his smooth, uncallused palm unexpectedly warm.
"Charles Harding, but of course you know that."
Yes, she knew his name, and a lot more about him, thanks to her research. His presence seemed to fill the spacious room, crowding her. His quick gesture indicated she should take the chair near his desk. She sat, welcoming the chance to catch her breath and corral her thoughts.
He took his seat and cleared the space before him of work, giving her a moment to study him unobserved.
A stray curl tumbled over his forehead when he glanced down at his work, giving him a boyish look. He was definitely more good-looking than any photos she'd found of him, but he looked older than his years, and almost sad.
"So, Miss Millington, what's so important you couldn't wait for an appointment?"
"I wanted an appointment, but your secretary has refused to give me one each time I called. She insisted you were unavailable, that you would never make time to see me."
"Julia simply carries out my instructions." He opened a drawer, took out a yellow pad and slid the drawer shut. "What brings you to my office? Are you interested in building a home?"
Amy glanced at the framed renderings on the wall behind him. All were of rather sterile, contemporary dwellings built of stone and glass. Her artistic eye rebelled at those cold images created by the man seated across from her.
"House plans are not what I had in mind." She steadied her nerves and plunged on as she felt her five minutes ticking away. "I'm a grad student at UCSD just weeks from completing a master's degree in visual arts. Photographing architecture is my main emphasis. I came because of my interest in your great-grandfather's home designs."
Harding's frown returned so she hurried on. "He built six homes in Mission Hills. I've studied those designs, and over the past few months I've photographed the interiors of five of those homes as part of my graduate project. There's only one I still need. The house you own on Harding Road. At one time the man living there gave me permission to photograph the interior, but I'm now unable to reach him."
She watched as the architect's lips drew into a tight line, hardening his expression. A mouth revealed so much about a man.
With a deft motion, he slid open the drawer and stuffed the yellow pad inside. "I'm afraid what you're about to propose is impossible. The uncle you spoke to died." Harding came to his feet, ready to kick her out.
"But surely--"
"No." A muscle twitched in his strong jaw. "Five houses should be sufficient for your needs."
"Not photographing the sixth house will make my study incomplete. Please, could I--"
Irritation flashed in his eyes. "No one goes inside."
Why? It didn't make sense.
All right, time to try something else. "I'm sure you know the first C. A. Harding included ingenious details in his designs." To Amy's relief, his stiff stance relaxed a fraction.
"One interesting part of my research involved discovering the secret hidden in each of the homes he helped build. The house with the dumb waiter to the master bedroom is my favorite."
As if surprised to discover himself standing, Harding eased back into his chair.
Almost made him smile. Good. Maybe she could reach the real man beneath this hard shell. "Or maybe it's the house on Dixon Drive where shrubbery hides the outside stairs leading from the garden to the eldest son's bedroom."
Amazingly, Harding's sculpted lips twitched into a smile. What a difference a grin made in his looks. Gone was the grim set of his jaw, the skeptical frown. A cleft in his chin appeared. What could have made this handsome man so dour? So serious? Charles Harding needed to learn how to lighten up.
Ignoring the sudden tripping of her heartbeat as she realized she was staring at him, she hurried on. "I can just picture an adolescent son sneaking in late at night, no need to remove his shoes."
Leaning forward, Amy met the architect's gaze and smiled. "What about you? Are surprises hidden in your designs?"
"I'm more concerned with function. With practicality. My clientele demands modern efficiency for their money, clean lines and easy care. Hidden passageways are remnants of another time."
"That may be true, but what romantic times they were. Have you asked your clients if they might prefer something more imaginative? A design with a few soft curves to soften all the cold stone and glass?"
"What might seem appropriate in your art would be considered impractical in modern homes."
Modern designs held no appeal for her she'd learned. "Now, about photographing your house..."
Anger -- or was it something else -- flared in his eyes as he stood. "There is no chance of you ever photographing my house," he said, a note of finality in his voice.
"Here's my card, in case you change your mind."
He slid the card into his desk without a glance. "I won't."
She tucked her purse under her arm and headed for the door. Across the room a burst of buttercup yellow caught her eye. Her own reflection in glass. The only spot of color in the dreary room was her best suit.



Kathryn Merkel said...

I love how Amy charges around the secretarys desk & confronts Charles in his office. This is a girl who knows what she wants & is willing to go the distance to get it. I can't wait to read what their next encounter is like.

drainbamaged.gyzmo at

R. Ann Siracusa said...

As always, Toni's work is spellbinding. Great story.

Toni Noel said...

Hope you enjoy Decisive Moments as mush as I enjoyed writing it, Kathryn.


Toni Noel said...

Ann, as always, I appreciate your continued support. Thanks for stopping by.


Laura H. said...

Thanks for the giveaway! I'm one of those readers who "judges a book by its cover". When I saw the cover to this book, I knew I had to find out more about it. And after reading this post I'm glad I did! Although this is a new author for me, after checking out the other books on her website, I'll be adding her work to my TBR list! I would love to read this book!


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sweety said...

Thanks for the giveaway!!


Laurie said...

The giveaway winner is Laura H. Congrats!!

Laura H. said...

Thanks so much! I'm really looking forward to reading this story!