Can’t Hold Back is, well, BACK.

Can’t Hold Back, book two in my Returning Home series, re-releases today! Nate and Alia are back in business. 

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Readers often ask me, Where do your ideas come from?

My books come together a little like recipes—the casual kind your grandmother passes along (a pinch of this and a handful of that), not the perfectly calibrated kind you clip out of glossy magazines. Heres my recipe for Can’t Hold Back:

Start with a big helping of what worked last time. Because Hold On Tight was a USA Today bestseller, and readers loved its wounded military hero, I knew the sequel would also have a hero who’d been injured in both body and spirit.

Add some Cyrano d’Bergerac. That’s the trope in Sierra Burgess is a Loser, Roxanne, and The Truth About Cats and Dogs. It’s when the main character is too afraid of rejection to speak their own truth, so asks another character to approach the love interest … Then, mistaken identities and other hijinks ensue! I’ve always loved the heck out of this trope—maybe because I spent most of middle school and early high school in unrequited love, writing love notes I lacked the courage to send.

Throw in a healthy portion of pain management techniques. At the time I wrote Can’t Hold Back, I was struggling with pain in my upper body (neck, shoulders, arms, hands). As a writer, it was a pretty scary time, because I thought I might lose the ability to tell stories. But some pretty great physical therapists gradually showed me how to work with, around, and through my pain. Those healers felt like heroes to me. They were patient and thoughtful and determined. They believed that we would work it out and that I’d be able to do what I loved. This book is an homage to them.

Sprinkle with sister issues. I’m the older of two girls. My sister and I have always had a great relationship, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get in each others’ ways, even with the best of intentions. Like that time in high school I fixed her up with a guy who had a crush on me (eep!) … luckily for us, it never got quite as complicated as it did for Alia and Becca. (Instead my sister did what any self-respecting romance heroine would do and married my husband’s best friend and best man, and theyre living happily ever after!)

Spice things up with some truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories. There’s a scene in Can’t Hold Back where Nate has a panic attack while swimming in the lake. That really happened to a friend. She was a crazy-strong swimmer—she was actually training for a triathlon at the time—but she panicked, and she almost drowned. She was swimming behind a friend who had a weird feeling something wasn’t right and turned back to look — which saved my friends life. When I heard the story, I didn’t think, Hey, I’m going to put that in a book someday, but when I started to write the scene at the lake, that story came back to me, and I knew it was part of Nate and Alia’s tale.

Wave the magic wand. Writing a book is a little more like a wizarding spell than a recipe. Because in the end, you can throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into a story, and you still don’t quite have a book. There’s something amazing that happens when you start to write—most writers call it “the magic.” It’s when the characters come to life and start doing things you didn’t expect, when new characters suddenly spring up and assert themselves, when something happens you never planned for. Like one of my favorite scenes, the one where Alia is trying to convince Nate to focus his attention on his pain, and he has other ideas about where he wants to focus … it just happened. Nate opened his dirty mouth, and there we were. 

Here’s an excerpt:

© Copyright 2019 Serena Bell | All Rights Reserved

He wanted her to finish what she’d started. He felt he was on the brink of something life-changing, because the woman who had climbed on top of him, who had tilted her hips down, was familiar—

MenInUni242, is that you?

Except now she was all business again.

“I want to try something.”

As if they could forget the weight and heat of her on him. The way they’d found a rhythm together. How close they’d come to chasing it home.

He snorted. “I want to try something, too.”

“Not that.” She crossed her arms, ruining the view.

“Yes, that. Get back here. Alia. Seriously. Don’t try to play like you weren’t—”

Instead, she stepped away and sat in the desk chair. Her nipples poked through the thin fabric of her T-shirt. He rolled onto his side and winced as pain shot up his back and spiraled in his neck.

“See, you’re in no condition for that.

“I’m in perfect condition for that,” he said, indicating the steel rod in his athletic pants.

Her gaze flicked to his groin, then away. Then her eyes met his. There was a challenge in them. “I want you to meditate.”

“Not that again.”

“Yes, that, again.”

“I have a better idea,” he said. “I think you should meditate. You can use this as a focal point.” He dropped his palm to the bulge in his pants, and ground his hand there. It was only the barest relief. There wasn’t going to be any relief for him until he was buried in her, and then—then he bet he’d be ready for her again ten minutes after they were done.

She was staring at the slow rock and squeeze of his hand, her face soft and intense. Her fingers twitched against her flannel-clad thigh. Her tongue came out to wet her lips. Bingo.

He elaborated, a slow drawl, his eyes on her face the whole time, watching the effect of his words. “I want you to focus on it and make it the sole object in your mind. I want you to consider all its aspects thoroughly until you reach enlightenment. Or I do. Whichever comes first. I’m all for both.”

Want more? (Nate does.) You can find Can’t Hold Back here. 

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