More Than Meets the Eye is the first book in a new series. Each time I start a new project, there is an excitement that comes with getting to know a fresh group of characters, but there is also a pressure to make these characters unique. A challenge that gets increasingly difficult the more books I publish.
The premise behind my new Patchwork Family series is a group of orphans who bond to form their own family when their orphan train derails. These youngsters were overlooked, discarded, and unwanted by the families they met along their journey. Zach, because he is a belligerent loner with a giant chip on his shoulder. Seth, because he is sickly, weakened by asthma. But how could I make my cheerful, tenderhearted Evangeline undesirable to adoptive families?
That’s when I thought of cats. No, I wasn’t going to give her claws. But what about mismatched eyes? Psychologists will tell you that at a subconscious level, humans crave symmetry. It’s why certain faces are universally more attractive than others. When that symmetry is out of balance, it creates cognitive dissonance in the human brain. In our effort to explain away this discomfort, we place blame on the cause, calling it unnatural or even something darker like witchcraft. The greater the dissonance, the greater the reaction. So, I didn’t simply give my heroine slightly different colored eyes, I made them drastically different. One dark brown and one vividly blue. These are the heterochromatic eyes that I patterned Evangeline’s after.
Evangeline grows up with constant rejection, yet she maintains her optimism and cheerful disposition. At least when she’s around her brothers. And when she meets Logan, a mysterious stranger with a hidden agenda, she finally finds a man who sees the woman behind the mismatched eyes.
Here’s a short excerpt from the initial meeting between Logan and Evangeline. Logan has just attempted to rescue Evie from what he believed to be a wild boar. In actuality, the hog is Evie’s pet.
“Since you’re new to the area, you might not be aware that you’re on Hamilton land.” Evangeline crossed her arms over her chest. Lifted her chin. Widened her stance. “My brothers won’t begrudge you snaring a rabbit or even taking down a deer if you’re in need of nourishment, but we don’t take kindly to squatters.”
His lips quirked again.
What was it about her trying to act mean that made men grin? It was quite annoying. Evangeline frowned at him.
His smile widened. “I’m aware of the boundaries. My camp is east of your property line.”
“But you’re not.” She unfolded her arms and poked him in the chest.
He stared at her finger then pointed his own and nudged it against her shoulder. “Because I was trying to save you from being gored by a wild boar.”
“One that wouldn’t actually hurt me.”
“That’s debatable.” The man folded his arms and looked down his nose at her. “Even without tusks, that thing could do serious damage if riled.”
“Then you best not rile him.” Evangeline gave a sassy wave of her head, as if she could order Hezzy to attack at any moment. The only damage her pet would likely render involved non-lethal pig slobber and a head butt that might manage to knock the fellow off-balance. But something told her this man wouldn’t be bowled over too easily. . .
“Thank you, by the way.” Evangeline met his gaze, smiling even broader when he blinked in confusion. “For your heroic rescue.” She dipped her chin. “Just because your actions were unnecessary doesn’t mean they’re not appreciated.”
He cleared his throat and shifted his weight. “You’re welcome.” His voice tapered up at the end, making the statement sound more like a question, but Evangeline chose to interpret it as a successful change of direction anyhow.
“You have a lovely horse.” She stepped to the side and twisted, letting her skirt twirl about her just a little. She’d never been good at standing still. The rhythmic twisting, even in small doses, calmed her growing nerves.
Now that the initial excitement of the discovery, chase, and tackle had subsided, she was becoming acutely aware of the fact that she was alone with a man.
A man who actually treated her like a woman. Not a sister. Not a freak of nature with unnatural eyes. But an ordinary, normal, woman.
“He’s very handsome,” she said. “Your horse.” The horse’s owner qualified for that descriptor, too. That wavy dark brown hair escaping from beneath his hat to curl over his collar. Gray eyes that had softened from steel to the color of fluffy storm clouds that projected the possibility of trouble but also offered shade. Tall. Strong. A little rough around the edges. “And friendly, too.”
The man before her mumbled something beneath his breath about horse sense not being what it used to be, but Evangeline chose to let that bit of cynicism go without comment.
In honor of More Than Meets the Eye’s release, I’ll be giving away autographed copies (US addresses only) to three winners drawn from those who leave comments on this post. Winners will be announced on Thursday, June 7.
- What is the most unusual pet you’ve ever owned?
- Do you know anyone with heterchromia?
- Who is your favorite pig from literature?