Brain to Books Blog Tour
Author: Annette Mardis
Genre:Contemporary romantic suspense
Books: Shore to Please, Gulf Shore series Book 3
Annette is a veteran newspaper journalist who holds to the adage “write what you know.” A native Floridian, she fell in love with dolphins as a child watching Flipper on television. Now, she volunteers at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where she educates guests, leads tours, and gives presentations, and is a member of the Stranding (rescue) Team and the Sea Turtle Patrol. She immortalizes her pets in her books: Ozzie the African gray parrot, affectionately known as her “little boy in a bird suit”; and her beloved dogs Cocoa and Shelby, who have supporting roles in Shore to Please as Taco and Kirby.
Tara Langley thought she’d found the love of her life, but he betrayed her with another woman. So she buried herself in her mission: convincing Gulf Shore Aquarium that dolphins and whales belong in the wild, not in artificial pools.
If Tara had her way, Paul “Flipper” O’Riley would lose the job he loves. Flipper is the head dolphin trainer, and the aquarium’s dolphins are his babies. While he’s open to having a real family one day, Tara is the last person he would choose to be his wife and the mother of his children.
These two should be sworn enemies, after all. He certainly swears at the sight of her. And his surfer-dude looks and lover-boy reputation aren’t exactly what Ms. Prim and Tidy had in mind when she pictured her ideal man.
But in the age-old way of opposites attracting, Tara and Flipper find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other. There’s no possible way a relationship between them could work, right?
As the two try to find common ground amid the quicksand, Flipper and his coworkers become the targets of an increasingly more menacing campaign to force the aquarium to release the dolphins under its care. Will Gulf Shore Police Detective Joanna Tompkins catch the culprit before it’s too late?
On Amazon.com from reader Sue D. Clarke:
Never suspected the culprit!
With so many possible suspects out to harm Flipper, Tara and the people who worked at GSA, it was hard to figure out who the real threat was. I got very caught up in the story, and the cast of characters became very real to me. Also enjoyed learning about all that goes on behind the public eye to make an aquarium succeed in helping all the sea creatures that they rescue. I have enjoyed all 3 books in this series.
After Flipper and Tara end up attending the same seminar in Orlando, he offers to buy her dinner. After some hesitation, she gives in. It’s far from a romantic interlude, and they desperately search for common ground amid the quicksand.
“Where’d you grow up, and how’d you end up in Orlando?” Flipper asked.
Tara flashed an enigmatic smile. “You can’t tell by my accent?”
His baffled expression amused her. In fact, the man himself delighted her when they weren’t picking at each other over his job and her cause. Once again she found herself wishing they’d met under different circumstances. But he couldn’t change what he was any more than she could.
“I’ll play along, mystery lady. What do you call a soft drink?”
“Soda or soooda?”
She laughed. “Just one syllable. Now you tell me.”
“Growing up, I called everything coke.”
“Even when you were drinking root beer?”
“Yep. Everything was coke, lowercase.”
“After the first few times a server brought a Coke when I wanted a Dr. Pepper, I learned to specify. Okay, here’s another one. Do you refer to a small stream of water as a creek or a crick?”
“Creek, of course.”
“Me, too. What do you call your maternal grandmother?”
“Mimi. How do you address a group of two or more people?”
“My neighbors said you-uns, but my mother frowned on that expression.”
“Uh, okay. My people say y’all.”
“Hmm. What kind of shoes are you wearing now?”
Flipper looked at his feet and then at her. “Tennis shoes. What do you call them?”
“Sneakers. All right, one more.”
“Make it a good one.”
“Of course. What’s the term for the gunk that gathers in the corners of your eyes overnight?”
She made a sour face. “That’s certainly crude.”
“And what do you call it, Madam Etiquette?”
“It’s a good deal better than”—she turned up her nose—“eye booger.”
“I think that’s pretty descriptive. I mean, you say those two words and everyone knows what you’re talking about.” She shook her head, still unconvinced. “Anyway, based on everything you’ve just told me, Tara, I’d say you’re from Snob City.”
“What? I am not a snob, Paul O’Riley.”
“We’re back to Paul, are we? Okay, how about Snootyburgh?”
“Flipper.” Her tone carried a warning.
The corners of her mouth quirked. “Are you finished?”
“Almost. Haughty Valley? Pompous Place?”
“Keep it up and Comedy Central will be calling.”
“You can’t deny you sometimes sound like you have a big board wedged up your butt.”
“I most certainly do not!” He raised an eyebrow. “Okay, perhaps I do, especially when I’m feeling off-balance and lapse back into ingrained habits. My mother was an English teacher who abhorred slang and insisted on proper diction. I never even dared utter a curse word until after I went away to college.”
“That explains a lot.”
Tara flashed him a fake smile and continued. “She wanted in the worst way for me to major in English language and literature. I’ve always felt like a disappointment to her. She takes great satisfaction in comparing me to my younger sister, who buckled under to the pressure and followed in Mother’s footsteps. If you think I have a proper way of speaking, you should meet Caroline. Even I think she’s a bore. She married an equally tedious math teacher, and they have two oddly spiritless children who never have snotty noses, sticky fingers, stained clothing, or skinned knees. My mother is beside herself with pride.”
“Your household must’ve been some fun while you were growing up.”
“You have no idea.”
“What about your father?”
“He was a high school principal preoccupied with upholding an image, so he and my mother were a united front. Now, back to our original topic. It’s my turn to do you.”
He winked at her. “I thought you’d never ask.”
“I didn’t mean it that way! Stop laughing. And you wonder why I tend to avoid the vernacular.”
That made him laugh harder. She tried not to smile but couldn’t help it.
“Just for that,” she told him, “I’m going to guess you’re a native of the Isle of Fools.”
“New Port Ninny? Buffoon Beach? Cape Cretin? Ooh, ooh, I know. Simpleton.”
Flipper gave her an indulgent look.
“Or how about—”
He leaned forward and silenced her with a kiss. Tara’s mind short-circuited, and she clung to his shoulders when he started to pull away. He cupped the back of her head and teased her mouth open with his tongue. Swept up in the moment, she briefly forgot who and where they were until the server plunked two beverages in front of them. They broke apart with a start, and as reality intruded once more, she feigned interest in her place setting and the small bowl of lemons for their iced tea.
“Tara, honey, look at me,” he coaxed.
She spread her napkin over her lap instead. He reached across the table and, with gentle but firm pressure beneath her chin, lifted her head.
“Don’t be so freaked out. It was just a kiss,” he soothed.
“Oh, sure. First it was just dinner, now it’s just a kiss. What’s next?”
“Depends on what you want to happen?”
“Nothing, that’s what I want to happen. Flipper, what are we doing?”
“We’re having a nice time. Or at least we were until you started overthinking things again.”
“Overthinking? I’m not so sure my brain’s been engaged at all.” She ran a nervous hand through her hair.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“Isn’t it? There’s only one way this can end, and that’s badly. I’ve already endured one failed romance this year. I don’t think I could stand another one.”
Flipper took her busy hand and held it still. “Aren’t you getting a little ahead of yourself? You’re acting like we woke up in bed together after a night of scream-so-loud-you-piss-off-the-neighbors sex.”
The highlight reel in her mind made Tara’s girl parts leap up and shout, “Hallelujah!” Her tongue, on the other hand, seemed Super-Glued to the roof of her mouth. Staring at him was the best she could do at the moment.
“What? No snappy comeback?”
She shook her head.
“Well, that’s disappointing.”
Q: Go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell the audience about yourself.
A. Hi, everyone. My name is Paul “Flipper” O’Riley and I’m the head dolphin trainer at Gulf Shore Aquarium in Gulf Shore, Florida. Dolphins have fascinated me ever since my parents took me to SeaWorld when I was 10. My first career choice was to play Major League Baseball, but I realized in high school I’d never be good enough to compete at the highest level. So I decided to become a dolphin trainer, which requires a college education. My parents always struggled to make ends meet and told me the only way I’d go to college was on an athletic scholarship. I was a good outfielder with decent pop at the plate, and I busted my butt and managed to get that scholarship to a Baltimore school that had a very good animal behavior program.
Q: Tell us where and when you were born.
A. I was born 36 years ago in Alabama, and my family moved to St. Augustine, Florida when I was 12.
Q: How would you describe yourself?
A. People tell me I look like a surfer dude, and they assume I only care about how good I look in my wet suit and where I can catch the next wave. I may be kind of a simple guy with simple tastes, but I’m not empty-headed. I read a fair amount, am eager to learn new things, and have a variety of interests. I’ve worked very hard to get to where I am today, and I take my job very seriously. But I also like to have fun as much as the next guy, and I couldn’t cope with 50-hour work weeks if I didn’t enjoy what I do for a living. I think I have a natural rapport with people, which is a good thing because we spend a lot of time interacting with aquarium guests. I’ve got a good sense of humor. I’m a good friend, a good son, and a good boss. At some point in the future, I’ll be a good husband and father, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Q: Tell us about where you grew up.
A. St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest city, celebrating its 450th birthday this year, and it’s a blend of the historic and the modern. It’s a tourist town, of course, and there’s a lot to do in the area, both cultural and recreational activities. I spent a lot of time at Anastasia State Park camping, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and walking the nature trails. Marineland, one of Florida’s first marine mammal parks, is close by, too.
Q: Tell everyone what it is you do when you’re not working as a dolphin trainer.
A. I like to play darts and pool and eat wings and drink beer at Bikini Barb’s Bar & Grill, which is our after-work hangout. I’m also a certified scuba diver, I play softball, and I like to watch sports, especially baseball, on TV. I root for Tampa Bay’s sports teams — the Rays, Buccaneers, and Lightning — and attend games when I can. I’ve also gone to a couple of NASCAR races at Daytona International Speedway.
Q: Are you serious with anyone?
A. There’s a lady I’m really attracted to, Tara Langley, but she’s an animal rights activist and my boss would hit the ceiling if I spent any time with her. Besides, there’s no way we could ever make it work between us. But in my fantasies, we get along really, really well, if you know what I mean.
Q: Tell us about your worst fear.
A. I’m afraid of the nutcase who has been threatening the aquarium and demanding we release our dolphins into the wild. None of our dolphins would survive out there, so “setting them free” would be sentencing them to death. There’s also a small faction of extremists who think that dolphins would be better off dead than in “captivity.” My dolphins are like my kids, so if anything happened to them…well, I don’t want to think about that. And now I have to worry about my own safety and about my coworkers and friends, too, because the anonymous notes being sent to the aquarium are getting nastier.
As you might’ve guessed, I’ve got a lot on my mind lately. And I have this bad feeling that Tara will end up getting blamed for those threats. I’m not sure what I can do to help her, because my bosses get upset when I defend her. I predict things are about to get very interesting, and very dicey, in Gulf Shore.
Connect with Mardis
I’m giving away digital copies of my first Gulf Shore book, The Shore Thing, to the first three people who sign up for my newsletter on Aug. 26, my day on the Brain to Books blog tour. The free book offer will be posted at www.annettemardis.com. The form to sign up for the newsletter is at http://www.annettemardis.com/contactsubscribe.html.