Today I am pleased, privileged, and delighted to host my Wild Rose Press sistah Claire Marti. She’s got a new addition to her award winning FINDING FOREVER IN LAGUNA series, titled SUNSET IN LAGUNA, and she’s dealing with two of my favorite topics to read about: Veterans and Dogs. Claire is a huge supporter of rescue dogs and service dogs, and in Sunset in Laguna, she writes about how one dog, Olive, helps a veteran with PSTD find his way again. Here’s Claire, in her own words, explain how she came up with the idea.
In SUNSET IN LAGUNA, Christian Wolfe, the hero, is an Army Special Forces veteran who resigns his commission after four tours in the Middle East. He returns home to Laguna Beach, California, and opens Vines, a wine bar. On the surface, he’s reserved and seemingly aloof, but on the inside he’s battling PTSD and is desperate to find something to stop the nightmares and panic attacks.
Unaware of his struggles, Kelly Prescott invites the tall, dark, and dreamy Christian along when she visits a non-profit rescue group that provides service dogs for veterans. Olive, the rescue pug, latches onto Christian and he ends up confessing to Kelly he has PTSD. Olive and dogs like her are trained to help veterans manage their symptoms and nightmares. Pugs are excellent at helping people cope with anxiety and emotional stress.
I was inspired to create the Pups-4-Vets non-profit in SUNSET IN LAGUNA by a group based in Denver, Colorado, where we were lucky enough to adopt our dog. Josie had a tragic past: she was left tied up to a tree to starve to death when another rescue group saved her. They contacted Freedom Service Dogs who evaluated her as a potential service dog candidate. Sweet, gentle, and kind, she was a perfect fit. Unfortunately, it turned out she has severe hip dysplasia and couldn’t finish her training in the case she developed symptoms once she was placed. So, we lucked out and were able to adopt her. I’m happy to report her hips are just fine four years later.
These organizations are incredible, not just for providing this much needed service to these brave men and women who served our country, but also by giving these animals a second lease on life after tough beginnings. I loved being able to highlight this type of organization and also share how Olive is an integral part of Christian’s path to regaining his health. Plus, Olive is really funny!
Claire sent along pictures of her fav pups. First is Ollie, her friend’s cute pug and the inspiration for Olive. Then we have Claire’s beloved Josie.
SUNSET IN LAGUNA
Returning to Laguna Beach after four tours in the Middle East, Christian Wolfe leaves the military behind and buys a wine bar, vowing to keep his life simple. He fights to keep his devastating PTSD a secret and refuses to burden anyone else with his baggage. When stunning Kelly Prescott and her red stilettos saunter into town, she drives him past the bonds of his self-control.
Successful in her father’s stuffy law firm, Kelly’s too compassionate to survive in the cutthroat world of corporate litigation. Leaving behind both family and courtroom drama, she moves to Laguna to become general counsel for a nonprofit veterans’ organization.
She didn’t bargain on a gorgeous modern-day Heathcliff, and in Christian, she sees another kind of challenge—one she can’t resist.
EXCERPT from SUNSET IN LAGUNA
“Scared? Of this? No.” Still, he didn’t bend down to pet the alien-looking object. He didn’t want to encourage her attentions.
Kelly leaned in to pet Olive, and her hand brushed his denim-clad leg. Even through the heavy material, a spark of heat ignited and shot straight up his thigh. Damn. Maybe the dog was safer?
Olive shifted her attention to his other leg and began dancing a little jig. What the hell was wrong with it?
“Come on, Christian. Just pick her up. Poor thing seems to be half in love with you.” Kelly laughed again. “Oh fine.” He leaned down and grasped the little beast by its plump midsection. “What is it? Not really a dog, right?” He held the ten pounds of fur aloft, and it locked its bug eyes onto his. Was she grinning at him? Her pink tongue lolled out of the right side of her mouth.
“Give her a little hug. Don’t just hold her out there.” Melinda’s brisk tone brooked no argument.
Geez. Fine. He snuggled the dog against his shoulder, and he could have sworn she sighed in ecstasy. She laid her head on his shoulder and gazed up at him. Even he could see the worship in her eyes. Figures this ugly little creature would latch onto him. He gave a few gentle pats to the rolls of fat on her back and set her down.
“There. Are you happy?” He glanced at Kelly, who was grinning, looking incredibly gorgeous. He’d much rather snuggle her sexy little body into his shoulder.
“Are you sure it’s a dog? And how could it help a disabled vet?” He directed his gaze at Melinda. Weren’t service dogs usually Labs or other large breeds who could provide physical assistance if needed?
“I’ll tell you. Come on. We’ll let Olive and Howard finish training while we continue the tour.” Melinda headed back toward the metal gate, and they trailed behind her.
Before they could exit the pen, Olive darted out and slammed against his ankles. He peered down, and sure enough she was gazing up at him with stars in her Bette Davis eyes. She hopped and yipped, apparently wanting to be carried. Some service dog.
“Olive, go back to Howard,” Melinda commanded.
“We’re about done, so she can follow along with you on the tour,” Howard called with a smirk on his freckled face.
“Great,” he muttered. Olive looked up at him in triumph and marched next to him. He’d probably trip over her and break his neck.
Claire started writing stories as soon as she was old enough to pick up pencil and paper. After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BA in English Literature, Claire was sidetracked by other careers, including practicing law, selling software for legal publishers, and managing a non-profit animal rescue for a Hollywood actress.
Finally, Claire followed her heart and now focuses on two of her true passions: writing romance and teaching yoga. At Last in Laguna is the second book in her Finding Forever in Laguna series from The Wild Rose Press.
Find Claire here: