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Hello, my dear readers! I have a special treat for you today! I am thrilled to welcome Melanie Stanford to Diary of an Eccentric for the first time to celebrate the release of her novel, Collide, which is inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (a book I have yet to read and really must do so). She is here to introduce the novel and share an excerpt, so please give her a warm welcome:

Thanks Anna, for having me at Diary of An Eccentric! I’m so excited for the release of my second Romance Revisited novel, COLLIDE, inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South.

COLLIDE is a modern story, so naturally I had to make some changes from the original. One of these changes was Margaret’s move to Milton, which is a huge moment in the story. It didn’t seem right to have my character move with her parents, so I made it something my Maggie wanted from the start. Maggie is a contemporary dancer, and dreams of dancing with a fictitious Las Vegas contemporary dance company called Essence Dance Theater. After rejecting a proposal from her high school sweetheart, she finally has the courage to follow that dream and move to Vegas.

I’d considered other dreams for Maggie to pursue- a college degree, photography, art. It was fun for me to make her a dancer because I used to dance as well and I still love it. Giving Maggie this immediate desire made her more interesting to me as a character, and it also created obstacles that I didn’t see coming (I love it when that happens).

The scene I want to share with you today is from Jay’s point of view, where he’s seeing Maggie dance for the first time. They’ve already met, and he already likes her, but seeing her dance—a form of dance he wouldn’t be familiar with—makes him want her even more. Of course, it’s not that easy because Maggie is not into him. This scene also highlights the differences between them as characters. Enjoy!

Maggie was dancing—spinning and leaping around the room McCrary had set up for aerobics classes that nobody had wanted to take at a boxing gym. Her body moved in a way I’d never seen before. It was beautiful and strange. Compelling and sexy. There was no music, but earbuds snaked from her ears and into the waist of her skin-tight leggings.

Her movements slowed, she hesitated for a moment, breathing deep without looking my way. Aside from her leggings, she only had on a sports bra, showing off vast amounts of bare skin shining with sweat. Every curve and muscle of her body was visible, and I wanted it all under my hands.

She resumed dancing, swaying to a beat I couldn’t hear, her arms making long lines, one leg reaching for the ceiling. Then she was on the floor, her body almost caressing it as she moved. I’d been to clubs, watching girls dance in far less than Maggie had on, writhing and swaying for money. The way Maggie danced was different, special.

Tension and desire moved through my body. I clenched the railing.

She stopped, freezing her last step for a moment before she pulled the buds from her ears. Wiping sweat from the back of her neck, she turned and finally saw me.

My lips parted.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. She was panting from the exertion, her chest rising and falling. Her face flamed under my stare. “So late, I mean?”

Blood pounded through my veins. I wanted nothing more than to close the distance between us and wrap my hands around her waist, caress her sweat-soaked skin with my fingertips. Taste her with my mouth.

I swallowed. “I had to grab the accounting books for McCrary.”

She slipped her phone from her leggings, avoiding my gaze. “McCrary?”

“Conall McCrary. He owns this place.”

“Oh, right.” She pulled a hoodie over her sports bra, curves and skin disappearing under the bulky fabric.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

She bent down and removed some kind of weird shoes, then stuffed them into her bag. “Nico said I could use this space for practice.”

“Practice?”

“Yeah. I needed some space. He said he’d run it by Old Man…Mr. McCrary.” She slung her bag over her shoulder. “I’ll only come at night, when no one is here. So I don’t interrupt classes or anything.”

“Okay.” It would be exquisite torture, watching her dance again. I already wanted it.

We headed down the stairs together. She smelled faintly of sweat and something sweeter. I moved closer.

“Is this some scheme to come up with the money?” I asked. “Because I don’t know if it’ll work. You’d have to get a lot more naked.”

I’d meant it as a joke, but her face flushed again and her jaw clenched. I was an idiot.

At the bottom of the stairs, the gym was dark except the light over the front desk. Maggie tripped on a mat and I grabbed her arm, steadying her. She jerked away, whipping me in the face with her ponytail.

“My life doesn’t revolve around Officer Ting’s money, you know,” she said.

“It should.”

She stopped walking. We were near the front, close enough to the light that I could see her face, twisted with annoyance. “Would you leave me alone about it?”

My eyebrows lowered. “No.” I would bug her and bug her about that money until the deadline hit, anything to keep me from doing what I had to do if she couldn’t pay up.

“No?” Her hands went to her hips and so did my eyes.

I grabbed the strings of her hoodie and tugged on them, bringing her closer. “I won’t leave you alone until I see all thirteen thousand of those dollars.”

She batted my hand away. “Right. Just doing your job.”

I pulled her into me, our legs entwined. I didn’t let the feel of her distract me. Her hands were on my chest but she didn’t push me away.

“Maggie. This isn’t just about my job. Simon will hurt you.” My grip on her hips tightened, I couldn’t help it. She needed to wake up. She needed to know. “Simon will make me hurt you. Don’t you get it?” He would make me do something I couldn’t do. But I didn’t want to be faced with that choice, or the consequences if I refused.

“It’s all part of the job though, isn’t it? I mean, you must enjoy it. Hurting people. Otherwise you wouldn’t do it.”

Desire turned to anger, and it began to boil under my skin. Of course that’s what she thought. I let her go. “Your life might be black and white. Mine isn’t.”

“God gave us this life,” she said. “It’s up to us what we do with it.”

“Was that on an inspirational poster at Bibles ‘R’ Us?”

She made a face I couldn’t read. “My dad is a preacher.”

She was clueless. If her father was a preacher, her life had probably been all Bible Study and prayer meetings and choir practices. Everything boiled down to a belief in simple moral choices. As if my life, my choices, were so simple.

I crossed my arms. “Maybe some of us are doing the best we can.”

“Maybe your best isn’t good enough,” she said, but her face softened, taking the bite out of her words. She was pitying me now, and that was somehow worse.

“I’m sorry,” she said. My eyebrow twitched in surprise. “If I can’t practice here, I won’t come back again.”

I turned away. “You can practice here.” All the time and never.

She didn’t move. I didn’t move.

“Thank you,” she said.

****

About Collide

When their worlds collide, neither will be left unscarred.

Suffocated by her small-town life, Maggie Hale runs away to Las Vegas to pursue her dream as a contemporary dancer. But Vegas doesn’t turn out like she imagined. She doesn’t make it into Essence Dance Theater and the only job she can find is working in a greasy diner—again.

Jay Thornton wants to quit enforcing and own his own boxing gym one day. But his loan shark boss saved him from the streets as a kid and he owes the man everything. Cutting ties isn’t so simple.

When Maggie pledges to pay back a friend’s loan, she becomes Jay’s next mark. Sparks fly between them, but choosing each other could mean the end of both their dreams.

COLLIDE is inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s NORTH & SOUTH

Check out Collide on Goodreads | Amazon (U.S.) | Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (U.K.) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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About the Author

Melanie Stanford

Melanie Stanford writes romance and YA of different genres. Her first novel, SWAY, a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION, debuted December 2015 from Samhain Publishing and was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Since Samhain’s closure, Melanie decided to republish SWAY herself, along with the rest of her Romance Revisited series: CLASH, a Romance Revisited novella, COLLIDE, and a third novel coming 2018. She also has short stories featured in the Austenesque anthologies THE DARCY MONOLOGUES and THEN COMES WINTER.

Melanie reads too much, plays music too loud, is sometimes dancing, and always daydreaming. She would also like her very own TARDIS, but only to travel to the past. She lives outside Calgary, Alberta, Canada with her husband, four kids, and ridiculous amounts of snow.

Connect with Melanie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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Giveaway

Melanie is generously offering a $25 Amazon gift card as part of the blog tour. Enter through the Rafflecopter link. Good luck!

Thank you, Melanie, for being my guest today and sharing that very intriguing excerpt! Congrats on the new release!

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