Marie Force has worked as a reporter, editor and writer for the last 20 years, serving most recently as the communications director for a national membership organization. A lifelong reader of romance, she lives with her husband and two children in her home state of Rhode Island and had to become a football fan when the muse delivered Ryan to her doorstep! Line of Scrimmage is her first novel. Her second book, Same Time Sunday, will be out in Spring 2009.
Line of Scrimmage Marie Force. Casablanca, $6.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4022-1424-0
Force's debut contemporary reads like an overly long category romance. Ryan Sanderson, three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Denver Mavericks, interrupts his almost-ex-wife, Susannah, while she's dining with her new fianc�, Henry, and his parents. Ryan threatens to slow the divorce proceedings, delaying Susannah and Henry's wedding, unless she allows him to woo her until their marriage legally dissolves in 10 days. Susannah capitulates, and after they finally communicate with one another about the stillbirth that destroyed their marriage, their passion reignites. When Henry reappears on the scene, however, the story falters. Henry, who has loved Susannah for years, always tried to get between her and Ryan, and she seems to have meekly tolerated it. Susannah's passivity and poor judgment reflect poorly on her, and Henry has few positive qualities. Ryan, on the other hand, is a good guy desperate to fix past mistakes, a terrific change of pace from the typical reluctant hero. (Sept.)
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September 01, 2008
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Excerpt from Line of Scrimmage by Marie Force
Excerpt from Chapter 1
IF THERE WAS ONE THING SUSANNAH SANDERSON--SOON to be Susannah Merrill--excelled at, it was setting an elegant table. Along with sparkling crystal and gold on silver flatware, there were dainty tapered candles perched in sterling candlesticks. A floral centerpiece in buttery yellows and golds complemented the main attraction: her grandmother's Limoges china. Susannah often said that in a fire she'd grab the photo album from her debutante ball and as much of Grandma Sally's china as she could carry.
Not every dinner party warranted the use of the china with the pale flowers and strip of fourteen-carat gold around the edge. But entertaining her fianc� and his parents certainly qualified as a china-worthy event.
Susannah glanced at Henry, and he smiled with approval as he took a bite of the succulent leg of lamb she had prepared with just a touch of mint.
"This is absolutely delicious, honey," Henrietta Merrill said to her future daughter-in-law.
"You're a lucky man, son," Martin Merrill added.
"There's nothing quite like being married to a beautiful woman who can cook."
Henry reached for Susannah's hand, his love for her apparent in his worshiping gaze. "I know, Dad."
When a strand of his salt and pepper hair fell across his forehead, Susannah had to resist the urge to brush it back from his handsome face. Henry wouldn't approve of such an overt display of affection in front of his parents. The paisley bow tie he wore with his starched light blue shirt was a little crooked, but it only made him more adorable to her. He filled her with such an overwhelming sense of safety and tranquility--two things that had been sorely lacking in her life until Henry had returned to it. In just one month she would be his wife, and she'd have that safety and tranquility forever. Susannah couldn't wait.
Almost as if he could read her thoughts, Henry squeezed her hand and then released it to reach for his wine glass.
"Have you found your mother-of-the-groom dress yet, Mrs. Merrill?" Susannah asked. Henry's parents were spending the month before the wedding with their son in Denver.
"Just yesterday at Nordstrom. It's a lovely pale green silk."
Susannah forced herself not to cringe. The color would be horrible with the deep reds she had chosen for the late February wedding. "I'm glad you found something you're happy with."
"Now tell me," Henrietta said with a twinkle in her eye. "What's with this 'Mrs. Merrill' business?"
"Sorry," Susannah said with a small laugh. "Old habits die hard. I've been calling you Mrs. Merrill since Henry and I dated in high school."
"Well, now you're going to be his wife, so I thought we'd agreed to dispense with the formalities, hadn't we?"
"Of course . . . Mother."
Henrietta's portly face lit up with a warm smile.
After Susannah served her famous chocolate mousse, her future in-laws lingered over coffee--decaf so Martin would be able to sleep.
Susannah was startled to hear a chime echo through the house, indicating the front door had opened.
"Were you expecting someone, honey?" Henry asked.
"No." She pushed back her chair but froze halfway up, flinching when she heard first one boot and then another drop onto the marble floor in the foyer. Only one person had ever dropped his boots in her foyer . . . It couldn't be. Could it? Oh, God, please no . . . "Excuse me," Susannah stammered to her guests as she rushed from the dining room, through the kitchen, and into the foyer, stopping short at the sight of her ex-husband, Ryan.
"What are you doing here?" she asked in an exaggerated whisper.
He was bent in half putting something into the shabby duffel bag that sat at his feet. When he slowly stood up to his full six-foot, four inches, his signature Stetson shaded half his face. One deep dimple appeared when he smiled at her. "Hello, darlin'," he said in the lazy Texas drawl that used to stop her heart. But now, like everything else about him, it left her cold.
"What are you doing here?" she asked again.
"I'm home," he said with a casual lift of his broad shoulders. He shrugged off a beat-up calfskin jacket and tossed it at the coat stand.