Fox, Roz Denny, Annie’s Neighborhood, (Richmond, Surrey: Harlequin (UK) Limited, 2013).
Title: Annie’s Neighborhood
Author: Roz Denny Fox
Issues: Gangs; Parenthood
Turns out home may be where the heart is, after all…
Briar Run, Kentucky, is where Annie Emerson grew up, where her grandmother Ida raised her. Annie, now a social worker in L.A., left years ago but returns home when Ida’s health fails. She’s devastated to lose her—and shocked to discover how badly the town has deteriorated. But she’s inherited some money and uses it to help rescue Briar Run.
Police chief Sky Cordova is dealing with an overabundance of crime, severe budget cuts and a battle over the custody of his five-year-old son, Zack. The last thing he needs is a woman with a cause stirring up trouble. Despite that, he’s captivated by Annie and her passion to revitalize her neighborhood. He’s not the only one, since Zack falls for Annie, too. Sky starts to realize that her way of bringing the town back to life—one house at a time—might work. Just as she’s brought his heart back to life, one smile at a time…
A lot of writers say that a story will come to life fully formed in their minds. For me, more often the characters appear first and then I need to find them a home. Annie’s Neighborhood was different. The houses in her neighborhood came first.
Whenever I travel, I do so with a tour book of the state in hand. On a trip to Kentucky I wanted to see the home of the Kentucky Derby. We’d just missed the race, but the immediate area was still decked out in new paint and roses. On leaving Churchill Downs, we wound through a warren of streets lined with older Victorian houses. The once-vibrant neighborhood looked faded. Homes needed paint. Retaining walls were cracked and overgrown with vines. Lovely stained-glass dormer windows looked dull, and wrought-iron fencing was rusted. The greater city of Louisville, built by immigrants who worked in manufactoring, was a city in transition. A news article said some areas were battling an infiltration of gangs. But even as we left the state I kept thinking about those homes, about how beautiful they could be. Maybe they are now.
My story of course is a total work of fiction, and Annie’s a character who rattled around in my head for quite a while. She had a murky background and needed roots. She needed my faded homes.
And because I write love stories, independent though Annie is, she needed a family. Who better than a once-burned, jaded cop? Sky Cordova is in the middle of a custody fight with his ex. He’s also trying to keep the peace in a dying community populated by apathetic homeowners cowed by defiant gangs. And then Annie Emerson shows up! She’s testament to the fact that big changes begin with small ones-when it comes to houses and hearts.
And that’s how this story was born. I’m glad Harlequin Heartwarming provided it with a home. I love to hear from readers. Contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing to me at 7739 E. Broadway Blvd. #101, Tucson, AZ 85710-3941.