We have a winner! Ann Bilbrew, you were chosen at random as the recipient of Reese’s giveaway! She will be in touch with you. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!
I’ve been a huge fan of Reese Ryan’s books for some time, so having her here in the Spotlight today is sort of a squee fan-girly moment for me! Award-winning author Reese Ryan writes sexy, emotional, grown folks romantic fiction set in small Southern towns about characters finding love while navigating career crises and family drama. She’s the host of Story Behind the Story—her YouTube show where romance readers and authors connect. Visit Reese online at ReeseRyan.com.
She’s with us today to talk about her new novel Return to Hummingbird Way, Book 2 in her Holly Grove Island series, and fun of secondary characters. Be sure to check out her fun giveaway below, and comment for a chance to win!
So thrilled you’re here today, Reese! Take it away…
Matchmaking Grandmothers, Blissfully Engaged Besties, and Other Secondary Characters
It’s no secret that I love a compelling secondary character. From meddling moms, well-meaning neighbors, and precocious children to childhood best friends and matchmaking grandmothers, I’ve included them all and a lot more. We don’t exist in a vacuum and neither should fictional characters.
As a reader, a character’s interactions with others provides a window into who they truly are whether they are a protagonist or a villain. In Spiderman, Peter Parker’s story is more compelling because of Uncle Ben, Aunt May, and Mary Jane Watson. In Pride & Prejudice, Lizzie’s relationship with her sisters and parents is as critical to the story as her slowly evolving relations with the love interest, Mr. Darcy. The protagonist’s primary characteristics can be discerned from the characters that populate their world. We also learn a lot about their fears, motivations, and aspirations. And we often develop empathy for those characters because of those experiences.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen made me fall in love with a big cast of secondary characters and family drama. When I began writing fiction, my inclusion of secondary characters and family drama was a subconscious act. I was emulating the types of stories I enjoyed reading. Once I recognized those tendencies, I leaned into them. Complicated family dynamics and career crises have since become a part of my author brand.
I create secondary characters who are more than just walk-ons. They’re an essential part of the story and help move it forward. I’ve written lots of secondary characters who went on to get stories of their own. And each of them is special to me. So I was surprised that in my recent release, Return to Hummingbird Way—the second book in my steamy, small-town romance series, Holly Grove Island—I’ve written my favorite secondary character thus far: Mama Mae.
Annamae Davenport is the eighty-two-year-old grandmother of my male protagonist. She raised her grandson during his teenage years. Rett is thirty-seven now. Yet, Mama Mae is still deeply concerned about his happiness and future. And when she thinks that Rett is walking away from the person he was meant to be with, she puts a plan into action. In our introduction to the matriarch, her personality and Southern sass come shining through.
“There really is no need for all this fuss. Land sakes, it’s just a trifling little cold and a touch of bronchitis,” Garrett Davenport’s grandmother griped as he handed her another cup of tea with honey and lemon. He laid one of her crocheted throw blankets over her lap. “You’re acting like I need to lay out my last will and testament. Spoiler alert: I spent all my money on the younger men I’ve encountered during my international travels.” Annamae Davenport shifted her eyebrows up and down and smirked.
“Seriously, Gram? I’m glad you’re enjoying your life, but I don’t need to hear about it with that level of detail.” Rett shook his head.
“I didn’t give you any details.” She grinned like the Cheshire Cat, then took a sip of her tea. “I save the good stuff for my girlfriends when we meet up at the senior center.”
Mama Mae is bold, feisty, and independent. Yet, she’s at a point in her life when she’d forced to reckon with the fact that she is overwhelmed with the care of her home and sometimes needs assistance. She serves as the mentor for both protagonists and her actions directly impact the plot. Her exchanges with Rett and Sin give us insight into her grandson’s past. His deep love for her and his sense of sacrifice and compassion are demonstrated through his actions. Sin (and readers) are given a window into who Rett truly is—despite his past mistakes. And we see his growth as a character.
Like raising children, telling a story takes a village. And for me, secondary characters are a key component of that storytelling apparatus.
GIVEAWAY! Reese is offering up a great prize for one lucky commenter: Who are some of your favorite secondary characters? Tell us in the comments below and one reader will receive either a $5 Amazon gift card or a signed copy of a 2-n-1 book of your choice from her collection. (Note: Book will be mailed to U.S. mailing addresses only.)
Return to Hummingbird Way
Ambitious real estate agent Sinclair Buchanan is ecstatic to be her best friend’s maid-of-honor—until she discovers the best man is Garrett Davenport. Sin and Rett’s mutual hate crush ignited when they were teens and hasn’t let up since . . . except for that one extremely hot (and extremely regrettable) night they shared five years ago.
Nothing gets Rett fired up like going toe-to-toe with Sinclair. She’s as infuriatingly stubborn, and as absolutely gorgeous, as when he fell for her back in high school. Working together to plan their best friends’ last-minute wedding is one thing, but when his matchmaking grandmother gets involved Rett knows he’s in deep.
Attraction has always simmered between them, but this time, they’re both in danger of losing their hearts.
Excerpt from Return to Hummingbird Way
Sin lifted her fist to knock on the door when it suddenly swung open.
“It’s about time. Do you have any idea how long I’ve—” Sin gasped. “Ms. Annamae! I’m so sorry. I thought you were—”
“My grandson? Well, I certainly don’t get that every day.” The barely five-foot-tall woman chuckled. “Come on in, sweetheart. It sure is good to see you.”
The older woman wrapped Sin up in a bear hug that took her by surprise. Ms. Annamae was as fiery and independent as she was sweet. Sin had always loved that Mama Mae had never been a “typical” grandparent. Nor had she allowed herself to be confined by the social expectations for an older southern woman.
To say that Mama Mae was a rebel would be an understatement. And while that had raised many eyebrows on the island, it had only made Sin admire the woman.
“It’s good to see you, too, Ms. Annamae,” Sin said when the older woman finally released her.
“Enough with this ‘Ms. Annamae.’” Garrett’s grandmother frowned and waved her hand dismissively. “You’re family ’round here. Call me Mama Mae.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Sinclair checked the time on her phone and then slipped it into the pocket of her skirt. She folded her arms. “I assume that grandson of yours still isn’t ready.”
“He is running a bit late, and I’m sorry for that. But don’t blame Rett, it’s my fault. Or at least it’s this old cottage’s fault.” Mama Mae sighed, glancing around.
The Craftsman-style bungalow had lots of charm and character, but the old place and the furniture that filled it were lovingly worn. Sin couldn’t help envisioning the updates she’d make to the cottage, if Mama Mae was her client.
“I just received my water bill and it was atrocious because my bathroom sink has been leaking and the toilet won’t stop running. I made the mistake of mentioning it to Rett this morning over breakfast and he insisted on fixing both.” Mama Mae smiled softly. The love for her grandson was evident. “He had to go off the island for some parts, so he just finished up not too long ago. He went to grab a shower before you two have to be cooped up in that fancy Lexus of yours for four hours.”
“Well, that was considerate of him.” Sinclair smiled and the older woman chuckled. “But he was late for the engagement party, too. I’m seeing a trend here.”
“You are…because that one was also on me.” Mama Mae sighed. “Rett insisted I lie down because I had a bit of a cold. But I had several flats of plants that had to be put in the ground that day so…”
“Rett did your planting before the party?” Sin asked.
“He did.” The woman’s smile was warm. “I know he can be a little rough around the edges, but Rett is just a big ol’ teddy bear. The sweetest, kindest man you’ll ever meet.”
“Oh.” Sinclair winced, her neck and face suddenly hot.
She’d been angry with Rett for being late to the party. Why hadn’t he told her he’d been helping his grandmother? She would’ve understood. But he hadn’t said a word.
“Sin, sorry I’m late.” Rett trotted down the stairs. “I had a few things to take care of, then I had to hop in the shower. I have no idea where my phone is, or I would’ve called you.” His words were hurried. But he still hadn’t mentioned that he’d been helping his grandmother.
“It’s okay.” She shrugged. “As long as we leave within the next thirty minutes, we’re fine. So if you need a little more time…” She indicated his bare feet.
“Great. Give me five more minutes to put on my socks and shoes and find my—”
“Here’s your phone, Sonny.” Mama Mae produced the phone from the pocket of her apron. “You left it on the side of the tub.”
“Thanks, Gram.” He accepted the phone and leaned down to kiss his grandmother’s cheek. “After all this time, you’re still taking care of me.”
“We’re still taking care of each other.” She smiled fondly.
“Always have. Always will.” He winked at his grandmother.
The genuine affection between the two of them warmed Sinclair’s heart. Her grandmother had passed when she was quite young. Rett was lucky to still have Mama Mae in his life.