What if you wrote a steamy, erotic novel that was so hot bookstores couldn’t keep it on their shelves? What if you couldn’t tell anyone you wrote it?

At night, nurse Cassie Calabria pens a bodice-ripper novel, using an alias. She sends it to a few agents, then forgets about it. She’s more than surprised when she gets an offer for a publisher to include her book, Wild Rose, in a “summer-of-love special.” Wild Rose becomes a blazing bestseller. Suddenly she realizes she can’t let anyone know that she wrote it. What would her children think? Or her own mother, who “taught her better,” and, worse, her husband who would question her made-up fantasies of sex on the beach. How could she be thrown into the “red-light district” spotlight and still be a good mom?

Unless she went incognito.

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Dance Like You Mean It by Jeanne Skartsiaris, Cassie Calabria is an emergency room nurse at a busy hospital. She has two children and a husband who wants a separation so he can sow some wild oats. Desperate for an escape from her problems, as well as money to help meet the ever-mounting bills, Cassie reads an article about how profitable it can be to write a romance novel. Brave, or desperate, enough to give it a try, Cassie pens a story she calls Wild Rose, setting it in the 1970s, with the heroine a photographer, Rosemary, who believes in free love, until she falls in love. A sweet, poignant story, Wild Rose becomes a huge success, surprising everyone, especially Cassie, who now has another problem. She wrote the book under a pen name, and fans are screaming to know who the mysterious author is.

The story is fun, clever, funny, and totally charming, with plenty or great sex scenes—a great escape if the world gets you down. I heartily recommend it.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Dance Like You Mean It by Jeanne Skartsiaris is the story of how life can bite you in the butt when you least expect it. With all the wanna be authors out there, who would think that a newbie author would leap to the top of the lists with a romance novel? But that’s just what happens to Cassie Calabria. Cassie already has a buttload of problems. Her teenage daughter is rebelling, her husband is straying, and her job as an ER nurse doesn’t pay enough to keep up with the bills. One day Cassie’s looking up her horoscope in the newspaper and sees an article about how much money you can make writing romance novels. So in desperation, she gives it a try. She writes a good one, about a photographer Rosemary in the 1970s, with Cassie’s best friend critiquing it, and when it’s done, sends it off to an agent, who accepts it. The agent tells Cassie the publisher wants to include her book in a buy-two-get-one-free offer with two books by best-selling romance authors. Cassie’s not too impressed, knowing that her book will be the “free one,” but she agrees and signs a contract. No one expects the book to do very well on its own, especially Cassie, but it does, and her story, Wild Rose, becomes a huge best seller. Now Cassie has additional problems. What to do with all the extra money she’s making, since no one in her family knows she wrote the book, and how to keep her adoring public from finding out the author, Cardia Loving, is really Cassie.

Dance Like You Mean It is filled with wonderful characters, hot sex, touching scenes about real-life problems, and lots of laughing-out-loud humor. The two stories intertwine in a unique parallel as Cassie and Rosemary’s lives collide and Cassie’s is turned upside-down. A hot, funny, intriguing, and thoroughly entertaining read.

Chapter 1

“Life is short, ride your best horse first.”

~ Anonymous

The ambulance roared into the emergency bay, sirens wailing. I ran toward the entrance, hearing the clatter of the stretcher’s wheels hitting the ground. “Did you have to make such a loud entrance?” I admonished the paramedics who were racing beside the gurney. My job as the nursing supervisor was to maintain calm in the ER.

“Sorry, Cassie, couldn’t resist.”

I glanced at the stretcher, a dingy white sheet covered lumps, and thick brown ooze stained the sheet.

“Oh, man,” Adam, one of the nurses, said. “I can smell that from here.” He stood at the nurse’s station in the small emergency room where we worked. “Should we order a cardiac work up?”

“Call Dr. Taylor and tell her it’s here,” I said and helped push the stretcher.

Dr. Christine Taylor, a staff psychologist, and I had been best friends since seventh grade and she wanted first dibs on what was under the sheet.

The paramedic wheeled the bed in. “The rest is in the truck. I’ll be right back.”

By this time all the crew in the ER had started to hover and a patient in a wheelchair rolled herself near the door. “Ohh, that smell! What is it?”

Kathy, another nurse, rushed in front of the pack.

“Please take care of that patient,” I said to her, pulling the sheet back.

“I don’t want to miss this,” she whined, eyeing the globs of rust-colored goop.

“There’s plenty for everyone,” I said.

Kathy huffed and turned to leave.

Adam came in and helped me unload trays of barbecue beef and ribs from the stretcher.

I licked a drop of sweet, sticky sauce off my fingers.

“Thank you, Dr. Taylor.” Adam nodded at Christine who was waiting with an empty plate.

“My pleasure,” Christine said.

I closed off the kitchen, heaped some meat on a plate, and headed into my office with Christine. “I hope we don’t get busy,” I said as I closed the door.

She pulled up a chair. “Just eat and enjoy.” She nibbled on a baby-back while I pounced on my barbecue. “Why are you reading the obits?” Christine nodded at the newspaper spread out on my desk to catch the drippy sauce.

“I hadn’t planned to but look at all these people who died. Some are my age.” I leaned back in my rickety hospital-issued chair and burped. I pushed my empty plate away and a drop of sauce fell on a photo of a young woman who’d died “unexpectedly.”

“This is what I was reading,” I said between bites. I handed her an article that had sparked my interest.

She leaned back in the chair, her flat belly barely bulged from the pile we’d just ate as she looked over the article. I could feel the middle-age tummy rolls cut through the elastic on my scrubs.

“A writer?” she asked.

“It’s about writing a successful romance novel,” I said, taking a chug of sweet tea. “You know I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

“Cassie, the silly love stories we made up in high school don’t count as reading material.”

“Look,” I said, pointing to the paper. “It says if a writer can tell a good story, create good characters, and rip a few bodices, they’d find an eager audience.”

“So are you going to write a sexy book about a nurse in an emergency room? Because if this is about your life I know how boring you really are.”

I laughed. “Yeah, look at all the material I have to work with.” I waved toward the staff in the ER. “I’m not sure I can make a middle-age nurse a seductress.” I batted my eyes. “I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I have more to offer in life. Doesn’t everybody have a book in them?”

“It’s getting it out of them that’s the challenge.”

“My life is moving so fast, like, the finish line is closer than the starting gate and I haven’t run the race yet.”

“You’ve always been a dreamer.” Christine tossed her plate in the trash. “Are you going to do it?”

“I’d like to try.” I crunched the obit section into a ball and tossed it in the trash. “I need to start checking off my bucket list.”

“And get a bigger bucket.” Christine stood and opened the door.

I fanned my face from a hot-flash. Not sure if it was brought on by hormones or the spicy barbecue sauce. “I still want to storm a castle, but I’ve lost focus.” I considered my life. Not all mine anymore with family and job responsibilities.

“Then storm away, my liege.” She bowed dramatically. “Just keep your butt in the saddle.” She turned to go. “It’s all about the journey, right?”

“Right.” I raised my wiggly arms up in a victory punch.

After Christine left, I turned the newspaper to the horoscope page to find out how the rest of my day was supposed to go. Take time to dream. Watch your finances, it said. Didn’t they all say that?

I’d harbored a dream of being a writer since college, but my husband Mitch told me I’d be chasing a rainbow–it wasn’t practical. But after reading some of the books I’d read I thought I could do better.

I read the article again, and felt a stirring of optimism.

From Baker to Love Maker ~

Local Writer Sells Romance.

Ida Thornton, a baker at a local grocery store, just learned her novel, Buns In The Oven, won the Romance Writer’s Gilded Pen award. “I’ve always loved reading romance novels and thought I’d spice up my life some by writing one,” Ida said. “I still can’t believe I got it published and it’s been a Walmart bestseller for three months.” Ida’s agent, Beverly Burton says that romance novels are a billion dollar industry. “Even during an economic crisis, readers buy romance. We can’t get the books to publishers fast enough. Ida’s book, about a wedding cake baker looking for love has enjoyed brisk sales. The sequel, Hot Crossed Lovers is due out next week.” Romance editor, Abigail Huller confirmed the high demand. “Our lives are so busy, most readers just want to get lost in a fun read. Exciting, sexy characters appeal to consumers and help sell books.”

I put the paper away, spent the next hour on a biohazard-waste memo, and worked on the employee’s schedule. Before the shift change I walked through the emergency room. Out in the bright ward, the antiseptic smell was comforting. It reminded me of the rewarding days when I was able to help an expectant mom or start a stopped heart, when it felt like I made a difference. Now I saw more paper than people. As a supervisor, my medical training too often hinged on how well I wrote and responded to memos. Part of me missed the one-on-one with the patients.

I chose nursing to help people, to be an angel of mercy, and the math was easier than medical school. And I’d always been good at it.

Driving home that evening, I thought about a focus, a dream, something to energize me. I had a good life, two beautiful girls, and Mitch, my husband was a wonderful father.

I reached into my pocket and touched the newspaper article I’d torn out, suppressing a smile at the thought of writing a novel. It could, at least, be a diversion. I leaned back in my seat and sighed. Who was I kidding. I barely had time to finish reading a book, much less write one.

© 2017 by Jeanne Skartsiaris

Kirkus Reviews:

Dance Like You Mean It

An emergency room nursing supervisor writes a romance novel, even as her own life spins out of control. Skartsiaris’s (Surviving Life, 2016, etc.) third book offers a bit of a change-up on the standard romance genre, weaving together two stories that intersect in the chaotic world of the protagonist, Cassie Calabria. Cassie is approaching middle age, with her marriage stagnating. Her older daughter, Ashley, is 15 and an expert in distancing herself from her mother with silence and/or the perfected eye roll. Cassie has always wanted to be an author, and she decides that a romance novel is just the thing. In between managing life-and-death emergencies in the ER and running her household, she begins writing Wild Rose, under the pseudonym Cardia Loving, and she sets it in the 1970s (“when promiscuity was a badge of honor”). Rosemary “Rose” Christi is Cassie’s younger, more beautiful, sexier alter ego. Chapters of Cassie’s first-person narrative alternate with chapters of Wild Rose. While Rose gallivants around as a photojournalist, Cassie deals with a husband who wants a separation. The author artfully employs the use of humorous juxtaposition: Cassie trying to keep her daughter from experimenting with sex while simultaneously writing all manner of steamy adventures for Rose; Rose meeting a handsome film star at the beach and immediately engaging in hours of torrid sex, while Cassie frantically mops urine off the ER floor when she meets her real-life movie idol. When Wild Rose surprisingly becomes a best-seller, Cassie’s real and imaginary lives begin to collide, as she struggles to keep her pseudonymous identity a secret from family, co-workers, and adoring fans. In this amusing tale, both Cassie and Rose are strong female characters…An over-the-top, often witty escape into fantasy that manages to convey some realistic poignancy on the road to a satisfying conclusion.