In The Cowboy Comeback, Amanda Jenkins and Holt Dalton’s met at camp ten years ago. He was a poor 18-year-old who was only working in the kitchen of the camp because he was ordered to work there by a judge. Holt wasn’t necessarily a criminal, but he did some very dumb things in his past. Amanda wasn’t extremely rich by any means, but she was from a comfortable background. When camp ended, they parted. Life took them into two different directions where Amanda was leery of love, and Holt was left with a son whose Mother wanted nothing to do with the child. When they meet up again at an animal refuge/shelter they reconnected, in part because of his son. Amanda agrees to tutor him to help improve his reading. As time goes by Amanda and Holt realize that they might want to rekindle their relationship.
The other book released this summer is A Family For A Week. Axel Dawson, Daisy’s brother is hailed as a hero after he found the heroine, Sadie’s toddler son, who wandered off in the mountains. Sadie’s family decided to have a reunion at the Dawson Family Dude Ranch. After hearing her sister is now engaged, Sadie shares the news with her great grandmother. Having misheard, she thinks it’s Sadie who’s now engaged to Axel, who’s already made clear that he’s not interested in any such commitment. Too bad Sadie’s dream to find the right man for herself and her son isn’t going to happen with Axel, in spite of her hopes. But having been forced together Axel might be having second thoughts.
Elise Cooper: Children seem to play a large role in each book?
Melissa Senate: I love to write romances that feature babies and children and how they affect the hero and/or heroine. I’m particularly drawn to exploring how children change the characters’ outlooks on themselves, on life, and on their relationships.
EC: In The Cowboy Comeback Robbie stole the story?
MS: It takes a village to raise Robbie with all of Holt’s family and Amanda. I’m touched to hear that Robbie stole the story even though he probably shouldn’t have! I felt so close to that little boy and his issues and troubles and triumphs. And I loved the idea of showing that Holt, his father, would need to actually let people close to him in order for Robbie to have the support he needed. This includes his family, even the ones Holt didn’t particularly get along with, like his father. I loved exploring how Robbie’s character helped facilitate the changes in their relationship.
EC: Please describe Robbie?
MS: A chatterbox, energetic, felt the loss of his absentee-mother.
EC: He is not a good reader-how many remember not being in the high reading group?
MS: Robbie’s mother left when he was very young and he grew up aware that his mother wasn’t in his life. I think Holt tried to compensate for that best he could, trying to be everything to Robbie. I really loved writing his devotion to his son—letting Robbie be the whirlwind he is while giving him guidance and protecting him from his gruff grandfather and from the way Robbie felt at school with his reading level. I remember when my son was in kindergarten and first grade and wasn’t learning to read as quickly as some kids in his class; he was so aware of it—that letter on the spine that told everyone what level he was. One thing I love so much about writing fiction is that you can fix anything that bothers you, and I gave Robbie back his confidence.
EC: How would you describe Holt?
MS: A good father, stubborn, the past affects his decisions. Definitely stubborn, a devoted father, but a man who can’t let go of his past and is letting it define him too much. Part of that is helped along because his father serves to remind Holt of who he used to be. And when he runs into Amanda, the girl from ten years ago, he let believe he was a different guy altogether. He never let on he was someone in trouble with the law or assigned to their summer camp by court order. She also reminds him of that guy he was and he gets stuck. Coupled with Robbie’s issues, Holt feels like he’s not getting life right. But Amanda—and his son’s love—helps him see he absolutely is.
EC: How would you describe Amanda?
MS: A bookworm, shy, someone who wants a child. Amanda is guarded because of a past heartbreak and I love how her concern for Holt’s son is at the forefront of her trying to ignore her fear of getting her heart broken by Holt again. She really cares about Robbie—and Holt. I like that she’s independent and knows what she wants, but there’s a lonely aspect to her characterization, and I was very happy when she gave into her love for Holt.
EC: How would you describe the relationship in each book?
MS: “I’m you and you’re me” comes right from my love of the novel Wuthering Heights, which I read for the first time at 12. To be honest, my love of that book is all because of Heathcliff’s and Cathy’s relationship UNTIL he runs away and turns horrid. He overhears her supposedly disparaging him and runs off, missing the part where she says: “I am Heathcliff.” For Holt and Amanda, as 20 year olds, that was how they felt about each other. I’m you and you’re me. But now, ten years later, heartbreak and life do a number on them—avoidance, running away—until they find themselves so they can then find their way back to each other.
EC: The Cowboy’s Comeback theme is about learning who you are and what are your strengths/weaknesses?
MS: I’d say the book’s heart is about self-acceptance and redemption and how, sometimes, the hardest person to prove everything to is yourself.
EC: Favorite things in both books-how much are yours and are real?
MS: I love this question. I love what a close reader you are and that you pick up on these elements!
EC; Happy Heart Animal Sanctuary real or based on something-are you a dog or cat person?
MS: There are real animal sanctuaries, quite a few in Maine. I love the idea of them. I’m both a dog and a cat person—I have one of each. A shepherd mix named Flash and a black and white cat named Cleo. The cat likes the dog more than the dog likes the cat; he’s a little afraid of her and doesn’t seem to understand what she is.
EC: Here are the topics and you can provide a quick answer?
MS: Wild West Ghosts Legends: I love adding legends to my books!
Turkey and Provolone sandwich with French fries: I do a love a turkey and cheese on
baguette with a side of fries. I wish I had that right now.
Western movies: Love all things western.
Marvel and DC movies: If my son, from the age of 6, hadn’t begged me to take him to see
all these superhero movies, I would have never known how much I love them.
Orange color: I do love the color orange.
Favorite season: My favorite season is really fall, even though it becomes winter, and
winter in Maine is only fun in December for the first few beautiful snowfalls, then it
becomes unbearable until mid-April.
The Love Game: I’m pretty sure these types of games with probing personal questions for
couples exist but I’m not sure!
EC: Do you like writing about single moms?
MS: I really do. I’ve been a single mom since my son was 4, and he just turned 18, so it’s a world I know well! There’s just a lot to probe about both a single mom with a lot on her plate, emotionally, financially, etc., and a hero who doesn’t think he has what it takes to be a good dad. I like changing his mind.
EC: How would you describe Axel, Mcgorgeous?
MS: Ha, did I refer to him as McGorgeous? I don’t remember that! But I used to be a big Grey’s Anatomy watcher, so I’m sure I did. I’d describe Axel as feeling like he’s between lives, not quite comfortable in his new role on the family ranch, rocked by how much this single mother and her toddler son, who thinks of him as a hero, are coming to mean to him. They completely crack open his heart and world.
EC: How would you describe Sadie?
MS: Independent, sweet, kind, knows what she wants of life, forthright. Definitely independent, a single mother protective of her little boy and of her heart. I love how close she is with her family, the generations of strong women rallying around her.
EC: What role does Sadie’s family play and how would you describe them?
MS: I loved creating her family and that pushy, noisy, well-intended busybody type aunt and grandmother and great-grandmother are ones I know well! They’re in your face but when you’re upset or hurt, they’re the best people in the world to have around you.
EC: What role does Daisy play in the story?
MS: I love Daisy Dawson; she was a big part of the first book in the “Dawson Family Guest Ranch series” (For The Twins’ Sake), then had her own book in “Wyoming Special Delivery Series,” and maybe because she’s the only sister of six siblings, I give her a big presence in each book. She’s the glue of the Dawson family, demanding get-togethers and family dinners.
EC: Can you give a shout out about your next book in each series?
MS: My next book is the fifth book in the “Dawson Family Ranch series,” The Long-Awaited Christmas Wish, featuring Rex Dawson. He’s a burned out US Marshal who finds an message-in-a-bottle in containing a foster child’s fifteen-year old Christmas wish, and he has to know if her wish—to be adopted by a family—ever came true. He finds struggling single mother Maisey Clark much closer than he ever expected—working right on his family ranch, the last place he expected to return to. The other series, “Montana Mavericks: What Happened To Beatrix? Series,” which this book, The Cowboy’s Comeback is part of, continues on every month with a new book by a different author through December.