In Hope Toler Dougherty’s new novel, Rescued Hearts, children’s clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball’s soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar-entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Brett forsakes his three-month mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind . . . and then Mary Wade’s safety is threatened once more.
Read the story behind Rescued Hearts to learn more. Plus, cozy up this fall with Hope’s new book and enter to win a Kindle Fire! Click here to learn more and enter.
Tell us a bit about the story behind your latest novel. Where did you find inspiration?
I live in the country on land that’s been in my family for generations. For exercise, I ride my bike on our two-lane roads. One afternoon a couple of years ago, I took a detour off the paved road and onto a dirt path not too far from my house.
The lane meanders by the vacant location of a distant cousin’s house. Trees and a few bushes still outline the phantom house’s parameters, but no boards or bricks mark the spot. Farm equipment waits under two or three nearby shelters.
As I passed the lonely trees and silent tractors, a creepy sensation tickled the back of my neck. My imagination kicked into gear. What if a bike rider rode by an abandoned house? What if she saw a kitten entangled in a honeysuckle vine at the porch steps? What if, while she tried to free the kitten, someone grabbed her and dragged her inside where she was beaten and threatened with rape?
My pedaling picked up speed, and I reached home in record time.
Those questions continued popping up in my mind, however. I began seeing the characters and the inside of the abandoned house. When the characters began talking to each other, I knew I needed to begin writing. I’d never written a romantic suspense story before, but the characters refused to leave me alone.
Those initial questions led to the first chapter of Rescued Hearts.
What was the hardest part about writing your novel: Getting started? Keeping it going? Finding the perfect ending?
For me, the hardest part of writing is always beginning, and I don’t mean the initial blank page. I mean every day. I procrastinate and struggle against thoughts like, “Yesterday was a great day of writing. Will today be good, too?” or “Yesterday was a bust as a writing day. Will today be awful, too?” Once I begin writing, I can go. Fighting the fear that comes with creating takes real effort.
What trait do you love most about your main character?
The main character in Rescued Hearts, Mary Wade Kimball, is hopeful, hardworking, creative, and brave. She doesn’t see herself as brave, but she started a business as a college student and has nurtured that business for five years, a benchmark for small businesses. Her bravery also stands out in a pivotal scene later in the story when she shows a completely opposite characteristic from her normal personality. She’s strong and perseveres.
When readers get to the last page, what do you hope they take away from the story?
I want readers to know that God has plans, good plans, for everyone. Sometimes those plans might be different from a loved one’s wishes which makes following those plans difficult for people pleasers. I want readers to know that God is our ever-present help in all things, big and little.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a fourth story also set in Charlotte. It’s another sweet romance this time. There’s a library involved and shenanigans at a law firm but no guns or kidnappings or car chases.