Worth the Risk (St. James – 3) by Jamie Beck
When Jackson St. James decided that six weeks in Vermont’s Green Mountains would help him get his life together, he didn’t anticipate replacing his craving for whiskey with a craving for his alluring new landlord, Gabby. Now, instead of prioritizing his sobriety and the resolution of the lawsuit threatening his business, he’s making excuses to spend time with the spunky young landscaper whose candor is more than a little addictive.
Gabby Bouchard refuses to let her pill-popping mother and unreliable baby daddy turn her into a cynic, so she doesn’t fight her attraction to her enigmatic new tenant. Although Jackson’s smile rarely reaches his eyes, his generosity and dependability make her willing to overlook his demons. But once she convinces him to give in to temptation, Gabby’s jealous ex threatens to disrupt the life she has built for herself and her son.
With so much at stake, Gabby and Jackson must decide if love is worth the risk.
Interview with Jamie Beck
- What inspired you to create Worth the Risk, book 3 of the St. James Series?
Worth the Risk is the third and final book of my St. James series. Its hero, Jackson St. James, is introduced in book one. His story actually begins there and continues to unravel through book two, so that Worth the Risk is his redemption story. The idea for the series grew out of my interest in family dynamics—how we sometimes hurt those closest to us, and more importantly, how the role of forgiveness (or not) plays into our happiness. In terms of the specific elements of this series (infidelity, alcoholism, infertility), those were inspired by real-life experiences of people close to me. I haven’t wholly replicated any person’s story, but I have borrowed bits and pieces in order to craft this family and its responses to those issues.
- How would you describe the characters Jackson and Gabby?
Jackson St. James is a loyal, honorable guy who has lost his way due to some fairly major losses. At heart, he’s warm, affectionate, deeply caring, and responsible. But he turned to drinking to cope with pain, and now he’s alienated his family, put his business at risk, and become rather cynical. A family intervention forced him to get help, which is what takes him to Vermont. Gabby, on the other hand, is resilient and hopeful. She’s also suffered some major blows, but unlike Jackson, she’s still optimistic. She relies on her father’s love to keep her safe and grounded, and she’s determined to be a better mother to her son than her mother was to her.
- How would you explain the relationship between Gabby and her ex/baby daddy Noah?
Noah hurt her badly when he left her high and dry during her pregnancy. But she loves her son and, for that reason (gift) alone, she tolerates Noah. Also, having been abandoned by her mother, she is aware of how important parental love is to a child, so she welcomes whatever scraps of affection Noah is willing to give their son Luc. She does not, however, harbor any wishes or fantasies of reuniting with Noah. She doesn’t trust him. She doesn’t actually like him all that much anymore, either.
- Addiction seems to be a major theme in this book. What made you decide to touch upon this topic?
I think a lot of people face this challenge in their lives (whether on their own, or via a close friend or family member). I have some personal experience with it (in my extended family), and one of my mother’s closest friends has a very tragic experience with drug addiction. Seeing how different people handle these situations (anger, compassion, blame, tough love) gave me a lot of ideas to play with in terms of how my characters might respond under similar circumstances. I like the idea of exploring any issue that doesn’t have clear-cut answers.
- Were the characters in the book inspired by people you’ve met, from your imagination, or a mixture of both?
I think every writer will admit that at least some character traits come from real life (themselves, those close to them, and so on). None of my characters is exactly like anyone I know, but I borrow the most interesting traits and/or perspectives from people I meet, and combine them with “wish list” traits that I think make for a strong protagonist. The ability to blend those components gives me an infinite number of possibilities!
- How does the setting of Vermont’s Green Mountains contribute to the story?
This was largely a personal choice on my part. I’ve always felt a sense of peace when I travel to the mountains: a physiological response, not just a mental one. So when I wanted Jackson to get out of the pressure-cooker of Fairfield County, Connecticut, Vermont made sense. Also, we have a second home near Stratton, Vermont, so I am familiar with the location, which always makes it easier to write about. The pace there is significantly slower than in the Greater New York City area. Jackson could also work off his aggression through physical activity (he’s athletic) on the trails and lakes in the Green Mountains. But he’d still be close enough to home to run back if there were to be an emergency with his family or business.
- Jackson is a recovering alcoholic and Gabby has grown up with a mother addicted to pills. Do you think Gabby is initially drawn to Jackson, because she feels she can help him due to their similar life experiences dealing with addiction or is it something more?
No. She’s drawn to his kindness and generosity before she even knows about his struggle. They meet when he stops to help her with her flat tire. Then she finds out he’s the new short-term tenant of her father’s garage apartment. Within a couple of days, Jackson (a homebuilder) does a bunch of things to help around the house (on his part, out of boredom). That’s what draws her in, so she’s shocked when she learns about his problem. Her first instinct at that point is to run, but she doesn’t because she realizes he is not like her mother even if they share a similar problem.
- How do you go about writing the perfect romantic scene?
That presumes I’ve written a perfect romantic scene! As much as I’d like to take credit for that, I’m not sure I can. However, to me, romance is not about the sexual chemistry (although that’s important). The basis of romance should be the emotional connection. When I try to write “romantic” scenes, I think about the characters and how their traits (complimentary and opposing) help bind them together mentally/emotionally, and then I come up with a scene to highlight that connection.
- What was the most rewarding moment you experienced in writing Worth the Risk?
I confess—I had many with this book. It is my favorite of all of my work so far. I loved the first page, for example. I felt I nailed Jackson’s voice and the tone of the story. I also loved a few of the quiet moments I was able to create for him and Gabby in the book. Mostly I loved bringing Jackson back to life. In the first book (his brother’s story), we meet him on his way down the slippery slope. You can see that he’s a good guy, but you can also see that he’s on a path of self-destruction. In his sister’s book, he hits bottom, and is angry and resistant to that fact. So in his book, being able to redeem him and give him a vibrant, loving woman and “son” to love (and be loved by) was extremely satisfying.
- What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing this book?
Deadlines. This book wasn’t hard to write because I’d been plotting it for a long time (through the series). But writing a book while editing two others, all of which are on deadlines, is a serious challenge. I’m not a naturally organized or disciplined person, so time management is tough.
- How do you hope your book impacts its readers?
I hope this book makes people think seriously about the importance of forgiveness—of family, friends, and one’s self. To me, it’s really the best way to deal with disappointment and pain. It isn’t weak to forgive, and by letting go of anger and resentment, you set yourself free to be open to love and happiness again. That’s really a theme of the entire series, not just this book. And if reading it makes you want to take a road trip to Vermont in the fall, well, that’s not a bad idea either!
- Out of all of your books, which of the characters do you most relate to?
I honestly don’t know that I can answer this with just one character. There is a little bit of me in every character, but then they are also each different from me. Lindsey (In the Cards) struggled with becoming her own woman (like I did in my twenties). David (Worth the Wait) adhered to a promise (duty, in his mind) even when it cost him much. He has a sense of honor that I relate to. Avery (Accidentally Hers) is very responsible and a little unemotional like me. Hank (Worth the Trouble) values his commitment to his family above all else (which I do as well). Kelsey (Secretly Hers) yearns for love, which is something I struggled with decades ago. And now we have Jackson, who feels a bit like a fool for being a good guy and getting the short end of the stick. I’ve felt that way at times, too, so I can relate to that indignation.
- What drew you to the romance genre?
I’ve always loved a love story. When I was a teen, I wanted to write for Soap Operas. I loved the melodrama and had convinced myself I could write much better stories and dialogue. I’ve also always been drawn to melancholy love songs, movies, and books. I can’t explain it, but I respond to that sad tug at the heart, so those are the stories I like to explore (although mine do have happy endings).
- Who was your favorite author growing up? Has it changed?
To be honest, I wasn’t an avid reader as a child. I know a lot of people just hissed when they read that, but it’s true. I didn’t start reading for pleasure until after law school. John Irving is a writer I really liked at that time, but it’s been a while since I’ve read his books. Now I mostly read a mix of “book club” picks and romance novels. Kristin Hannah, Sherry Thomas, and Julie Anne Long are all authors whose work I admire for different reasons.
- Can we expect a book 4 in the St. James Series?
No. Worth the Risk is the final book in the series. It’s bittersweet for me to say good-bye, but I do enjoy the way I wrapped up all the siblings’ lives in Jackson’s epilogue. I’ve started a new family saga series (tentatively, The Cabot Novels), which will debut in summer 2017. If readers liked the blend of familial relationships and love in the St. James series, they should also enjoy the new series.
I’m glad to be part of the Tour for Worth the Risk hosted by PR by the Book.