Love on a Dime, The Ladies of Summerhill Series #1Love on a Dime, The Ladies of Summerhill Series #1
Cara James
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Newport, Rhode Island, 1899, is a place of shimmering waves, sleek yachts, and ladies of leisure. Of opulent mansions that serve as summer cottages for the rich and famous. Home of railroad magnates and banking tycoons--dashing young men and the women who aspire to marry them.

But it's not the place for lady novelists. Especially not those who pen disreputable dime novels. This poses a problem for Lilly Westbrook, because that's exactly what she does.No one in Lilly's social set knows she pens fiction under the nom de plume Fannie Cole. Not her family or the wealthy young man about to propose to her. And especially not Jackson Grail, the long-lost beau who just bought her publishing company...and who stirs her heart more than she cares to admit.

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Lynn James is the author of Love on a Dime. She's received contest awards from Romance Writers of America and the American Christian Fiction Writers. She resides in Florida with her husband Jim.

Favorite Verse: Proverbs 3:5Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”


 Our Interview with Cara James


What is your favorite Bible verse?

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m the wife of a retired Navy commander and science teacher, the mother of two grown children and the grandmother of a three year old precocious little boy. We live in northwest Florida now, but we’ve moved all over the country. I’ve lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Texas, Virginia and Vermont. We’ve been here in Florida for eight years and I’m hoping to stay put.

My degree is in English. A few years after I graduated from college I added fifty credits in Hotel and Restaurant Management. And I also graduated from Carlson Travel Academy where I trained to be a travel agent. My educational background is really all over the board, but I think all knowledge is useful and might even be used in a book someday. I served as a Naval officer for nearly eight years, owned a small bookstore and worked for a while as a teacher’s aide.
I’ve always been a writer, whether or not I wrote. And first, last and always I’m a reader. And most important I’m a Christian. My faith influences the way I think and act, what I write, and how and why I write. It influences what I read as well.

What inspired you to write Love on a Dime?

I love historical fiction, especially historical romance. Since I enjoy the turn-of-the-century time frame and a plot with a lot of twists and turns I decided to try writing my own story. Newport and the Gilded Age inspired me.

Is any part of Love on a Dime factual?

The setting of Newport, Rhode Island in the Gilded Age is based on fact. The characters are figments of my imagination, but the types of people who summered in the ‘cottages’ (really mansions) are true to life. In fact, my Colonel McIntyre is based on Colonel Mann who owned the scandal sheet Town Topics.


How closely is Love on a Dime based on your own life experiences? 

It’s really not. My story ‘people’ lived at the turn-of-the-century, a really different era than our own. I’m writing about the millionaires, and believe me, I have no personal experience with the very rich or being rich! But people have similar desires, strengths and weaknesses no matter where or when they live. Emotions and yearnings are universal.

How did you choose the location for the setting?

When I decided to write a historical romance, Newport was a logical choice. Both the resort and the Gilded Age intrigued me. Since I was a kid I spent a lot of time in Newport so the town was really familiar. I’d also read many books about both the society and Newport. I could have picked Bar Harbor or Saratoga Springs instead, but I love Newport and never considered any other place to set my story. Growing up I spent many vacations there visiting friends and family, touring the mansions, and playing on the beaches.

How long did Love on a Dime take you to complete?
It seems as if I’d worked on it forever, but actually it took about a year and a half to write.

What is the symbolism for the title Love on a Dime?

The heroine, Lilly Westbrook, secretly authors dime novels for a publishing house recently purchased by her former suitor. He’d left her years before without explaining why. Her dime novels bring them together both professionally and romantically.

How much research did Love on a Dime take?

I researched a lot, but I’d been doing it for years without realizing I might someday use the information I gathered in a novel. My mother was from Newport so we spent a lot of time there. I was as familiar with Newport as I was with my home town in Connecticut. The Gilded Age fascinates me so over the years I’ve toured the mansions many times, bought books about the era and researched on the internet. I also dredged my memory for stories my family (especially my mother) told me about that time period. Although she wasn’t born yet, she remembered stories her aunts and uncles and grandparents had told her.

What was the most interesting tidbit that you learned while writing Love on a Dime?

I was amazed at how much money the Gilded Age millionaires spent on themselves! They certainly indulged themselves, and yet they weren’t nearly as happy as you’d expect them to be.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

Finding enough time to write every day, planning my time so I meet a deadline and still have energy for my family. I think being disciplined is the key. And that’s not always easy.


What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy research and learning new things. My head is stuffed with trivia! If I’m ‘in the zone’ I like to write a first draft without editing too much. When I have trouble with finding the right words I sometimes go back to another section to edit. I also love searching for the perfect word or phrase. But that can be very time consuming. Actually, I think I enjoy all aspects of writing, including the solitude and concentration it takes. Like many authors I’m basically an introvert.

What writing clubs or organizations do you belong to?

I belong to Romance Writers of America, the Gulf Coast Chapter of RWA, the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter of RWA and American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m also one of the ‘Seekerville sisters’ at

What were your favorite books as a child?

When I was young my father read the Bobbsey Twins and the Oz books to me. They were great! Later when I could read I devoured Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew mysteries. I also loved Heidi, Black Beauty and Little Women, and all the kids’ classics.

What is your writing style?   (Do you outline?  Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants?   Or somewhere in between?)

Yes, I outline, but not in detail because I know as I write my characters will probably lead me in a slightly different direction. As long as I have some sort of outline I feel confident I won’t stray too far and get hopelessly lost. I wish I could write a detailed  outline and stick to it. But a lot of my creativity emerges as I write.

Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

Yes. No matter how well I plan my characters they direct their own stories. Writing them, not planning them, gives them life and personality.

What other new projects do you have on the horizon?

The second book of the Ladies of Summerhill series is called Love on Assignment. It’ll be out in January 2011. Right now I’m writing the third and last novel called Love by the Book. I’m not sure what I’ll work on after that, but I’ll continue with Christian historical romance.


Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?

Lots of people influenced me, not just one. I’ve received lots of encouragement from other writers.

What message would you like your readers to take from Love on a  Dime?

I’m not sure I wanted to convey just one message. I tried to show the importance of trusting God to guide us in our every day lives. Also, I wanted to show how crucial forgiveness is to restoring relationships. 

What is your greatest achievement?

Having a long and happy marriage. Of course I have to share that accomplishment with my husband Jim! Finishing my first book also brought me huge satisfaction. I had no control over whether it was ever published, but I did control whether I finished it.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

It’s to entertain my readers, and show them a world they may not know much about. I’d also like to subtly remind others that living your beliefs is as important as having them. Talk is cheap.

What do you do to get away from it all?

What I’d like to do is travel. But that usually doesn’t happen because there always seems to be something to keep me home. So I get away by delving into a great book or by watching a movie, preferably a romantic comedy or drama. I love a good laugh or a good cry.
I should also engage in some healthy activity like taking a walk, but I’d rather eat pins than exercise. I do walk quite often—but never willingly. And I haven’t run since I was ten years old.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Yes. If you’re a writer, keep on writing and don’t let anyone discourage you enough to quit. Don’t be afraid of rejection because eventually you’re bound to meet with success.


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