Thursday, September 15, 2022


That Ship Has Sailed


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The Love at Sea series is an eight book, multi-author series that takes place on a singles cruise in the middle of the Caribbean. Each book stars a new couple and a new trope.

My book, That Ship Has Sailed, is about Courtney, a young widow who is invited onto the cruise by her best-friend who fails to tell her it’s a singles cruise. Seth, a fireman, is on the cruise with his best-friend who hooks up with Courtney’s friend. So, Seth convinces Courtney to hang out with him so they can both avoid getting setup with other singles, but then he falls for her and tries to convince her to give him a chance.

What is the sub-genre and trope?  Did your characters lead you to this genre or was that decided before the story began?

Contemporary Romance with a widow trope

I was given a choice of tropes for the series. Since my usual favorites (second chance and brother’s best-friend) were taken, I chose this one. It definitely presented its challenges, but I’m very happy with Courtney and Seth’s story.

Are you more character or plot driven?

I am definitely more character driven. I love watching the transformation of the characters and their relationships.

With many main and secondary characters, how do you keep them separated in your mind?  Do you have a story/vision board above your workspace?

Ha ha. That would actually be a great idea! I just keep it all in my head. 

With this particular book being part of a multi-author series though, we did share everything on Google. We had character profiles, charts, a Bible—all sorts of things to help keep us all straight.

I know from previous interviews that characters take on a life of their own.  Were any of the characters in this series determined to take their own direction instead of where you initially wanted them to go?

Absolutely. I had this series mapped out and just knew my characters were finally going to get together on a certain day of the cruise, then I would have my “dark moment” and yada yada. 

But Seth and Courtney did not care about my plan. They slept together earlier than I wanted them to, and then really liked each other. I had to work hard to get them to the end.

Are any of the male POVs based on anyone you know?

Not in this book. 

I do have a super supportive spouse who lets me bounce ideas off him, but Seth is not based on him. (Though people who know us insist on believing every male character is based on him.)

Are any of the female POVs based on anyone you know?

Also, not in this book. In this book not having someone to base Courtney off of actually made writing it a little harder. 

Courtney is a widow, and I’m not personally close with any young widows. I really wanted to make sure I did Courtney’s (and other young widows’) feelings justice. I hope that I have.  


Was there any one character/scene that was harder to write about than the other?

I actually backed out of writing the widow trope at one point in the planning process. 

I had a story cooked up in my head, but the more we planned out the series I just didn’t see it fitting. When we decided the characters would be on a singles cruise, I just couldn’t see Courtney going. 

I decided I’d write it as an opposites attract story, but I already had these two characters in my head, and they weren’t opposites. 

Finally, I just dug in and tried to wrap my mind around Courtney and her motivations. I know some readers will be frustrated by her indecisiveness, but I hope they’ll find some grace for a woman trying to learn to live again after such a significant loss.

I know that we aren’t supposed to have “favorites” as far as our children, but seriously, who’s your favorite character and why?

So, our group kind of created this character named Gertrude/Trudy. I haven’t read how she shows up in everyone else’s books yet, but I really embraced her as Courtney’s voice of reason. 

She’s this like ninety-year-old woman who walks around carrying a cane with a penis-shaped handle and flirts with all the young men. When she’s with Courtney though, she becomes more like the cool aunt. She helps Courtney realize that she still has a lot of life to live and while she can certainly do it alone, she doesn’t have to.

How do you get inside these character’s heads to find their perfect HEA?

When I’m trying to get to know a character, I think about them all the time. I try to see everything from their POV and constantly ask myself what they would do and why. I’m sure my family wishes I would find another way, because this often means I’m totally distracted. 

In this case, Courtney was a hard one to get to know. Not just because I didn’t have a lot to pull from, but also because I didn’t want to imagine how she felt. Losing my husband is one of my biggest fears, and I honestly didn’t want to delve too deeply into those emotions. 

Ultimately, I had to anyway. I also watched The Lost City with Sandra Bullock playing a widow. It was eye-opening.

What scene in this book/series sticks out the most for you?  Why?

I love the scene where Seth falls and dislocates his fingers on the waterfall. 

Courtney distracts him with her boobs while she works on his fingers. I love the mix of funny and sexy. Personally, I think the best relationships mix the two.

How long did it take you to write this book?

This one actually took me much less time than anything I’ve ever written. Probably because I had a plan going in instead of just pantsing my way through it. 

I’d say six weeks tops, not counting edits and all that. (Note-I’m a full-time teacher with three kids, so this was a massive feat.)

How did you come up with the title for your book?

It was decided that all the books in this series would have the word Ship in them, so that narrowed my possibilities down a little. 

After that I just came up with a list of sayings that included that word. I had my kids help me narrow the list and this is the one that fit the best. 

My favorite option that I didn’t use was For Ships and Giggles. I might save that one for a RomCom, if I ever write one.

If you met these characters in real life would you get along?

I think we would. My husband and I love to travel. We spend every summer in our camper and would love to become full-time nomads. 

Seth and Courtney have this is in common with each other and us. I like to think if we met up at a campground, we’d enjoy sitting by a campfire and sharing stories.

If your book/series were made into a movie, which actors do you see as playing your characters?

This is so not the question for me. I rarely watch TV or movies, so I know I’m not up to date on the best actors and actresses. 

Originally Henry Cavill was my inspiration for Seth, so I wouldn’t be upset if he was cast in that role, but I don’t actually think it would fit now that Seth has been fleshed out. 

I’d also be totally okay with Jennifer Lawrence being Courtney, not because I think she’d be perfect for the role, but just because I love her.

Can you give us a hint as to what we can expect next?  Whether a new book and series or a sequel to an existing series?  Can you share a small tease?

I am working on the sequels to my first Romantic Suspense book, The Right to Surrender. Right now, it’s looking like there will be two more books focusing on the main characters, Finn and Gretchen, and at least two others focusing on Gretchen’s partners.

“Shit. He’s running.”

Gretchen’s head snapped up as her partner’s voice came through the communication link in her ear. She didn’t see Hoyt Nelson, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t her problem. She pushed off the brick wall she’d been leaning against as she pretended to swipe through her cell phone and tried to blend in with the crowd around her. Hopefully, she’d picked something up on her recordings of the street that would help her and her partners if they weren’t able to capture Nelson.

“I don’t see him,” Jackson, another of her team members chimed in. “Chris?”

“Negative.” She scanned the street. Although she wanted to move out, go to where her partners waited, she kept to her sector of the block.

As she turned her head to give the block another scan, movement in the alley caught her eye. She jerked back around, narrowing her gaze on the man hurrying away from her. The man who perfectly matched the description of Hoyt Nelson.

“I got eyes.” Without thinking, she ran into the street. A car slammed to a stop, inches from her thigh. Without acknowledging the driver, she continued to sprint across the street, dodging pedestrians and vehicles. She barely saw anything but the mark in front of her, the man who was wanted for drug trafficking and kidnapping. The man who’d sold bad drugs to a group of middle schoolers, two of which had been found dead in their bedrooms. Her eyes were glued to that son-of-a-bitch, and she wouldn’t blink until she had him in custody.

“Freeze,” she called as she entered the alley with him, her gun drawn. He paused briefly and looked at her over his shoulder. He wouldn’t do it, but the law required she give him the option. It also required she identify herself. “Federal agent.”

He reached behind his back, and her body tensed.

She shook her head. “Don’t do it, Nelson.” 

He pulled the gun out of his pants, but he didn’t point it at her. Not yet. His head swung around the alley, looking for an escape. Gretchen stood ready to run when he took off, because they always took off. No matter how dire the situation, no matter how unlikely their chances of getting away, they always ran.

“Running’s pointless.” She took a step forward. “I know you’re thinking about it, but it’s no use.”

“Stop.” He did point the gun at her now. “Just stop.”

She did as he asked, but she kept her gun trained on his chest. She’d give him the chance to drop his gun and surrender himself, but she wasn’t dying in the process.

Footsteps sounded in the alley behind her, and Gretchen turned her head expecting to catch a glimpse of her partners from the corner of her eye. Instead, two teenagers with their cellphones pointed at her entered the alley. Fucking civilians.

“Get back,” she called to them, still keeping an eye on the man in front of her.

“He’s got a gun,” the one teenager announced gleefully.

“Is she a cop? What the hell?” The other murmured.

Nelson swung the gun toward the teens. One screamed. Gretchen ran over and tackled the kids to the ground just as a bullet split the air above her head and cracked the wall beside them. She landed hard on top of the boys. The one on the bottom cried out as they hit the asphalt, but the other was already pushing her away, screaming about suing the police station. Ignoring him, Gretchen turned to see Nelson fleeing the alley.

With a growl of frustration, she pushed away from the intruders and sprinted down the alley toward Nelson.

“I lost visual. He ran south through the Bakers Street alley.” She rounded the corner and for a moment the world went black. She stumbled to the side as pain exploded in her head.

“Chris?” Her partner’s voice sounded in her ear, but she couldn’t make out most of what he said through the ringing in her ears.

She reached up, touching her fingertips to the side of her head. Her fingers came back wet. Blood. She shook her head and made herself ignore the throbbing. Gradually she began to make out the alley around her, and there at the end was Nelson, running away.

“Son-of-a-bitch.” She took off after him. Each time her boot met the pavement, pain pounded in her temples. She pushed it away. She couldn’t afford to let pain stand between her and the target. And damn it, she wanted to nail him now more than ever.

He’d headed for the stairway at the end of the alley. If he reached it, he could be down and headed toward any number of escape routes. She couldn’t let him get to it. She pushed harder, until her legs and her lungs burned simultaneously. Each competing with the pain in her head to take her focus away from the man who’d just reached the top of the stairwell.

She considered radioing her partners and hoping they could cut off his exits, but that was iffy, and she needed more than iffy. On the run, she shoved her gun into the holster at her back, stepped onto the railing separating the stairway from the sidewalk, and launched into the air.


Check out all my interviews/reviews for HM Thomas!


HM Thomas grew up in South Carolina creating worlds bigger and more dramatic than her own. She credits her dad’s nightly story times for her love of the written word and her mom’s devotion to Days of Our Lives for her love of dramatic fiction.

HM was writing fan-fiction long before it was a thing, taking the characters from her mom’s soaps or her own books and creating even more twists and turns for them. As she got older, she wrote her own friends into the plots. Some of them are still there.

After graduating from Clemson University, HM got her own Happily Ever After and decided to start writing them for her characters as well. She began focusing on romance, oftentimes mixed with suspense.

When not writing, HM enjoys traveling and hiking with her husband, three children and rescue dog. On a good day, she can be found with a book in her hand. On a really good day, there will be a campfire.

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Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, clearly had never lost their spouse.

Courtney Fowler was living proof of that.

After her husband’s death, she swore off love and relationships, too afraid of being hurt again.

Then her best friend tricks her into a singles cruise where Courtney runs into hotshot firefighter and snowboarder - Seth Mitchell.

With a dangerous job and the threat of one day never making it back home, Seth is everything Courtney has tried to avoid - and everything she secretly wants.

When they find themselves ditched by their friends, they decide to make the best of their time on the cruise ship and enjoy each other’s company – no strings attached.

But what happens when the cruise is over and it’s time to return to the real world? Can Seth teach Courtney to love again and convince her that together they’re worth the risk or has that ship sailed?

That Ship Has Sailed is a widow/finding love again romance, part of the Love at Sea multi-author series. Get ready to set sail through the Caribbean on Festival Cruises’ most alluring voyage with eight of your favorite authors - happily ever after guaranteed!

Experience everything the Love at Sea series has to offer. From speed dating to masquerades, guests are sure to enjoy the hot days and steamy nights. Explore hidden waterfalls, swim with dolphins, and watch as eight couples find their forever on the open ocean.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for doing the interview. Would love to spotlight more of your books in the future!