E-Mail was written much earlier and had been out and available on Kindle and in e-book form. But sales figures for the book didn’t show much interest, so we didn’t hurry to make it available in paperback. The lack of interest sort of echoed the reaction from literary agents when I queried the book initially, which was quite a few years ago. Of late, interest in and sales of E-mail have risen dramatically. Perhaps E-mail’s time has come. I hope so.
Unlike the other books I have published to date, E-mail is a contemporary. I have written one other contemporary in the vein of E-mail, but it hasn’t gone through the editorial wringer yet. I’ll slot the final edit of the new one (Griffin’s Law) for early next year, when my WIP – a new historical romance- is well along the road towards completion, if not actually complete. But, like I said above before I started rambling, E-mail is different from the other work readers have seen to date.
I like to describe the style of E-mail as being a book that fellow attorney John Grisham might have written — if only John wrote romance. The book is the first of (hopefully) a number of novels about what happens when love intersects with the law. E-mail is based on a statute from my home state of South Carolina that makes it a felony for an adult to send e-mail to a minor if the e-mail is intended to entice the minor sexually.
Since the book centered around my home state, I decided to set it in my home town. Myrtle Beach is an interesting blend of locals and folks who’ve moved from other states or countries. It’s a tourist town that swells to big city size during the summer. Visitors tend to see the hustle and bustle of the summer or spring break crowds and think they know and understand the town. Actually, they don’t. At its heart, Myrtle Beach is and will remain small town South Carolina, southern and rebellious to the core. My boss tells a story about how a would-be politician who “wasn’t from around here” learned this lesson the hard way. The politician campaigned for County Council on the platform that he’d served on the Council in Ohio. He said, elect me and I’ll show you how we ran things up North. That politician lost by the biggest margin in our state’s history. It’s awfully easy to overlook the fact that Myrtle Beach has traditional southern values – unless that reality smacks you where it hurts.
In E-mail Enticement that reality smacks the hero precisely where it hurts the most. The hero is Alix Angelis, a Greek billionaire who owns an empire headed by its flagship brand of luxury hotels. One day Alix sails his yacht into Charleston harbor. He rents a car and explores the coast. When he discovers Myrtle Beach, he decides to open a hotel in the tourist mecca, and he becomes friends with Chad, a local who is a restaurant mogul in his own right. Alix begins to spend part of the year on the Grand Strand.
When Chad opens a hotel in Vegas, Alix attends the ceremonies. They coincide with the anniversary of Alix’s father’s death. It’s the time of each year when he faces his failure to live up to his father’s dying wish. Alix had promised his father that he’d follow the family tradition of marrying a lady he fell in love with at first sight. Except Alix had never fallen in love at first sight or otherwise and didn’t much believe the emotion actually existed. So on the occasion of the Vegas gala, he drank far too much and let the alcohol foment a rebellion. He deliberately wed Sue, a Southern belle he didn’t love, didn’t want to love and felt sure he would never love. On Sue’s part, she didn’t much care about the emotion as long as she had access to the nearly bottomless well of Alix’s bank balance.
It didn’t take Alix long to realize the belle was a real bitch and that being wed to a woman you actively hated wasn’t an easy form of rebellion to face over the breakfast table. He’d have likely ended the marriage earlier except that he got a call one day from SC’s social services department renewing a plea that Sue take in her younger half-sister. Alix hadn’t known Sue had any family and the thought of any relation being abandoned was intolerable to his deeply rooted Greek value system. So Alix elects to take in the half-sister, Rachel, even after Sue tells him if he takes her in, she’s his problem. And quite a problem she turns out to be. He waits at the squalid foster home to pick her up to drive her home. By the time Rachel reaches the bottom of the ramshackle staircase, Alix has fallen in love with her as men of his line always did – deeply, irrevocably, and at first sight.
But Rachel is his wife’s half-sister and she’s a teenager who is still in high school. Alix stays in his marriage to stay near Rachel, even if he can’t let her or anyone have a clue about his feelings. The day finally comes when Sue pushes Alix too far by taking a lover and bringing him to Alix’s bed. The Greek can’t take that, even to be near Rachel. The book begins with the divorce trial where Sue calls Rachel as her final witness.
The story follows the rest of the trial and the closing bombshell, which wins Alix freedom on his terms. Alix had intended to broaden his relationship with Rachel slowly, to give her time to mature. But part of the testimony yanks him out of logic and awakens his Greek temper, and sends him down a road that escalates things with Rachel much too quickly. Well, too quickly according to his plan. When she gives him an ultimatum that she’ll walk if he doesn’t consummate his alleged feelings, he realizes that the girl is much older than her years. He follows nature’s calendar instead of man’s, but the rest of the world doesn’t see the inner maturity and certainty. So he tries to hide their relationship and ends up losing her completely.
To get her back, Alix has to show his peers how he feels about the very young girl. Even though it jeopardizes his business in a very real way, he does exactly that. But shortly afterwards, Rachel vanishes, leaving only a letter full of lies. Sue finds the e-mail exchanges between Alix and Rachel and shows them to police, who charge Alix with Rape and with Enticing A Minor By E-mail.
Then Alix must go on trial before a jury of Myrtle Beach folk who turn out to be much more Bible belt Southern than he’d ever realized. The trial is televised due to intense national interest in the case. His only defense is showing the world his helpless adoration to prove that regardless of her years, Rachel enticed him first and that she consented to a relationship that was very much mutual. The statute he was charged under provides that at 17 consent is an absolute defense. So Rachel’s testimony could clear him, if only she hadn’t vanished. Alix has to wonder whether any of it had been real, or had it all been an elaborate con?
The story follows the trial from opening to closing arguments and lets readers in on a real surprise near the end. It closes in high drama, in typical over-the-top “Mary Anne” style. Also typically of my style, by the end, the power has changed hands.
If you enjoy legal suspense books or movies you should give E-mail Enticement a read to see how passionate the law can be when it intersects with love.