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Get to know Catherine Bybee as she talks about her new book and the snippets of her life personified in her latest…a heartwarming and emotional story that every reader can connect with, heart and soul.

About the Title

Title: When It Falls Apart

Author: Catherine Bybee

Release Date: June 21, 2022

Publisher: Montlake 

Summary

Brooke Turner has always had a complicated relationship with her father. But when his health takes a turn for the worse, she drops everything to care for him. He’s her dad, after all, and he needs her. What Brooke doesn’t anticipate is the unraveling of her long-term relationship and a cross-country move to San Diego’s Little Italy.

Luca D’Angelo is the oldest of three children and a single father to a young daughter. When his mother rents the top floor of their house to Brooke, he’s angry. Who is this beautiful stranger with no ties to the neighborhood? Can she be trusted in such close proximity to his family?

As Luca learns of Brooke’s difficult journey with her ailing father, his heart softens. And Brooke, who witnesses Luca’s struggle as a single parent, develops feelings for him, too. But when it all falls apart, will love heal their wounded hearts?

Interview with Catherine Bybee

For anyone wondering the plot of your newest release, you give a great sneak peek with the title—When it Falls Apart. What is “falling apart” in this novel?

All the threads that hold my heroine, Brooke, together are crumbling down around her. When it Falls Apart begins with Brooke’s romantic relationship crashing and burning. At the same time, in a different state, her father is circling the drain in the ICU. And for the cherry on the top of her “falling apart life”, Brooke has found herself demoted at work. In short, everything in Brooke’s life is dissolving around her.

Like all of your books, When it Falls Apart has a beautiful romance, however, there is a rawness about Brooke’s story. How was writing this novel different from your others?

If you read my notes both in the front and the back of this novel, you’ll soon realize that the story was very personal to me. Rawness comes from experience. The relationship Brooke has with her father is hauntingly familiar to me and my dad. The emotions that the heroine experienced when taking care of him were easy for me to grasp onto and write about. Sadly, the love story with Luca was completely made up and I didn’t have the support of a strong Italian family to help deal with the struggles, but I digress. 

Relationships with a parent who wasn’t there for you growing up are messy. When that parent ages and needs their child, sometimes that help comes with a bucketload of resentment, even if the child wishes they could stop those ugly feelings from creeping up on them. And THAT is the rawness you speak of.

Books, TV shows, and movies oftentimes glamorize what it means to care for a loved one. However, in When it Falls Apart you don’t sugar-coat anything about caregiving and the toll it takes on a person. How do you think readers who have been in similar situations will be affected by this story?

Justified. Validated. Accepted.

It’s a hard job taking care of an elderly family member. And if there aren’t other siblings to help, or won’t help, it’s made even more difficult. It’s difficult, gritty, dirty work that only has a bad ending…eventually. What I do hope my readers take away is that they’re not alone. That the struggle is very real and that if they don’t find balance (which is almost impossible at times) they will burn out completely and not be fit to help at all. I hope my readers are empowered to set boundaries and balance, so they come out on the other side of caring for an elderly loved one whole themselves.

Brooke gets virtually no support from her significant other, which has her reevaluating their relationship. She realizes she has settled and has to make some hard decisions. Do you think this happens too many times to women in real life?

100% Yes! There is a song by Taylor Swift with a line that says, and I’m paraphrasing here, I can be what you want for the weekend. But often that weekend ends up being a relationship that women hold on to or are convinced they can’t live without. Often it takes a huge shake-up to remove yourself from that situation. But once you’re away from the day to day dysfunctional relationship, the easier it is to see the dysfunction.

After her breakup and move, Brooke is not looking for a relationship. In fact, she tells her best friend: “I haven’t wiped off my smeared mascara from Marshall yet, the last thing I want is to jump into anything else.” Her crying over a man lasts all about two minutes when she meets Luca. Tell us about him.

Hmmm, Luca… he is the kind of man who doesn’t want a place on Brooke’s dance card…he wants to rip it up.

Luca is wired to help the people in his life. Brooke becomes a part of his inner circle simply by moving into the family building where he sees her every day.

Now, if Luca had flat out asked Brooke on a date, she would have run the other way…so no, he doesn’t go about it that way. He simply shows up and does not leave. Not when things get tough, or messy…or when his own past peeks its head in. Luca is a man who is right there at Brooke’s side without question or censor on why she does the things she does. His support and validation of her feelings is the part she was missing. Add in the hunky Italian single father and “Mamma Mia!”

At first, Luca is not thrilled that Brooke is renting a room in his family’s building. What changes his mind about her?

Her strength and vulnerability. I know that sounds contradicting, but some of the strongest women I know have a big vulnerable spot in their life that if you know them well enough, you see. The biggest smiles often hide the deepest pain. Luca sees her struggle and dedication to helping her elderly father and since family is first on Luca’s list, she passes his unconscious test.

Luca’s family, the D’Angelo’s, are incredibly close and share everything from ownership of the family restaurant to helping care for Luca’s daughter Franny. How is this different from Brooke’s relationship with her family?

Brooke doesn’t have that family. She has a father who abandoned her as a little girl that she carved out a relationship as an adult, and now she’s charged with caring for. Even her previous romantic relationship didn’t support her unconditionally the way the D’Angelo’s do for each other. She’s rather dumbfounded when they start treating her like family. It’s a wonderful thing to watch happen.

San Diego’s Little Italy plays a huge part in the story. The community, language, and food are in full display. Tell us about your own experiences in your adopted city.

I love Little Italy, the food, the pace… the people. There are many places in San Diego that are overrun with the college scene, San Diego is a college town. But Little Italy is more family friendly. Very touristy, but there isn’t a day you don’t see locals hanging out. I go to the farmer’s market often. Pick up authentic Italian ingredients for my own home cooking. I try new restaurants and take all my friends there when they are visiting from out of town. Not to mention it was the closest thing to the “real Italy” that I could go during the travel restrictions. So why not write about it and tell the world of this small island within San Diego that shouldn’t be missed?

There are two more siblings in the D’Angelo family. Where will you be taking readers next with the series?

Chloe is a yogi. Think Bali!

And Giovanni loves wine… think Tuscany, Italy.

I cannot wait to show you what I have in store for these two!

******

About the Author

New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written twenty-eight books that have collectively sold more than five million copies and have been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series.

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.catherinebybee.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCatherineBybee 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/catherinebybee 

Tik Tok: https://www.tiktok.com/@catherinebybee1 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2905789.Catherine_Bybee  

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******

Excerpt

“Oh my God, Carmen. He was standing at his car first thing this morning. Like ‘hop in, bella, let’s get stuff done today.’ Who does that?” 

Brooke had picked up the phone as soon as Luca was off in search of a dump guy. 

“We’re talking about the single, hot, Italian dad, right?” 

Brooke rolled her eyes. “Yes. Luca.” 

“Oy, oy, oy.” 

“Stop it. I need advice. And I need it before he gets back.” 

Carmen stopped teasing. “You don’t need advice. You need to relax. He sounds like one of the good ones. Let it happen.” 

“Let it happen,” she mocked. “I don’t ‘let’ things happen. It happens to me and it’s never good.” 

“You didn’t used to be such a pessimist.” 

“Once upon a time the glass was half full. Not these days.” 

“Okay, Debbie Downer. You want my advice . . . here it is. Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.” 

“I’m not doing anything. Zero effort.” 

“Really?” Carmen didn’t sound convinced. “Makeup . . . a nice dress?” 

Brooke hesitated. “Maybe . . . a little last night, but that was it.” 

Carmen chuckled. 

“Carmen!”

“Sorry. Okay . . . any red flags?” 

Brooke thought about that. “He loved his ex-wife.” 

“That’s a red flag?” 

“I guess not.” 

“Is he good to his mom?” 

Brooke looked back on the dinner the night before. “To the whole family. He takes being the oldest brother quite seriously.” 

“And his daughter?” 

All Brooke could do was smile. “Great dad. We should all be so lucky.” 

“He’s Italian, does he smoke?” 

“No.” 

“A lot of Italians smoke,” Carmen pointed out. 

“In Italy. The San Diego variety are less in that wheelhouse.” 

“That’s good.” Carmen sighed. “I don’t know what to tell you, Brooke. How does he kiss?” 

“He hasn’t kissed me,” Brooke nearly yelled. 

“Now then . . . we have a problem.” 

“There hasn’t been . . . I don’t even know if—” 

“Stop right there. He did not drive your sorry ass all the way to Upland to do grunt work all day if he wasn’t interested in kissing you, bellllaaa. More than that, you want him to.” 

Brooke closed her eyes, and even in her own head she couldn’t convince herself that Carmen was wrong. 

“Let it happen. You deserve some happiness, Brooke.” 

The van with the air conditioning repair guy pulled into the driveway. 

“I gotta go.” 

“I want a kissing update the next time we talk,” Carmen teased. 

“Love you,” Brooke said with a laugh.

“Back at ya, boo.” 

She hung up. 

Her best friend was such a dork.

********

About the Book

Title: Say it Again

Author: Catherine Bybee

Release Date: September 24, 2019

Publisher: Montlake

SayItAgainGraphic

Summary

Protector-for-hire Sasha Budanov is accustomed to life as a loner. Always on the move, she’s now reached a crossroad. Looking for answers about her shadowy youth, she’s returned to the strict boarding school in Germany where she was raised. It’s also where she was trained in the stealthy, militarized art of survival. But behind its gleaming gates, Richter is a fortress of secrets, including those buried in Sasha’s mysterious past. To uncover them, she’s clinging to her first rule of defense: stay guarded.

If anyone can challenge Sasha’s rules, it’s devilishly sexy stranger AJ Hofmann. He wants answers, too. And he needs Sasha’s help. The recent deaths of several of Richter’s former students—including AJ’s own sister—have aroused his suspicions. He’s arousing something more in Sasha. Never one to surrender to her emotions, she senses something tempting in AJ. She trusts him. He’s fearless. And he kisses like a demon. Sasha’s found her match.

But treading Richter’s dark halls—and following their hearts—has its risks. As the decades-old secrets of the past are mined, Sasha and AJ are falling deeper in love . . . and into danger.

Author Biography

Copyright Julianne Gentry Photography

New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written thirty books that collectively have sold more than five million copies and been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series. For more information, visit www.catherinebybee.com.

Social Media Links

Website: www.catherinebybee.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCatherineBybee

Twitter: https://twitter.com/catherinebybee

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2905789.Catherine_Bybee

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Author Interview: 

1) Sasha, from your newest novel Say it Again, is unlike any character that most readers will have encountered. Can you give us a rundown of your heroine?

Sasha is a female James Bond with all the skills that kick ass and the sexy that opens doors. She’s a master of disguises, speaks more languages than anyone should…and has a razor-sharp mind that doesn’t sleep. In all her badassery, (pretty sure I just made up that word) Sasha has a soft spot—a vulnerability that makes her want to protect the innocent. She’s a true to life superhero who walks the fence between right and wrong. She really doesn’t have any issues breaking laws to get what she wants. And that’s what makes her so fun to read, and for me to write.  

2) Fans have been following Sasha throughout your First Wives series. Did you always know you wanted to write her story?

No! Not at all. The first four books in the series were going to be it. However, Sasha commanded attention the first moment she walked on the page and I couldn’t get enough of her once I dreamed her up. I was almost finished writing the first book when I decided that Sasha was not going to be a bad guy. Yes, I’m a pantser, and have no real outline before I sit down to write. I think the fact that I didn’t know she was one of the good guys made her all that more believable. I don’t even think she knew she was going to be on the side of right and justice until the end of Fool Me Once.  

3) While many of your novels have a mystery or suspense element, you dive head first into action and spy-games in this book. How easy was this transition for you?

It was super easy and tons of fun. In fact… I think I may have a spin off of a spin off rolling in my head with all the fun characters I played with while writing this book. Neil was one of my very first book boyfriends from the Weekday Brides. And having him come back in this book just reminded me how much fun it is to write all the action and intrigue. I hope my fans love it enough for me to continue the theme with new books. 

4) When AJ is first introduced he seems pretty average—just a guy looking for answers about his sister’s death. But in reality, there is nothing average about AJ. How would you describe him? 

The best picture in my mine that I can describe with all clarity is Brian O’Connor, Paul Walker (RIP), from Fast and Furious. Innocent until he isn’t. 

I would say that AJ is exactly what Sasha needed to open up and accept that she too can be loved. I wanted AJ to come off as average until he wasn’t. Sasha is such a strong character that she needed someone who wasn’t going to try and overpower or overshadow her badassery (love that word). AJ does that. Yet he has some badass moments himself and that is what makes her fall for him even more. He is in no way perfect and neither is she. 

5) AJ and Sasha have something in common—they are both characters with lots and lots of secrets. What makes them open up to each other? What else do they have in common?

Trust through time. That’s the best way for me to describe how they evolved in my head. There is a common respect the moment they “acquire” the other’s phone. A moment where they take notice and begin to respect the other. Honor among thieves as they say. I think the common ground that isn’t apparent until the story evolves is how they want the love of a family. AJ is much more open to it than Sasha, but they both have to fight for it in the end.  

6) While you have written books with scenes in foreign countries, this story takes place internationally. Have you visited the same places as your characters? Where do you hope to take readers around the world in the future?

Yes, I have been to all the places I have written about. I was in Berlin a couple of years ago at a book signing and managed to get their by taking the train from London, through Amsterdam etc. So yes, I’m blessed to have visited these places which makes the story that much richer in my opinion. Richter, the school in the story, is from my imagination. I did some fact checking and learned that post Hitler’s Germany, military boarding schools were not welcome in the country. So I made one up and made it as great and awful as I could while still making it believable. 

I have placed most of my travels, or experiences from them, in my books. And as I travel the world, I will bring my readers along…eventually. 

7) Say it Again wraps up your First Wives series. What have you learned while writing these books? Will these lessons affect your writing in the future? 

On a personal level, I will say that I’ve leaned to write with a great deal of personal turmoil. There have been times I’ve doubted my process and this final book in the series has told me to never do that again. I would like to always keep the door open for more books because of characters like Sasha. I love writing fast moving romantic suspense and intrigue and can see Claire, Cooper and the whole of Neil’s team as a great setting for future books. Yeah… I’m liking that idea more and more. I hope my readers do, too. 

***

Excerpt:

AJ was being stood up.

It was half past noon and Sasha wasn’t there.

The Brandenburg Gate was one of the busiest tourist attractions in Berlin. The square was filled with families and walking tours led by someone holding a colored flag on a stick and talking into a microphone while a line of dazed, zombie-like visitors followed behind. Aside from those in the square learning about the history of the place, there were a dozen police officers and security guards moving around. Considering the American, British, and French embassies were all within a stone’s throw of each other, AJ was surprised there wasn’t a stronger military presence. 

AJ kept scanning the crowd in search of Sex on a Stick in black leather pants and a bad attitude. 

Nothing. 

Left without options, AJ dialed his phone number on her phone and waited. It rang twice. 

Behind him, the riff of “Bad to the Bone,” his ringtone, shot through him. He dropped his hand from his ear and saw a blonde standing three feet away, her back to him. 

Slowly she turned. 

“Whoa.” 

Sasha stared back at him, wearing white capri pants and a bright floral top. The blonde wig overdid it but completely camouflaged her in broad daylight. She took a step closer, reached out her hand holding his cell. “Hello, AJ.” 

They switched phones. “How long have you been standing there?” 

“Half an hour, give or take.” 

He looked her up and down. She looked like a typical American housewife, minus the kid in the stroller. “Impressive.” 

“I wanted to make sure you were alone.” 

AJ glanced around at the passing tourists. “Is there a reason behind the cloak-and-dagger?” 

She moved closer, lowered her voice. “You’ve come here to look for your sister’s killer. You think there is some connection to Richter. Went so far as to go there asking questions. You’re stalking the local pub and hitting on, not to mention stealing from, the patrons . . .” Sasha waved her phone in the air before tucking it into her back pocket. 

“I’m calling pot to kettle on that last accusation.” Although all the rest she pointed out was spot-on. 

“I like to go unnoticed. If someone followed me here, they lost me the second I made the city limits and went clothes shopping.” 

“What if someone followed me?” 

“Then I would have seen them watching in the thirty minutes you’ve been standing around looking like a lost child without a parent.” She turned and started walking toward the gate. 

AJ had no choice but to follow. 

“What makes you think anyone is following either of us?” 

She smiled, didn’t answer his question. “I used to help your sister on her agility training,” she told him. 

The mention of his sister brought his attention back to what he should be focused on. “She wasn’t the most athletic woman.” Amelia took after their mother, who didn’t grow more than five feet five inches tall and had a sweet tooth that always kept her rounder than she’d liked. At least that’s what she’d blame when she went on one of her many diets. 

“No. But she held her own most of the time. Everyone at Richter was pushed to do at least that.” 

“Her coworkers said she had recently started taking morning walks before work,” AJ said. 

“Which explains the police report about her being murdered in the park and tossed in the river.” 

AJ stopped walking. “You looked her up.” 

“Only because I knew her.” 

He jumped in front of her, stopped her from moving. “Then you’ll help me.” 

“There is nothing to suggest that Amelia’s death is at all linked to Richter.” 

AJ looked over Sasha’s shoulder and noticed a man eating an ice cream cone and staring at Sasha. The middle-aged guy turned his attention away and took a few steps in the opposite direction. 

“Maybe she . . .” 

AJ felt eyes, turned to his left. 

No one. 

“What is it?” Sasha asked. 

“The guy with the ice cream, over your left shoulder.” 

She grinned, cocked her head to the side. “We did this last night.” 

“Yeah, only I’m not asking you to lay a lip lock on me. Tempting as that might be.” Truth was, he’d thought about that kiss more times than he wanted to admit. “If how you’re dressed is any indication, you’re the expert on all things undercover. You tell me if you feel the weight of someone’s stare.” 

Sasha paused, then looked over her shoulder. “That him?” she asked, thumbing toward the guy with the ice cream. 

“Yeah.” 

She grabbed AJ’s hand and walked directly toward the guy he thought for sure was watching them. 

“What are you doing?” 

She didn’t answer. “Excuse me?” Her voice rose a full octave, her smile was sickeningly sweet. Any accent he’d detected from her voice was gone . . . or changed. 

The man with the cone turned toward them. “Yes?” 

“Are you American? You look American.” 

“I’m, ah . . . yeah.” The guy looked directly at AJ.

Sasha kept going. “Good. Would you mind taking our picture? I can’t get the gate behind us with a selfie.” 

Again the guy offered AJ unblinking eyes. “Ah, sure.” He reached for the phone Sasha was handing him. 

Next thing AJ realized, he was standing beside Sasha, her arm slipped around his waist, and he was smiling like all of the other tourists surrounding them while the man he thought was spying on them took their picture. 

The stranger holding Sasha’s phone, while trying to balance his ice cream cone, looked completely out of place. 

“Take a second one, just in case.” Sasha giggled. 

The sound of her voice didn’t suit her. The hand on his waist, however, suited him just fine. The feel of her there, the warmth, the softness he knew she would hate if he pointed it out, felt a little too right. 

“Thank you so much.” 

The stranger handed her phone back with a nod. “Have fun.” 

She waved. “We will . . . thanks.” 

And he was gone. 

AJ watched the man slip away as Sasha removed herself from AJ’s side. 

He missed her warmth, instantly. 

“Any self-preserving spy wouldn’t have made contact,” Sasha told him. 

The two of them walked toward the center of the square. “Okay,” AJ started. “Maybe I’m a little paranoid.”

“You’re a lot paranoid.” 

AJ paused in the middle of the plaza and stared at the massive horses that sat atop the gate. The image of his sister at Christmas the previous year surfaced. It was the last time he’d seen her alive. “I know Amelia’s death wasn’t random, Sasha. I feel it with every breath I take.” 

She sighed. “I know you do.” 

He looked at her. “You don’t believe me.” 

“I believe you believe.” 

He lowered his head, studied the salt-and-pepper colored stones beneath his feet. “You’re not going to help.” Damn it . . . he was back to ground zero. 

Another heavy sigh from the woman at his side. “I will help you.” 

AJ snapped his head up. “What?” 

She placed a hand in the air as in warning. “Not because I think you have anything other than grief inside you. The not knowing, or never accepting the facts, can eat you alive.” 

Not ground zero. He wanted to kiss her. Not that she would be receptive to that kind of thing. “Why are you doing this?” There wasn’t anything in it for her. Sasha turned away from him and focused her attention on the Brandenburg Gate. 

“Because I’m not bored.” 

***

 

 

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