Don't Judge a Man by his Job Description
Undercover Star is also a story about meddling friends and superiors, misconceptions we harbour about other people's jobs, and about judging someone by the image they present to the outside world.
Take Josh Ingram, a brawny, six-foot-two, detective inspector with the Arts & Antiques Squad. When you see him, you'd think he's perfectly at home playing rugby for a living. You don't imagine that he can tell - almost on sight - that the costly, antique heirloom necklace willed to you by your long-dead maiden aunt is a cunningly wrought fake… and that he knows where the original is kept.
While the two meddlers - Josh's boss and Matisse's manager - have each other's measure and appreciate each other's talents, Josh and Matisse do nothing of the sort. Matisse, not impressed with the detective's unwelcoming manner, and seeing how well Josh gets on with his security team, has to adjust his world-view rather rapidly. And he's not the only one. Josh looks at Matisse and sees a coddled pop star diva. So there are a few revelations in store for him, too, before the two can head towards their HEA.
I had great fun writing Undercover Star, from Matisse hating it when Josh called him rock star, to Josh staring horrified at the clothes Matisse's stylist selects for him. I loved the myriad of minor misconceptions they each had to get past, and how Matisse made Josh's quest his own despite all those misconceptions. Most of all, I loved how the two went to such pains to deny their feelings, but instinctively turned to each other when they needed help.
Yes, Undercover Star is probably a lot less "crime" and a lot more "romance" than I usually write, but I had so much fun with the two, I might actually try it again. Especially if you were so kind and shared your favourite trope with us. Please go ahead and tell me which kind of romantic love story you love the most!
Josh needed a beer.
He slammed through the door of the place he considered his local, three minutes down the road from Scotland Yard. He didn't live in Westminster, of course, but he spent more time in this joint than in any other. The place felt like a home away from home: calming and soothing. Somewhere to relax.
Right now he was desperate for all of that, never mind it was only lunchtime. A few tourists scattered before him as he stalked to the bar. He tried for an apologetic smile, not sure the lame attempt did much to reassure them.
"And who pissed in your cornflakes this morning?" Chris, the pub's landlord, opened the door to the small, secluded snug the moment he saw Josh, and set a pint of Old Peculier in front of him before Josh had parked his arse on a barstool. The two of them went way back, and Josh could count on Chris not to mince his words. Or to flinch when Josh replied in the same vein.
"Tim fucking Montgomery." Josh drained half the pint in one long swallow. He set the glass back on the bar and dropped his head into his hands. They were alone in the snug and Chris was a good listener. He also knew Josh's boss, another plus when Josh was hanging on to his temper by his fingernails. "It's this case I'm working. We need to move in posh circles, and said posh circles aren't cooperating. So, in his infinite wisdom, Tim's landed me with a fucking baby rock star."
"For real? Who?"
"How the—" Josh dialled it back. It wasn't Chris's fault that Tim had lost the plot. "I dunno," he grumbled. "Some blond kid, barely out of nappies. Matisse something?"
"That sounds about it."
"You're goin' to work with Matisse Vervein? And you have no idea who he is?"
"Yes, you damn well should." Chris's outrage was almost comical. "He's famous. Why didn't you bring him with you?"
Chris pulled him a second pint. "Listen. Matisse writes awesome music. He has a voice that makes your knees go weak and he moves like honey down your arsecrack. People pay money to shake his hand and you're grousin' over the chance to work with him? What're you gonna do, anyhow? Start a dance studio?"
"Don't even fucking joke about that where Tim can hear it. That idea is too appalling to contemplate." The second pint went the way of the first and finally—finally—the edges of Josh's anger and agitation blurred a little. The tight coil of tension in his shoulders and neck unwound a notch and he blew out a deep sigh. "Fuck, I hate this."
"Could you be overreactin' a little?"
Josh was mellow enough now to allow the question some room. "Yeah, you're right." This case had taken his best friend's life. It had dragged him halfway across Europe. And now he needed the help of a rock star to get a handle on it? "It's... I don't see why... and he's so damned young and—"
"Don't judge him yet. He looks younger than he is," Chris soothed. "Listen to his music sometime. Especially the stuff he writes for others. There's a lot more to him than he lets on." He clapped a hand on Josh's shoulder and turned him around. "Now, get out of my snug, find yourself a table, and let me bring you some food. You need grease to soak up all that beer."
There was no arguing with Chris. Josh had learned that a long time ago. He hid in the farthest corner of the bar, and he found a grateful smile when a plate of steak and chips materialised in front of him, along with a third pint.
About Undercover Star
It sounds like the stupidest idea in the history of stupid ideas. Detective Inspector Josh Ingram wants to find a deadly medieval locket and through it, a murderer. So why does his boss decide to team him up with Matisse Vervein, a pop idol many consider just a pretty face... and expect the two of them to hunt down an art thief?
Marissa Godwin, Matisse's no-nonsense manager, isn't stupid. Neither is her brother-in-law, Detective Superintendent Tim Montgomery. Each is looking out for a lonely man on the verge of quitting what he does best, and both believe that their charges would make a great team.
The attraction sizzling between Josh and Matisse is hard to miss, but there's plenty of resentment, too. Focussed on pushing Josh and Matisse towards each other, Marissa and Tim haven't imagined the kind of trouble a music star and a detective can find when they ditch their prejudices and accept that the attraction between them is mutual. Or how far each is prepared to go to prove it to the other.
A standalone, feel-good romance set in England and Scotland, featuring a reluctant pop star who's not out, a detective trying his hand at being a bodyguard, plenty of adventure, and a happy ending.
Buy Undercover Star:
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Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don't follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.
And she still hasn't found the place where the bus stops.
For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops, or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places:
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