Love on Her Terms

By: Jennifer Lohmann

If only attraction always led to happily ever after...

Mina Clements wants to grab life with both hands. With a fixer-upper and a fresh start in Montana, the graphic novelist is ready to do just that. Plus, having handsome handyman Levi Pardo next door could be a bonus... But even though sparks sizzle when Levi helps with her renovations, the widower’s in no hurry to fall in love again. Still, he’s much more than the neighbor who looks good swinging a hammer. He’s a man she wants to trust with her biggest secret—one that can either bring them closer or wreck the new beginning they both need.

Mina couldn’t hear over the beating of her heart and the rush of blood in her ears.

“Are you okay?” Levi said, his forehead creased in confusion over her sudden change of behavior.

“I’m fine.” Her voice sounded breathy and disjointed to her ears, but he only nodded.

Levi’s gaze had become intense with emotion during the time they’d been sitting on the couch. Intent had softened his jaw and, she saw as he set both their bowls on the ice cream table, his shoulders. As he sat back up, the coming kiss dulled the world around them.

He leaned in to her, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

“I’m sure,” she reassured him, her lie failing miserably.

But Levi didn’t seem to notice her failure. Or, if he did, he didn’t care. Every skin cell burned as he trailed his finger along her jawline. The panic beating inside her couldn’t hide the intensity with which she wanted his lips pressed against hers. The fear didn’t stop her from leaning in to him, from meeting him halfway.

Dear Reader,

Love on Her Terms is one of those books that was born from many places yet somehow came together perfectly. There’s no question this book is influenced by the many times I’ve watched the 1966 movie A Man and a Woman (my mom’s favorite). And for years I’d wanted to write about a young woman who moves in next door to a cranky widower. She brings new sparkle to his life, but she has a chronic illness, and my hero’s not sure he can handle it. Of course, the heroine’s illness kept eluding me. Then while ruminating on a different novel where the heroine has HIV, a friend asked on Twitter if there were any heterosexual romances where one character has HIV. I knew then that I had to put the two ideas together! Sometimes—okay, often—authors need a friendly push.

My heroine, Mina, is also a graphic novelist so I can’t resist recommending Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. It’s a wonderful exploration of the art form whether you’ve read comics and graphic novels or are new to the format entirely. Some of his theories made my jaw drop in awe. And seriously, if you do pick up the book and want to talk about it—shoot me an email! And for a real-life love story similar to Love on Her Terms, read Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story by Frederik Peeters. It’s Peeters’s graphic novel memoir about falling in love with an HIV-positive woman, who also has an HIV-positive son. As a librarian and book lover, suggesting books is one of my favorite pastimes, and these are two good ones!

Love on Her Terms was a powerful book for me to write and I hope it’s just as powerful for you to read.




THE SOUND OF a heavy vehicle pulling into the driveway next door broke Levi Pardo’s concentration, forcing him to look up from the newspaper spread out on the kitchen table. A small, ridiculously young-looking woman was hopping out of the driver’s seat of a truck onto the narrow strip of grass between her driveway and his property. She’d parked too close to the lawn, which didn’t surprise him. He was amazed she could see over the dash and touch the pedals at the same time.

He looked back down at the horoscope he’d been reading, some bullshit about expressing what you’re feeling or else suffer the consequences. He didn’t believe in astrology and found the Missoulian’s particularly annoying, but he still read two signs, Taurus and Cancer, every day. Habit, after years of marriage. Even if Kimmie wasn’t around to care.

The woman moving in next door sure had a lot of energy, he thought, taking a sip of lukewarm, slightly oily coffee. He preferred to drink his coffee with flavored creamer, but he’d run out two days ago and hadn’t yet made it to the store. Through his kitchen windows he saw the woman bound to the back of the truck and, with more power than he expected from someone so small, throw the door up and open. When a car drove up and parked along the curb, the woman leaped across the lawn like a pronghorn to greet her new arrivals.

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