Thanks for coming by today to talk about the McCarthys of Gansett Island! If you've already read the books, you know they were inspired by my love of Rhode Island's Block Island, located 14 miles off the state's south coast. As I described it in my author's note, it's the place time forgot, and that's just the way we love it.
I wanted to share some of the inspiration for the series, but first, let me tell you a bit about each of the books:
Maddie Chester is determined to leave her hometown of Gansett Island, a place that has brought her only bad memories and ugly rumors. Then she’s knocked off her bike on the way to her housekeeping job at McCarthy’s Resort Hotel by Gansett’s “favorite son,” Mac McCarthy. He’s back in town to help his father with preparations to sell the family resort and has no intention of staying long. When Mac accidentally sends Maddie flying over the handlebars, badly injuring her, he moves in to nurse her back to health and help care for her young son. He soon realizes his plans for a hit-and-run visit to the island are in serious jeopardy, and he just may be “maid” for love.
Joe Cantrell, owner of the Gansett Island Ferry Company, has been in love with Janey McCarthy for as long as he can remember. At the same time, Janey has been dating or engaged to doctor-in-training David Lawrence. When things go horribly wrong between David and Janey, she calls her “fifth brother” Joe, one of the few people in her close circle who lives on the mainland. Janey decides a few days with Joe is just what she needs before she goes home to the island to face her parents and family with the news of her broken engagement. It was bad enough for Joe loving Janey from afar, but having her in his house is pure torture. Will he take advantage of this opportunity to show her what they could have together? And what will Joe’s best friend and Janey’s protective older brother Mac have to say about it?
For four of the best summers of his young life, Luke Harris was in love with Sydney Donovan, a wealthy seasonal visitor to Gansett Island. Then Sydney went off to college and never came back. She married another man and had two children while Luke remained on the island, working at McCarthy's Gansett Marina and wondering what had gone wrong between him and the only woman he ever loved. Fifteen months after Sydney suffers the tragic loss of her husband and children, she's returned to Gansett to figure out what's next, and that may very well be a rekindled love affair with the one man from her past she’s never forgotten. But is she ready for a second chance at love?
People often ask me if the McCarthys are based on a real family. The answer is no, but McCarthy's Gansett Island Marina is based on a real place called Payne's Dock in Block Island's Great Salt Pond, also known as "New Harbor" (vs. Old Harbor in town where the ferries land). On my fictional Gansett Island, the harbors are known as North Harbor and South Harbor. Click on the link to Payne's to get a visual on how I picture McCarthy's. I spent a lot of time at Payne's when I was a kid because my parents had a boat and we'd go out there for at least a week every summer.
My dad owned an aviation repair company, and because they were always so busy in the summer, my dad "commuted" to work from the island. He used to get picked up by one of his employees in the morning for the short flight back to the airport on the mainland where he worked. My brother and I would pass the day with our mom at the beach, fishing for crabs and then racing the crabs down the dock, eating salt water taffy and Mrs. Payne's famous sugar donuts and basically having all kinds of great kid fun. Late in the afternoon, we'd watch the sky, waiting for the small plane carrying my dad to reappear. They'd fly low over the marina, tip the wings to let us know it was them, and my dad would appear in a cab from the airport a short time later. I haven't thought about that in a long time. I also vividly remember watching Princess Diana marry Prince Charles on a snowy black and white TV on the dock as we sweltered in the July heat. Ironically, I was also there years later when Diana died. There with my parents and young daughter, I made an early-morning call to my husband from the pay phone on the dock, and he told me the shocking news. I think I might've been the first person the dock to hear that she'd died.
When I'm out on Block Island later this summer, I'll take some pictures of the landmarks that inspired some of the other places I've mentioned in the series. One such landmark is The National Hotel, played by the Beachcomber in the books. The Paynes also own Payne's Harbor View Inn, which was the inspiration for McCarthy's Gansett Island Inn where Maddie works in Maid for Love.
To get to Block Island, we rely on Interstate Navigation and it's fleet of ferries. Joe Cantrell in Fool for Love is the owner of the fictional version, the Gansett Island Ferry Company. In a twist from real life, my college boyfriend is a captain for Interstate Navigation and used to love clove cigarettes the way Joe does. That's where the similarities end, however. (I wonder if he reads romance? Uh oh... LOL) I had a lot of fun visiting him in Block Island when we were dating and he was running the launch service that ran people from their boats moored in the Salt Pond to one of the other marinas in the Pond (ooh, is that an idea for a future character? Owner of the launch service? Hmmm). There's a great bar that overlooks the Salt Pond called The Oar, and it's FULL of thousands of painted and decorated oars that boaters and visitors have brought over the years. I never get tired of reading what people have painted on their oars. I can't believe The Oar doesn't have a website, but there's a picture here that gives you an idea of the place. I'll take some others when I'm there this summer.
My brother and I used to love to walk from Paynes to the Block Island Boat Basin next door (also home to The Oar) to get ice cream sandwiches. I've had a lot of ice cream sandwiches in my day, but none of them were ever as good as the ones we got there.
So there's some of the inspiration behind my series. Does it make you want to visit Block Island? :-) Thanks for coming by today to talk about the series. I'm curious to know who your favorite character is. Favorite scene? Which guy wouldn't you kick out of bed? Luke? Joe? Mac? Grant? Big Mac? LOL! Do tell! I know you have questions about future books, and I've got answers. Grant's book is next, and yes, there will be books featuring Evan, Adam and Tiffany, too. For Grant's book are you Team Abby or Team Stephanie? I will be giving away books from my backlist so don't forget to leave a comment!
In honor of Block Island, I'm sharing recipes for New England Clam Chowder and Clam Fritters, two things you can always get at the Payne's Dock restaurant (run by Stephanie on Gansett Island), along with Mrs. Payne's sugar donuts, but I suspect the donut recipe is locked up at Fort Knox.
New England Clam Chowder
I had to search pretty hard for a recipe that didn't include canned clams. Really? That's not authentic clam chowder. Anyway, I found this one from the Dockside Guest Quarters and Restaurant in York, Maine.
1 quart shucked clams (add water if too dry)
1/3 pound salt pork
1 large onion, minced
2 ribs celery, minced
2 large potatoes, diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 quart of milk, scalded (may use half cream for thicker soup)
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 cup of flour
Salt and pepper
Drain and chop clams, reserving liquid (may substitute 5-pound can chopped clams). Fry salt pork in a heavy pan until all fat is rendered; add onions and celery and brown lightly. Add butter; melt. Blend in flour and stir constantly for 5 minutes. Add clams, potatoes, clam liquid, bay leaf, and thyme. Cook until the potatoes are tender. If desired, add fish and/or shellfish to make seafood chowder.
Clam Fritters (also known in my family as Belly Bombers)
1 pt. clams
1 3/4 c. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. milk
2 tsp. grated onion
1 tsp. butter
Drain clams and chop. Sift dry ingredients together. Combine egg, milk, onion, butter and clams. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Drop batter by teaspoons into deep fat at 350 degrees or fry. Serves 6.