Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Wild Ride

Today, we welcome romantic suspense author Karen Kendall back to the lair to chat about the third in her ARTemis, Inc., art recovery series.

Welcome back, Karen! What have you been doing since you were last here?

Thanks! It’s good to be here. What have I been doing . . . well, promo and proposals and a Blaze manuscript and more. Always something!

Tell us about the hero and heroine of Take Me For a Ride.

I had a lot of fun with these two. Eric McDougal is the hero, and the book is really his story. Some readers may recognize him from the previous two books in the series (TAKE ME IF YOU CAN and TAKE ME TWO TIMES.) He’s known around the office as “McManWhore,” since he’s been, um, rather active with the ladies. LOL. But McD has some unusual reasons for being the way he is, and I think they make him sort of loveable.

Natalie Rosen is the heroine of TAKE ME FOR A RIDE. She’s a restoration artist who works on old tapestries. Nat’s a little shy until you get a couple of whiskies in her, when a whole new side of her personality reveals itself. She also happens to be an accidental thief. You see, she borrows something to show to her grandmother, who then refuses to give it back—which is what kicks off the action in the story.

The hero, in particular, is keeping secrets in this book. Can you tell us a little about that?

McDougal is definitely keeping secrets! He’s an art recovery agent who targets Natalie from the first scene in RIDE. She’s his mark, and he’s tracked her to a local bar in order to find out what she may have done with the missing and very valuable St. George necklace, a piece that used to belong to Catherine the Great.

But it turns out that Natalie is honest, and she’s gotten herself into a whole lot of trouble. And it also turns out that McDougal may have a well-hidden and completely inconvenient conscience.

You also have a quest story going here. What's the quest?

Well, the ostensible quest is to recover the necklace. But there’s also a quest for justice, since the St. George necklace was originally stolen from Natalie’s great-grandparents during World War II. Avy and Liam (main characters from TAKE ME IF YOU CAN) are working that particular angle of the book.

McDougal and Natalie must also find her grandmother before some nasty Russian thugs find the old lady first. And in a further twist, granny goes on a quest of her own for other family belongings still hidden deep inside a cathedral in Moscow.

Let’s see: how many quests is that? LOL. Four, I think.

How do you research the art recovery and restoration angles for this series?

I find the art recovery angles to be the most interesting. I’ve tracked down articles and books on various art recovery specialists—the most colorful of whom seem to be Robert Volpe, who worked with NYPD in the ‘seventies, Thomas McShane of the FBI and Charley Hill of Scotland Yard. Those guys had some adventures!

There are also big databases on stolen art such as the international Art Loss Register. Art crime is a fast growing, scary business. The old stereotype of the ‘gentleman thief’ no longer applies—it’s gotten rough and ugly out there. There truly are mob ties and drug cartel ties and terrorist ties and money-laundering angles . . . it’s unbelievable. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Can we have a look inside Take Me For a Ride?

Sure! Here’s an excerpt.

From TAKE ME FOR A RIDE by Karen Kendall, Signet, copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Natalie Rosen was McDougal’s mark this evening. An art restorer and probable thief, she lurched left on the crowded Manhattan sidewalk between 92nd and 1st. The door of Reif’s opened and swallowed her.

Reif’s? She didn’t look the type for a seedy old neighborhood bar run by three generations of Irish. Reif’s was a blue-collar place in a now affluent neighborhood. North of 96th got dicey as it eased into Spanish Harlem, but south of 96th had become gentrified. Still, there were a few old hold-outs like Reif’s, where electricians and plumbers mingled with white collar yuppies and argued politics in a haze of dust mingled with decades of lingering, stale cigarette smoke. The Yankees, the Mets, the mayor, the weather . . . those were typical topics.

Reif’s was situated on the ground floor of a six-story apartment building. It smelled beer-sodden and mildewy but it was also homey and offered a sort of tobacco-stained comfort that suited McDougal . . . just not a girl like Natalie Rosen.

Natalie had dark, glossy, straight hair and dark, serious eyes that looked a little at odds with her snub, lightly freckled nose. She was cute in a repressed, academic sort of way. Not tweedy or preppy—more earnest and artsy. The chick wore a lot of black, but there was a difference between severe New York black and sultry Miami black.

New York black covered while Miami black revealed. New York black involved tights, turtlenecks, scarves and coats. Miami black involved thongs, skirt lengths just shy of illegal, spike heels and fishnets—particularly on some of those little Brazilian hotties, with their bras clearly showing under skimpy tops . . . oh, yeah. McDougal was a big fan of Miami black.

Focus. He frowned. What in the hell was a girl with an art degree from Carnegie Mellon doing in a beer-soaked joint like Reif’s? Surely not unloading a two-million dollar necklace that had once belonged to Catherine the Great.

It was his job to find out, but he needed to hang back for a few. Let her get settled. Have a drink or two. He pegged her for the type that would walk into a dusty place like Reif’s and order, say, white wine. A little naïve. A little out of touch with reality.


Twenty minutes later, McDougal shoved his hands into his pockets, crossed the street and entered Reif’s. He glimpsed her immediately: Natalie perched on one of the old, wooden, backless bar-stools, staring sightlessly into the dregs of a short glass of whiskey, rocks.

His opinion of her went up a notch—at least she hadn’t ordered a white Zinfandel in an Irish pub. Of course, his opinion of her didn’t matter much—he’d get what he came for, regardless. He always did.

In all that black, Natalie looked as if she’d smell of sulphur or mothballs, but as she dug into her nylon messenger bag for a tissue he caught a waft of fresh laundry detergent and a tinge of 4711, a cologne his sisters used to wear.

Over the bar hung a four foot by eight foot mirror, which reflected among other things Natalie’s drawn, downcast face. Something was on the lady’s mind.

McDougal nodded at the bartender and mounted the stool next to hers. It was covered in cheap green vinyl and had seen better days, but the upside of worn was comfortable. It announced his presence by creaking under his solid one hundred eighty pounds, but Natalie didn’t look at him.

Didn’t matter. She would. Women always did, eventually—not that in every case they liked what they saw. Some of the smarter ones summed him up as a player in one glance and dismissed him. Others focused on the bare fourth finger of his left hand. The fun ones started shoveling verbal shit at him immediately. Which type was she?

As Eric casually ordered a Guinness, he watched her in the mirror. Watched as her pointed little chin came up, she pushed some hair out of her face and cut her eyes towards him, her lashes at half mast.

Then came her first impression, the under-cover evaluation of his six-foot two frame, muscular forearms sprinkled with freckles and golden hair, his denim-clad legs. She took in the brown leather jacket and the reddish-brown stubble on his chin; then the grin that widened as he watched her.

That was when she realized that he’d seen her inspecting him in the mirror. Her gaze flew to his in the reflected surface and froze. A slow blush crept up her neck—a blush so fierce he could see it even in the dim light of Reif’s.

“Hi,” McDougal said, turning to face her with the full wattage of his grin.
She blinked, stared, then looked away as the blush intensified. She put a hand up to her neck as if to cool the skin off. “H-hi.”

She was a babe in the woods . . . without mosquito repellent. He prepared to feast on her tender young naiveté.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” McDougal said, taking his grin down a few notches, from wolfish to disarming.

She seemed to have no adequate response to that.

“It’s very normal to check out the guy sitting next to you. He could be a vagrant, a pervert, or a serial killer.”

She laughed reluctantly at that, and it transformed her face from mildly pretty to dazzling. She’d gone from librarian to . . . to . . . Carla Bruni in half a second flat. It was McDougal’s turn to stare. The French First Lady had nothing on her.

“So which one are you?” she asked, evidently emboldened.

“Me? I’m just a tourist, sweetheart. The only cereal killing I do involves a bowl of raisin bran or corn flakes.”

That got a smile. “Where are you from?”


“Florida,” she said, sounding wistful. “I’d love to be on a beach right now, not in the city.”

“You work here?”

Natalie nodded. “I’m a restoration artist.”

“A restoration artist,” McDougal repeated. “As in, they call you to touch up the Sistine Chapel?” He nodded at the bartender and pointed at her glass.

“Something like that. But I specialize in rugs and tapestries, not painting.” A wary expression crossed her face as the drink was set in front of her. “Um, I didn’t order—”

“It’s on me,” McDougal said.

“Oh, but . . .”

“What’s your name?”

She hesitated. “Natalie.”

“Natalie, it’s just a drink. Not a big deal. ‘Kay?”

“Thank you,” she said after a long pause. She curled her small but competent hand around the glass. “Actually, you have no idea how much I need this.”

Yes I do. First heist, honey? It always shreds your nerves. But all McDougal said was, “You’re welcome. I’m Eric.” And he proceeded to chat her up while she got lusciously tipsy on her second whiskey.

Really, he should be ashamed of himself.

Natalie Rosen’s eyes had gone just a little fuzzy, her gestures loose and her posture relaxed. She’d also gotten wittier. “So you said you’re a tourist. Are you an accidental one?”

He smiled. “Nope. I do have a purpose. Are you an accidental bar-fly?”

“No.” She averted her gaze, then looked down into her whiskey and murmured, “I’m an accidental thief.”

“Do tell,” McDougal said, showing his teeth and signaling the bartender again. If he had his wicked way, she’d soon be a naked thief.


(McDougal seems very sure of himself, doesn’t he? LOL. Just wait. He gets taken down a notch or two! )

Yes, and I don't want to spoil the fun for other readers, but I will say that part of the book, where all his sins come home to roost, was fabulous. What's next for you?

Well, I’m contracted for a Blaze trilogy, so I’ll be working on that. And I have an interesting new project up my sleeve! But I’m not ready to talk about that, yet. I’ll be taking a hiatus from the art recovery business for a while, though—even though I love it!

Characters from the other two books appear in this one, and the different plot threads come together. Can you give us a hint how all that works? And where Avy and Liam, in particular, are?

Avy and Liam, oddly enough, turn up in Moscow along with Natalie’s renegade granny and everyone else! Remember the quest for justice I mentioned earlier? Well, they’re there to recover something most unusual . . . something that Liam’s never dared to try recovering before. And Liam is no coward—if you’ve read the previous TAKE ME books, you know that he’s got a set of real brass ones! LOL.

This recovery will strain not only his nerves and his ingenuity, but Avy’s patience and her trust in him . . . which has been a bit shaky lately. Will their relationship survive? It’s anyone’s guess.

I hope you enjoy TAKE ME FOR A RIDE! And here’s wishing very happy holidays to everyone.

Karen is giving away a copy of Take Me for A Ride to one commenter today, so tell us: Is there a story involving art theft that you especially like? What's your favorite story of a bad boy doing penance after he's reformed by love? Who's your favorite bad boy hero?


Helen said...

Is he coming to my place ?

Have Fun

Helen said...

Well the GR will be going on a birthday party picnic with us tomorrow and I am sure he will have fun with the birthday boys Corey and Jake.

Welcome back Karen I have your books on my must have list they sound wonderful I love a romantic suspense. Recovering art sounds like a tricky affair I look forward to reading it. Sounds like you have been very busy with your writing always great for readers like me.

Aunty Cindy's The Treasures Of Venice comes to mind loved that book and loved Keirnan.

Have a great Chrissy Karen and thanks Nancy for inviting Karen back to the lair

Have Fun

Virginia said...

Congrats Helen on nabbing the rooster today! I am afraid no one around here will be going on picnic tomorrow because I just looked in my back yard and its covered with snow.

Hi Karen nice to see your here! I love a good romantic suspense, but I don't think I have read any of yours. Take Me for a Ride sounds like an awesome read! I watched a few TV shows about recovering art but can't remember what they were. I really enjoyed them though.

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

Cherry said...

What happens if I do not know any story involving art theft? I do know of bad boys *wicked grin*. My favourite bad boy hero? It will have to be Zarek of the Dark Hunter series.

Re-posted your contest at:

mischivusfairy-inbox12 [at] yahoo [dot] com

Minna said...

Is there a story involving art theft that you especially like?

Only one I can think of is the episode of Numb3rs I saw yesterday.

Thank God It's Christmas

Joulu Peruutettu - Mamba

Jane said...

Hi Karen,
Congrats on the release of "Take Me For a Ride." My favorite story involving art theft is Sidney Sheldon's "If Tomorrow Comes." It made me want to go to Spain and visit the Prado Museum.

Congrats on the GR, Helen.

Silvia said...

Hi Karen!,
I LOVE me some bad boys, well in books that is. A great excuse to not feel like such a goody two shoes. Right now I'm into vampire stories the ultimate B-B's. I also love sheriffs and cops. Chasing the bad guys they once were themselves. And men with troubled pasts. Scared by bad memories healed by great love, yet remaining something of the rogue inside. Yum!

Gillian Layne said...

How funny you ask! I just got done watching the Thomas Crown Affair remake with Rene Russo for about the hundredth time--I love that movie! (And I want her hair)

I just love the thought of art thieves...White Collar is another very good art thief show. Really, really smart men are incredibly sexy.

I'm sorry to hear about no more "gentleman thieves". When drug cartels are involved, it's certainly not fun or sexy anymore.

Deb said...

Hi, Karen. From reading the excerpt, I can tell I like Natalie. I love the description of "accidental thief". I bet McDougal falls hard for her, too.

I am drawing a blank on a story with an art theft in it.

Whether it's a gentleman thief or just a gentleman, I always picture Cary Grant in my mind. He seemed to be the epitome of a perfect gentleman in any role he played. (Maybe because my 2 fave movies of his were "Operation Petticoat" and "An Affair to Remember."
Oops, a little bit off topic here, sorry.

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Karen *waving* Great to see you back in the Lair! I'm loving your ARTemis series and very keen to see what happens to Eric.

I'm with Deb on Cary Grant - YUM! Love the movie To Catch a Thief and my all-time favourites Charade and The Philadelphia Story. I also love How to Stea a Million. And, of course, The Thomas Crown Affair.

As for reformed bad boys - you can't beat Lorraine Heath's awesome Scoundrels of St James series. I love them all, but have a special soft spot for Dodger.

Anna Sugden said...

Congrats Helen! Happy birhtday to your adorable grandbabies - how time flies! It seems like only yesterday they were born.

Nancy said...

Helen, have fun with the rooster!

A birthday party picnic? He'll love that. I'm sure he's also reveling in the warm weather you're having.

Have a great party. :-)

Nancy said...

Virginia, you have snow? We dodged it. Thirty-five miles north of here, they have several inches. We have none.

I love the art angle in these books. Since you mention TV shows, I wonder whether you've seen White Collar on the USA Network. It's on hiatus until January, but it features a convicted art thief and forger working with the FBI so he can stay out of prison. The dh and I have enjoyed that one.

Nancy said...

Hi, Cherry--Zarek has lots of fans here, and the bad boy suffices as a comment. You don't need to know an art story--White Collar was in my mind when I wrote that question.

Nancy said...

Minna, I've caught a couple of episodes of Numb3rs and liked it a lot. I didn't see that episode, though.

Nancy said...

Hi, Jane--Sidney Sheldon wrote really big books, didn't he? Lots of travel and exotic locations. I'd love to see the Prado someday.

Nancy said...

Silvia wrote: I also love sheriffs and cops. Chasing the bad guys they once were themselves.

What a cool way to put it! Do you have a particular favorite among these?

Nancy said...

Hi, Gillian--The Thomas Crown Affair is one of those movies I keep meaning to rent but forget until I see some bit of it on TV. Of course, I'll watch just about anything that has Pierce Brosnan in it.

We love White Collar! The writing is snappy and clever, they really do film in New York, and the characters have great chemistry.

Also, just as an aside, if you put Matt Bomer in a cape and tights, he looks like he stepped out of the pages of Action Comics (even if he's just a couple of inches shorter than Superman).

Nancy said...

Deb, Natalie really is a great character. And she has great chemistry with McDougal.

Yeah, Cary Grant could be the dictionary illustration of debonair. He was fabulous. And off-topic is fine around here. We go off on all kinds of tangents. :-)

Nancy said...

Anna S.--What's How to Steal a Million?

I love The Philadelphia Story. It's one of those movies I wish they would digitize to make the images clearer.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Karen, welcome back to the Lair!

Yay, Helen, sounds like the Rooster's in for a treat today with the birthday boys.

Karen, your Artemis series sounds intriguing and delightful. Does a reader need to start with the first book in the series or can she just jump right in?

Virginia C said...

If you have seen "The Thomas Crown Affair" with Pierce Brosnan, then you know what an art thief should look like. If I knew that Pierce would come to steal my artwork, then I would immediately become an avid art collector. He could steal my art, bad boy that he is, and then I could reform him with tender counseling. He would return the artwork and I would return his affection. We would open our own gallery together and enjoy the finer things in life!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Anna Sugden said...

Nancy - How to Steal a Million is a fab classic film with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole.

Nancy said...

Virginia C. wrote: If I knew that Pierce would come to steal my artwork, then I would immediately become an avid art collector.

You and me both, Virginia! I love your scenario!

Nancy said...

Jo, Karen will be joining us later. I've read these books in order, but I wouldn't think you'd HAVE to. But she may think you should.

Is that confusing enough? *g*

Nancy said...

Anna S.--Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole! What a great combination!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Helen! He IS coming to your place, looks like! Grins.

Hi Karen! Woot! and Welcome to the Lair. These stories sound fabulous.

Wish I had them in my greedy little hands since we are currently under a Blizzard warning and it's snowing like crazy. Grins.

I'm right there with everyone who loves Thomas Crowne Affair. I'm also enjoying White Collar too.

Cary Grant - rrrrrrowr!

Nora's Hot Ice is a good theft story, though not art. I like the Sidney Sheldon too. As to bad guys, the wonderful team of The Sting - Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw - Oh man, talk about bad boys! Grins.

Karen Kendall said...

Wow, so many great comments! Good morning everyone.

Pierce Brosnan, Cary Grant, The Thomas Crown Affair, How to Steal A Million, Sydney Sheldon -- these are ALL my favorites!

As for snow, since I live in south Florida, we won't be having any of that here, LOL. I wish . . .

I have to go and brave the (gulp) mall now for some last minute gifts, but I will stop in and comment more extensively later.

Happy holidays, everyone! And what's this about a rooster? LOL. More soon,

Karen K.

traveler said...

I enjoyed your post today. A book that involved art theft and was intriguing was The Chrysalis. I have read many novels about art theft and find them captivating and special. I find them fascinating and engrossing.

Nancy said...

Jeanne, how could I forget The Sting? You know, I took my aunt to see that in the theater, and she fell asleep. Clearly, it didn't grab her.

We love White Collar at our house!

I envy you the snow, though I have to admit it'd be a real hassle, far behind as we are in holiday prep. We're finally getting the tree up tomorrow!

Anna Sugden said...

Jo - I'd read them in order. The first one puts the second one in context.

Nancy said...

Hi, Traveler--what's The Crysalis about?

Glad you liked the post.

Anna Sugden said...

Oooh love The Sting. Paul Newman *sigh*

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Helen, one chook for you today! Hope he behaves himself! We know he loves the boys!

Karen and Nancy, what a great interview. I must say I find art-based stories really interesting, going back to How to Steal a Million or the original Thomas Crowne Affair. Good luck with the new story - it sounds like a winner!

Pissenlit said...

Hi, Karen! Okay, I almost spit out a mouthful of tea at "McManWhore". Bwa ha! Take Me For A Ride sounds real fun!

I haven't any new fun art theft stories to add but I did quite enjoy the theft in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair and I'm a huge fan of the tv show White Collar(though I'm finding the latest revelation fairly upsetting).

Omigosh, I love The Sting!

catslady said...

I too started watching White Collar and the star is definitely a bad boy lol. There is a movie with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones that I believe was about art theft that was wonderful and isn't he the ultimate bab boy (especially in the james bond movies lol).

Nancy said...

Anna S.--I don't see how anybody falls asleep on Paul Newman.

Nancy said...

Hi, Anna C.--Another vote for Thomas Crown (McQueen, not Brosnan, duly noted) and How to Steal A Million! Glad you liked the interview.

I saw Tim Tams in the grocery store. *g* Really. Two different kids.


Nancy said...

Hi, Pissenlit--Yeah, the last scene of the last episode of White Collar was a gut-kicker. I'm eager to see how they resolve it, though.

Nancy said...

Hi, Catslady--I know exactly what movie you mean with Connery and Zeta-Jones. And I can't think of the title! Ack!

Just checked imdb--Entrapment?

And I do think Neil Caffery qualifies as a bad boy.

Linda Henderson said...

I liked the Thomas Crown Affair. Pierce Brosnan made a great art thief.

Nancy said...

Hi, Linda Henderson! I think Pierce Brosnan makes a great anything, actually. *g*

Pam P said...

Love The Thomas Crown Affair, both versions. I like Pierce Brosnan but the original with McQueen is the one I like best. Love Charade, To Catch a Thief, and the new White Collar on TV.

Another favaorite one about art forgery with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole - How to Steal a Million.

Nancy said...

Hi, Pam P.--The Thomas Crown Affair, How to Steal a Million, and White Collar have all had their followers today, so you have lots of company!

Virginia said...

Just dropping back in to see whats going on! I have spent the afternoon with my son making Pecan Rolls, thats a job. I have never watched White Collar. I will have to check it out. I have watched to catch a theif.

We have had a little snow, rain, and sleet today. It looks like its snowing right now but we don't have about an inch or less left right now. I hope its all gone in a few days. I like nice weather for Christmas because of travel.

Nancy said...

Hi, Virginia--

I remember To Catch A Thief. It was fun.

We had cold, mostly clear weather today. I hope yours clears in time for your holiday travel.

limecello said...

Oops - super late to the party, but the most interesting art theft story I think is what happened at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston.
Bad boy doing penance? :X All the groveling heroes, really... and favorite bad boy? Ren Gage - in Breathing Room :D Or... Bobby Tom Denton in Heaven, Texas.

Lady_Graeye said...

Thank you for being here! This was a great blog! There are so many bad boys I like but I feel a little brain-dead right now to think of any.

kim h said...

i did saw th e art stolen i the 90's the best art theft in history an dhas not been solved, on th e E news channel