Announcing La Fleur de Blanc

Fleur-Final-600Sterling & Stone’s resident naughty storyteller, Lexi Maxxwell, has a new book out on Valentine’s Day. It’s called La Fleur de Blanc, and we’re going to tell you all about it.

And by “we,” I don’t mean Sterling & Stone is going to tell you about it. I mean that we are going to tell you about it: Johnny, who’s writing this post’s first draft, and Sean, who assigned and edited it before it went live.

The reason?

Why, because we wrote it, of course.

The Evolution of Lexi Maxxwell

Lexi is a real person. Her name isn’t “Lexi Maxxwell,” of course, but she’s a real woman, quite pleasant and surprisingly non-smutty when she’s not behind a keyboard — or, one assumes, in a bedroom.

I’m not exactly sure when I met Lexi, Sean and Dave both knew her before I did, but it wasn’t long before Self Publishing Podcast episode #38, when we first had her on the show.

It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with Lexi’s storytelling chops and business sense and begin working with her.

For a while, we just managed Lexi, shepherding her books and putting her stuff in funnels like our own. But then Sean and I co-wrote Adult Video and The Future of Sex with her and Sean and Dave co-wrote The XXX Files with her, and our businesses began to intermingle.

When, about a year ago, personal issues caused Lexi to want to take a step back from her writing and author less new stuff, we started talking about Lexi’s future. She okayed the idea of having other writers write as her someday, assuming she always had final cut. She’d still write plenty … but she’d become a line, not just a person.

I guess it seemed inevitable that the first people to write as Lexi would be us.

La Fleur de Blanc: The Romance That Wasn’t.

Sean and I have been wanting to write a romance novel for a while because we’ve written pretty much everything else, but we had some stipulations. First, we didn’t want Fabio or any Fabio look-alikes on the cover. We didn’t want to write a harlequin bodice-ripper. No, we wanted to write our version of a romance. And hey, if we broke some rules that people have come to expect from romances, so what?

By being the first people to write as Lexi — not with her, which we’d done before, but as her, with Lexi herself only giving the book the faintest of touches on final pass — we figured could have our cake and eat it too.

Nobody was looking for a “Realm & Sands romance” just yet, so Lexi gave us a place to play. Yes, Lexi met us when she was spinning out sex-centric single-serving fantasies, but she’d already grown so much, and people had seen romantic work from Lexi before: Together Apart and A Temptation in Time are both very romantic. Writing the line’s first bona-fide romance made total sense.

And so it began.

During production, we completely ignored the fact that our names wouldn’t be on the final book. Sean mapped out a story the way he always does for Realm & Sands titles, complete with full character sketches.

And so I met Lily Whistler: a girl from the breadbasket who, after her parents pass away, comes to a trendy oceanfront California town to pursue her dream using her inheritance as seed money. Lily wants to open a flower shop that sells only white flowers: La Fleur de Blanc, or “The White Flower.”

I met Matthew Vitale and his father Marcello, who run a similarly elite and niche business in the high-end plaza where Lily opens her shop: Bella by the Sea, which holds only a few diners per night for a sky-high price.

It didn’t take long to find the story’s rhythm at all. I forgot I was writing for Lexi. We let it all hang out, treating the story like any Realm & Sands project.

Yeah. Like any Realm & Sands project.

That was the problem.

Romantic vs. Romance

When we were finished with La Fleur, we were as jazzed about it as any title we’ve written. We were particularly proud of our unwillingness to bow to the rules. Our newest book didn’t fall into any of the regular romance tropes (other than the sexy men who catch Lily’s fancy), and had several “gotcha” moments that took a bunch of Realm & Sands-type twists to work through.

And when we handed the book off to our first readers (my wife Robin and Amy and Monica, who now work for S&S), they said, “Yeah, this isn’t a romance.”

We didn’t like that answer. We’d wanted to write a romance. That had been the idea all along.

“What do you mean, ‘It’s not a romance’?”

And they proceeded to tell us, in a fashion that would be spoiler laced if I repeated it here, why exactly this wasn’t remotely a romance.

“But it’s so romantic!” we pleaded. “She owns a Parisian-style flower shop! There’s all this sensual stuff with food and flavors! There are handsome men and brewing love stories everywhere!”

And the answer was, “It’s romantic, for sure. But ‘romantic’ is different from ‘romance.'”

So we asked what it is.

“Women’s fiction,” they told us. “Maybe like The Devil Wears Prada or Sex and the City.”

We two dudes had gotten together to write our first romance, and we’d made chick lit.

Dave was going to have so much fun with that bit of info.

Chick Lit For the Win

The good news, despite our failure to write a true romance, was that we seemed to have written a very good chick lit story. Our beta readers devoured the thing and demanded more. Robin was angry at me when it ended, demanding to know when the next book in the series would be out. They’d all fallen in love with Lily, who turned out to be a hell of a lot tougher and cooler than we’d anticipated.

Or, to put it another way, the heroine of this tale was as feminine as they come, but we’d managed to give her quite the set of balls.

I could go on and on about La Fleur. It’s like nothing we’ve written before, and it won us some big points with both of our wives — maybe because we proved that we could get in touch with that part of ourselves or maybe because we’d just written a good yarn of bitchiness and revenge, of desire and coming to grips. Lexi’s name gets this one, but I’m so proud to stand behind it and can’t wait to write Lily again.

Rather than telling you all about the story, I’ll just drop the book’s description here and you can judge for yourself:

A young woman with a little girl’s dream. Two handsome suitors. And an adversary determined to crush her before she stands a chance.

Lily Whistler has a dream, birthed from the most fanciful Parisian memories of her late mother: to open a floral shop called La Fleur de Blanc, selling only white flowers. Back home in Kansas, such a fairy tale notion could never survive … but in the fashionable seaside town of Cielo del Mar, California, Lily has gambled her inheritance that it will.

At first, the upscale shopping center of the Palms Couture seems fertile soil for Lily’s dream. The weather is beautiful; the vistas of the ocean are breathtaking; the customers are elegant and wealthy. There are even two men who’d suit Lily’s fancy if she had time for such things: charming Len, who operates a fine food cart, and dark and brooding Matthew Vitale, who runs Bella by the Sea — an elite restaurant that hosts only a few couples per night at an exorbitant price — with his father Marcello.

But the one thing Lily didn’t anticipate standing in her way was a nemesis: Kerry Barrett Kirby, who owns nouveau house across the courtyard. Kerry seems determined to crush Lily into the dirt for a reason Lily can’t imagine … and wields a power and seniority at the Palms that Lily (new, naive, and out of her element) can’t hope to fight.

Lily only has one chance to make her shop work — a tall feat, considering the prior shops Kerry has driven out of business, and the way the Palms always bows to Kerry’s will. But Lily’s charm has bought her a handful of unlikely allies … and as Kerry will find out, quiet little Lily Whistler has more than a few country girl tricks up her sleeve.

La Fleur de Blanc is women’s fiction with an edge: part coming of age story, part underdog tale, part romantic comedy, plenty hilarious, and stuffed to the brim with empowerment.

If you’d like to pick up La Fleur, it’s on pre-order now (for just $2.99), or plain old “on sale” on Valentine’s Day.

Click here to get La Fleur de Blanc on Amazon.
Click here to get La Fleur de Blanc on Kobo.
Click here to get La Fleur de Blanc on Barnes & Noble.

About Johnny B. Truant

Johnny started out as the writing everyman, barely managing a novel a decade. From there, he has become a storytelling superstar, pounding out a novel a month. He's the co-founder of Realm & Sands, as well as the host of the Self Publishing Podcast.

Comments

  1. You finally made me want to read it. It was on my TBR list already for this year, but it’s been bumped down a few times already.

    I don’t know.. I just haven’t been able to talk myself into reading Lexi. I keep thinking, it’ll be 50 shades of boring all over again, and my life is too god damn short for that sort of thing. I’ll take talking unicorns any day over 30 pages of describing sex. I don’t want 30 pages of describing doing dishes, eating, or taking a dump either. We all do it, but it doesn’t mean I want it to take up 50% of the books I’m reading, while the rest of the book tries to draw lines between the wet dots.

    So, I’ll bump it up to be next in line, and see what the new Lexi line has to offer. If I like it, I might be able to talk myself into reading some of the other Lexi titles on my Kindle. Perhaps.

    • Johnny B. Truant says:

      This is the least sexual of all of them that I’ve read, probably because Lexi wasn’t as heavily involved. But I think you’ll like it. There’s also a new project in production that’s similar. All of her stuff before this one (I think) has pretty explicit sections, but there’s a crap-ton of story between them, especially in the later books. That’s probably most true of Future of Sex (very explicit in parts, but highly story and character driven), but also very true in plenty of the newer works. We wouldn’t work with Lexi if she just chronicled her boring days and added sex to them! 🙂

      • I have no problem with sex parts in books, or if it’s explicit. I just want the story/plot/characters to be in the drivers seat 🙂

        Looking forward to reading it. Just have to finish the secret Stoner book, and Yesterday’s Gone – which I actually stopped to read, to read the other one. You’re competing with yourself for my attention. That’s probably not the worst problem in the world, seen from the publishing side of the table 😉

    • Blaine Moore says:

      I finished reading this earlier this week, and I was surprised that it was my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. (Just checked – as I write this, I’ve read 15 books so far in 2015.)

      I’m not a huge fan of the erotic sections; it doesn’t do much for me and I mostly just skim those sections. But in this book, there’s a lot less than in the other Lexi books I’ve read (and way less explicit than Adult Video was.)

      I don’t know that I’m ready to say it’s my favorite Sterling and Stone book so far, but it’s pretty damn close. Definitely earned 5 stars on Amazon and even got 5 stars from me on GoodReads.

      • Sounds promising, Blaine 🙂

        Thanks. I appreciate input from someone who seems to be on somewhat the same page as me, regearding to the sex parts, even though I have a hard time articulating my thoughts about it. I often feel that it just sounds like I’m a prude – haha 😀 And it’s really not about that at all. I like your wording on the subject: “It doesn’t do much for me”. That sums it up pretty well.

      • Johnny B. Truant says:

        I just wanted to say that I saw the review and am really flattered by it. I know what high praise 5 stars is from you, particularly on Goodreads. Thank you!

  2. Greg Thomas says:

    Are you guys worried about getting a brand new reader for the Lexi line via ‘La Fleur,’ loving this book and then getting other books in the line and not realizing they may be a bit more ‘racy’ than this one? It seems odd mixing ‘chick lit’ and erotic romance together in the same line. Currently struggling with how many pen names and/or imprints to divide my stuff in and I’m curious what thought process you’ve had in placing ‘La Fleur’ under this line.

    • We’ve recently split Lexi off. Her sex stuff first has a new pen name, and her story first stuff is under Lexi. We’re letting her evolve from there. We think we need to do a proper job with product descriptions and covers so that readers know what they’re getting before they do, but other than that we’re very happy with the evolution so far.

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