Virginia Kantra's latest Dare Island novel, Carolina Man, is our March Top Pick in Romance! While stationed in Afghanistan, Luke Fletcher receives a letter that throws a wrench into his bachelor Marine lifestyle—he has a 10-year-old daughter named Taylor, and he's just become her only living parent. When beautiful and discerning lawyer Kate Dolan becomes involved in his custody case, an undeniable attraction takes root, and both of them must weigh the costs of pursuing a romance with Luke's demanding career and role as a new father.

We chatted with Kantra about her love of the Carolina coast, her caffeine habit and more in a 7 questions interview.

Describe your book in one sentence.
Marine Luke Fletcher is in Afghanistan when he learns that his high school girlfriend has passed away, leaving him the guardian of a 10-year-old daughter he never knew he had—and the lawyer responsible for the little girl's welfare isn't at all sure he's the right man for the job.

What inspired you to set your Dare Island series in the Carolinas?
Because a good book is like a vacation, and vacations are always too short. With a series, you can go back to the places that make you happy.

Dare Island is my happy place. Set among the beautiful barrier islands of the North Carolina coast, it's a community sustained by the sea and swept by changing tides.

Like Luke Fletcher and his father Tom, my husband's dad was stationed at Camp Lejeune. One of the joys of writing this series is the feeling of coming home. These are stories about the ways we help each other through tough times, neighbor to neighbor, families pulling together. Because the real search for the "happy place" is about more than setting. It's our longing for a place to belong. For roots. For family. And for love.

What do you love most about Marine Luke Fletcher?
His determination to do the right thing—for his country, for his family and for the woman he loves.

Of all the heroines you’ve written, which one is your favorite?
You do know that's like asking "Who's your favorite child?" But Kate's struggle to open herself emotionally and believe in love was very poignant to me.

What are you reading now?
I'm deep in deadline hell at the moment, but I have Mariah Stewart's At the River’s Edge as my reward for finishing.

What’s one bad habit that you have no intention of breaking?
I'm caffeine-dependent. I drink a pot of coffee every morning, and I like it.

What are you working on next?
I'm currently finishing up Carolina Blues, the fourth Dare Island story, about small town Police Chief Jack Rossi and "hostage girl" Lauren Patterson, who comes to the island to escape her 15 minutes of fame. It will be an October 2014 release.

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