Open any novel, and you’ll probably see this disclaimer-This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

While most writers will deny that any of their characters are based on actual people, I’m here to tell you, they’re not being entirely honest. I’m not going to lie to you-I admit that one of the secondary characters in my new contemporary romance, Barreled Over, is based on my husband’s grandfather.

When I outlined Barreled Over, the first book in my new Trinity Distillery series, I had no intention of creating a character based on Grandpa Mike. But his appearance is no coincidence. Let me tell you how it happened…

I envisioned my hero and heroine having sex for the first time in the rickhouse-the place where barrels of bourbon are stored to age-with her sitting on top of a barrel. (I bet you’d love to hear about the research I did for that scene). The sex would be spontaneous and unexpected.

As a strong proponent of safe sex, I want my characters to behave responsibly. Unfortunately, in this case, neither Beck nor Ava Grace would carry condoms, and they wouldn’t have sex without protection either.

The rickhouse setting prevented me from creating a condom stash somewhere. How could I solve this problem?

When I shared my frustration with my husband, he said, “You need a character like Grandpa Mike.”

I immediately knew my husband was right. You see, Grandpa Mike was a real ladies’ man. And if you want proof, here it is: When he was gravely wounded in the South Pacific during WWII, the Navy shipped him back to the States in a body cast. He spent several months in a military hospital, and he spent that time wisely-wooing one of his nurses. Within just a few weeks of his release, he proposed to that nurse and made her his wife. (This might sound familiar because it happened to Rachel McAdams’ character, Ali, in The Notebook.)

Grandpa Mike and Grandma Hi-Doll (a nickname that came about because he always greeted her by saying, ‘Hi, Doll!) were married for nearly 50 years before she passed away. Shortly thereafter, he moved into a retirement community and quickly established himself as the resident favorite. All the single ladies gave him a lot of pie-both literally and metaphorically.

One of my husband’s fondest (or perhaps emotionally damaging) memories occurred when he was sixteen and Grandpa Mike was visiting for Thanksgiving. My husband’s girlfriend came over, wearing a low-cut shirt and mini skirt, as teenage girls often do.

When my husband introduced his girlfriend to Grandpa Mike, he took one look at her and her perky boobs, grabbed my husband’s wrist, and dragged him into the guest bathroom. Without a word, Grandpa Mike unzipped his toiletry bag, pulled out a handful of condoms, and shoved them into my husband’s hand. Then, Grandpa Mike patted my husband (his teenage grandson) on the back and left the bathroom.

With Grandpa Mike in mind, I created the character of Ellis Oglesby, an octogenarian who works as Trinity’s master distiller. Like Grandpa Mike, Ellis is a ladies’ man. Here’s a little excerpt from Barreled Over, a scene where Ellis and Beck are discussing Ava Grace:

“I saw her on TV the other day,” Ellis said. “A woman like that improves blood flow to a man’s most important organ.”
Although Beck knew exactly which organ Ellis meant, he replied, “You could use some extra blood flow to the brain.”
Ellis chuckled, his voice raspy from decades of pipe smoking. “That’s not a man’s most important organ, boy. I’m talkin’ about the power sprayer, the hot rod, the jackhammer, the broadsword-”
“Ellis,” Beck groaned, “shut up.”
Ellis’s booming laugh bounced off the high ceiling. “Did I tell you I went out with that sweet thang I met at the farmers’ market?”
Everywhere Ellis went, he attracted women. He picked them up at gas stations, grocery stores, in the park, standing in line at the bank … just about anywhere. Despite his puny stature, sun-weathered countenance, and sparse gray hair, women of all ages seemed to find him irresistible. It baffled the hell out of Beck since Ellis reminded him of a scrawny rooster.
“No, you didn’t tell me,” Beck answered before rushing to add, “and I really don’t want you to. Please don’t.”
Ellis ignored his plea. “Mmm, mmm, mmm.” He smacked his lips. “Her tits were so-”
“Jesus Christ.” Beck shook his head, both awed and disgusted by Ellis’s active sex life. “You’re such a poonhound.” He pointed his forefinger at the horny old goat. “Are you aware there’s been a spike in syphilis, chlamydia, and HIV among seniors? I hope to hell you’re using a rubber when you screw these women.”
“You don’t need to worry about me. I’ve been pumpin’ for nearly sixty years, and I haven’t caught anything yet.” Ellis patted the front pocket of his worn pants. “I always carry protection. Don’t you?”

As you can imagine, I had a lot of fun writing Ellis’s character. And thanks to him, Beck and Ava Grace were able to enjoy themselves in the rickhouse, responsibly.

Barreled Over is available now in print, ebook, and audio.

Ready for another round?

Ava Grace Landy’s music career is humming along until a shakeup at her label jeopardizes her recording contract and curses her with the world’s worst boss. Determined to satisfy him, she partners with Trinity Distillery to access a larger male audience. To her surprise, she’s the one who’s satisfied-by none other than Jonah Beck, the gorgeous, yet gruff man behind the bourbon.

No doubt about it, bourbon runs in Beck’s blood. But it’s audacious Ava Grace who makes it run hot. When she signs on as the spokesperson for his craft distillery, he doesn’t plan on hoisting her onto an oak barrel and rocking the rickhouse. Though he’s convinced their lives don’t mix-like a terrible cocktail-he can’t keep his hands off the alluring country star.

Ava Grace and Beck try to keep their intoxicating relationship private, but the glare of her fame is too bright, revealing secrets they both want to remain hidden. With a spotlight shining on his tumultuous past, their future is at risk. Now they must decide if being together is worth sacrificing the career she loves and the company he’s poured his heart and soul into.


Jenna Sutton is a former award-winning journalist who traded fact for fiction when she began writing novels. Surprisingly, the research she conducted for her articles provided a lot of inspiration for her books. She’s the author of the Riley O’Brien & Co. romances and the new Trinity Distillery series. Although Jenna calls Texas home, more often than not, she’s somewhere else. Her love’s job takes him all over the country, and she tags along, just like a groupie follows her favorite band.

You can find out more about Jenna and her work on her website Sign up for her newsletter at to access the latest news and monthly contests.

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Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.