In Willow Springs, the fifth contemporary romance set in charming Destiny, Ohio, Blake finds a perfect—and perfectly improbable—match for the small town’s lonely matchmaker.

Amy is a terrific matchmaker and can put nonobvious matches together easily. Why can’t she do the same for herself?

When it comes to romance, Amy’s self-confidence is almost nonexistent up until this book. She’s so inexperienced, and so strongly viewed by everyone in Destiny as being sweet and pure, that she just doesn’t expect men to think of her as a romantic or sexual prospect. However, she secretly longs for love and romance, and finding it for others is her way of fulfilling the need for it without addressing her own sadly lacking love life.

Amy is a virgin at 34, and her friends are shocked by that. What led you to choose that character trait for her?

I really wanted to include a virgin in the group of Destiny friends for several reasons. We mostly find the virgin heroine in historicals. I personally love all the drama and emotions that come with that scenario, and I wanted contemporary readers to get to experience it for a change. Amy’s “sexual status” also did a lot to tell the other characters who she really is at her core, and what she values. I think it’s rather sad that society expects every woman to have lost her virginity by a certain age. If Amy had fallen in love with someone in her youth, she probably would not have remained a virgin. But she didn’t, and she held sex as an important enough connection with another person that she waited, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I personally feel there might be something very right with that.

How do you plot a series?

At first it intimidated me, but now I love taking characters I already know and using what I know about them to craft their perfect story. For instance, what’s the worst thing that could happen to a sweet girl like Amy who has no confidence in herself romantically? To fall in love with her best friend, who is mega-experienced and considered a major hottie, and who no one would ever expect to be romantically interested in someone as “plain” and simple-at-heart as she is.

What led you to writing romance?

I actually started out writing literary fiction back in the early and mid 1990s, when it hit me that I didn’t know what I wanted to say to that particular audience. About this time, a good friend gave me a handful of Jennifer Crusie’s first books and told me that this was what I should be writing. I hadn’t read a romance novel since high school and I was skeptical, but I gave them a try—and I fell in love. I had no idea how smart and sexy and funny romance could be. And I immediately knew the types of things I wanted to say to the romance audience. I knew I wanted to encourage women to embrace their sensuality and to show that a woman can be extremely multifaceted, that she can be sweet and sexual at the same time, and all things in between. It’s absolutely what I was supposed to be writing all along, and I’ve never looked back.