Costa Rica – sneak peek

Costa Rica (preview the first chapter on Amazon.) 

You can read the first 10% of any book on Amazon so I like to share from other parts of the book. This is near the beginning, before they leave Oregon:

Costa Rica by Kristen James

She barely registered when the front door swung open. Drew walked into the hallway and dropped his keys in the dish. The hallway light flicked on.

“Holy mother!”

His squeal spooked her into sitting straight up, and remembering why she’d been waiting for him. “Drew?”

“Annalisa? You scared the bejesus out of me. What are you doing sitting in the dark?”

She didn’t immediately answer. That must have clued him into her mood and he stepped closer, leaning on the door frame to wait. They’d always been straight with each other (ironic, isn’t it?) and skipped the lead ups.

“Vincent’s cancer came back. There’s another tiny tumor. It’s not treatable anymore.”

The air swooshed out of him. “Oh.”

He stood for a minute and then walked into the living room and slumped down in the recliner across from her. This was a painful moment, but he didn’t rush to her. He didn’t even sit with her. They sat in silence except for his occasional exhale. Drew didn’t really cry–this was as close as he ever came.

The light was just a soft one from the hallway, but it seemed too bright for this conversation. She waited a long time before speaking again. “They asked us to come over Friday night for a barbeque. I said we’d bring a salad. Vincent would have called you, but he said it’s been hard to get a hold of you.”

That last little line had a wealth of ill will. She’d been shell-shocked till that moment, but then she realized Drew had let his best friend down. Didn’t Drew understand that? Vincent was fighting for his life, and Drew was busy chasing skirt. And what if she had needed him? He hadn’t been there for her either. He had slowly and quietly packed up his emotional ties to her and left a shell. Her guilt, for that moment, evaporated.

Drew said not a word in response. Once upon a time this handsome man had been her rock, her friend and her guiding light. Now she wanted to slap him.

He finally realized she was glaring at him and glanced at his wristwatch. “It’s way too late to call him.”

“Yeah, it’s almost midnight.”

“You were out way past midnight just yesterday.”

“But I don’t do that all the time…” Her thought lost steam. “I’m not the one…”

Drew looked at her, really gazed into her eyes. His expression showed alarm and then dread. There it was, out in the open. Maybe they weren’t going to say it, but he had to know she was suspicious.

She had not once ever, ever doubted him. Even as they drifted apart, she didn’t question him, check up on him or wonder what he was doing. She envisioned a crack racing across that large stone bridge of trust, and it fell in a loud, painful crash.

She got up and went upstairs to bed. Drew never followed.



Annalisa and Drew have always dreamed of going to Play Flamingo, Costa Rica, with their best friends, Vincent and Melinda. But now they’re out of time.

Annalisa feels their marriage is just a shell for others to see–there’s nothing left inside. She wonders if they can rekindle their love in paradise, but there’s so little left. They gave up on their marriage along with their dream of having children.

Time is literally slipping away from Vince and Mel. Vincent’s cancer is back–his tumor is inoperable and he won’t do chemo again. This trip is now or never.

Costa Rica – the trip that inspired my novel

I realized I went to Costa Rica before I began blogging so I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared any photos. I did write about getting the idea while on the trip, actually while walking on the beach. I wrote a summary in my journal then and even started the story after we returned, but it would be three years later when I finished the project. There were all kinds of little details that I incorporated into the book–I’m finding more and more that I love to use a real setting so I can find little things to make the story come to life.

We stayed by Playa Flamingo, just like my characters, and walked or rode bikes around the area for ten days, through warm rainstorms and sunshine. We went in July, the wet season, and I set the book around the same time so I could describe the area as I experienced it. My characters went to the same restaurants and beaches we did, although I made up the resort at the end to make the plot work. Annalisa and Drew even rented bicycles from Claudia as we did. We were riding along on a muddy road in our swim suits, barefoot, when a Tico waved and called “hello,” and I used that in the book too.

While the book is filled with tension and conflict, along with high moments and the beauty of Costa Rica, our trip was all fun. My husband has an uncle living in Costa Rica, and we ate a few authentic meals with his tios and got advice on navigating the area and culture. We also went fishing off the beach for rooster fish…and I ended up catching  sting ray. We took turns fighting what we thought was a fish for forty minutes while a crowd gathered, but when we got it in closer we realized what it was. Luckily for us, the line snapped and we didn’t have it free it by hand.

We spent our time walking or riding all over the place, to different beaches and places to eat. Getting away from our normal lives gave us space and time to think, and that sparked my creativity and my new story idea.

When it was time to return home, we rode the local bus back to Liberia and the airport, which was a fun experience in itself. A man stood up during the ride to play a guitar and sing. Then we stayed in an ancient motel–the building was 200 years old. We just don’t see that in Oregon. I think we spent something like fifteen bucks for the room.

Here’s a few of my pictures:


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honeymoon 037







A few fun little things. Whenever we were out walking, we would hear or see big iguanas fall out of the palm trees. It didn’t seem to hurt them. There were also little geckos everywhere that chirped at night. We spotted glowing fish in the waves. While walking through the jungle to the beach, we saw hundreds of tiny bright orange crabs. There was color everywhere and new things to see. Of course I’m dying to go back!

Because I live close to the Oregon coast, it was hard not to contrast the two places. I hinted at that in the book, too. The rugged and wild Oregon coast, where the book begins, captures how the characters feel. Then, in peaceful and tropical Costa Rica, they begin to work through their problems and discover what’s important to them.

I want to share a sneak peak from the book too, but I’ll make a separate post for that.

My 100th Blog Post!

It was almost three years ago (and 100 posts!) when I started this blog/website. That was right after I had launched my author page on Facebook. It’s been an amazing three years with my professional life centered around what I love to do. And oddly enough, I’m most thankful that I can see lots of ways to grow as an author. It really is about the journey and not the destination! I like to think I’m still in the beginning of a fulfilling and exciting adventure, one with lots of twists and turns and milestones to celebrate, and more importantly, people to share it with. :)

I’ve shared about quite a few hikes over the last couple of years, but I have so many more places to go. Of course I want to revisit all my favorite places in Oregon. That’s one thing I love about where I live: all the hiking and wild areas to explore in the mountains and on the coast. I’ve started visiting Eastern Oregon more and finding a different kind of beauty there. I recently learned there’s a small number of moose living in the North Eastern corner of Oregon, and I’ve been dreaming about exploring there in the summer and seeing if we can spot them. They’re some of the smallest moose and have little antlers. So here’s to new horizons and more writing!

I thought I’d celebrate my 100th blog by adding another freebie to my list – this one is free today and tomorrow. If you haven’t read The Cowboy Kiss, now’s the time! It’s short, fun and flirty. This joins my two perma free books, Embers of Hope and The Fairy and Her Giant.

Here’s a view back at my house (somewhere out there) from a hike to a mountain top.

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A Change of Pace, new work in progress, and a few updates

There’s reasons to love every season, but it seems most people like the feeling of change that comes with autumn and spring. Changing things up is exciting. I was looking back to last year, and remembered writing Point Hope in January and February. That story was a change from romance to married romance and family drama. It kicked off a phase, I guess, because Costa Rica also features a married couple, and then In a Field of Oranges is an emotional romance but with heavy undertones.

So far this year, I’ve been busy publishing Costa Rica and In a Field of Oranges, and starting a new project. It’s a very different kind of story for me, but it’s one of those that began with a sudden spark. I’m writing in first person, with a new genre of New Adult, and with a somewhat unique format with two main characters sharing thoughts. While I’m a bit nervous about how my readers will react to something so different from my previous books, I’m always happiest with these ideas that come on in a flash. Point Hope started that way: a big figurative boom went off and a story exploded into existence, then I raced to write it.

I’ll share the blurb and a sneak peek below. First, some news on More Than Memories – the audiobook is in the final stages of production, so I hope it’ll go live in March. I also recently sold the German rights to AmazonCrossing, and they’re producing that version for release later this year. I’m excited about my first book in German! I still get excited about Trent and Molly’s story; they were such great characters to work with.

So, here’s more info on my work in progress.

Star Struck – working title.

Avery Waldorf wakes up from a concussion to find a voice inside her head. An oversexed male voice belonging to Marcus, who doesn’t know where he came from, but has an opinion on everything about her life. She just wants quiet so she can read, go to her English classes and flirt with the guy of her dreams, Nash, who is finally noticing her that way. Marcus wants to get up at dawn, run, snowboard, hike and basically take over her life. She can’t tell anyone without sounding like she’s lost it. Meanwhile Marcus doesn’t know where he’ll go if he leaves her mind. Maybe she is losing it…

A Tiny Teaser:  (This is close to the opening, when she first finds this strange man in her head.)

“Morning.” The voice belonged to a fifty-or-so doctor in a white coat, salt and pepper hair, and a kind smile, and he was sitting on a stool or something right next to my bed. His square jaw and warm brown eyes projected safety and serenity. Encouraged, I tried to take in my settings. The room around him was painted cream but the light was too bright.

“Hi…” My voice came out like everything was okay. Maybe it was.

“You took quite the tumble yesterday.” He gave me a fatherly smile. “So I’m very happy to see you’re awake and alert. I’m Dr. Hartley. Can you tell me your name?”


What? I glanced around but didn’t see anyone else.

The doctor’s head shifted to the side, just slightly, and one eyebrow moved. My hesitation worried him. But I knew my name. Duh. “Avery Waldorf.”

Marcus. My name is Marcus.

Dr. Hartley relaxed. “Oh, good, Avery. Do you know what day it is?”

“It was Saturday when I crashed down the mountain. February second.” Why, oh, why did I go with them? I could have stayed home, read my book, drank cocoa and pretended it was snowing outside.

“Ah, yes. Now it’s Sunday morning. It sounds like you’re doing great. We ran a scan yesterday, and everything looked good to go.”

I tried to smile, and even that sent a whiplash of pain through my head.

He stood and went to the bag up on a pole, checking the level I guess. After making a note on the chart in his hand, he smiled at me again. “I’ll send a nurse for your morphine. The pain should clear up shortly. We’ll probably keep you for the day, just as a precaution. Your scans were fine. You’re alert. It’s just a good idea to keep you here.”

I managed to keep a straight face until he walked out the door. I would have been best to tell him, a doctor after all, that I was hearing some weird guy. I glanced around, something I had been afraid to do in front of the doctor, and confirmed the room was empty. None of my friends were standing behind the hospital bed, suppressing a laugh at their joking around. Where were they? They left me at the hospital?

What the hell is this?

The voice was definitely in my head. I must have hit it hard…so why didn’t something show up in my scans?

Hello? I hit my head?

No, I hit my head trying to freaking snowboard.

I looked around again, even knowing I wouldn’t see anyone there. How could a concussion make me hear voices?

You’re not hearing voices. What the heck is wrong with you? Why am I in the hospital?

He didn’t sound worried. I could hear, by my heartbeat, that I was. The day before was clear in my head, from driving up to the sky resort, playing around on the flats for a while, and then letting Kristina talk me into going up the hill with her. There wasn’t anything that unusual, not anything that should cause something like this. I closed my eyes, trying to relax my body, and breathed in and out. Just in and out. In and out.

Still here, babe. And still not sure what’s going on.

Who was this guy? Okay… so I can hear you talk but can’t see you…but you don’t know what’s going on?

~  ~  ~

Updates to come!

New books and free books oh my

I love sending new books out into the world. It’s such a privilege to create something and share it with others. Of course, I get a little nervous too, but mostly excited.

Costa Rica has been out a few weeks and In a Field of Oranges will be going out very soon too. Yea! It seems like I’ve been writing and writing, so it’s thrilling to see these two stories come to completion and ready to share. Then I’ll actually be caught up on my works in progress and ready to start a brand new story. It’s one that’s been swirling around in my head for months and months, but I forced myself to hold off on writing it so I could finish my current project list. It’s in the early, can’t-share-or-I’ll-jinx-it stage, but I’ll say the story revolves around two sisters.

And just an update: I’ve added a new “Free Ebooks” tab to my site! Currently, Embers of Hope is free on Smashwords and Kobo, and will probably be free in Kindle too. I still get excited over each and every one of my novels, and I just adore Savanna’s story. It’s about being a mom, a friend and falling in love.

The Fairy and Her Giant is free on Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo and other places. I really can’t say where I got the idea for that story, but it was a blast to write–it has a fairy and pirates!

Well, back to writing I go. Take care!

The Need to Start Anew – Happy New Year!

“Don’t look down! Don’t do it!”   Have you ever felt that way when climbing a steep hill? But if you don’t look down, you won’t know how far you’ve gone. That’s why we look down, even if we’re afraid to.

Life seems to be the opposite. Everywhere I look, I’m encouraged to measure, compare, evaluate and redirect, especially this time of year. We have a drive to track how we’re doing, evaluate the results and plan bigger goals. We want to start fresh. Do better. Do more. It can be invigorating, actually.   A new start!  A new chance!

The beginning of a new year isn’t a magical point in time that changes everything, but we use it that way. We treasure that yearly gift of hope and renewal. We look at any hardships in the old year and say, “So long suckers!”

I’m looking at the new year as a new chance to enjoy life, learn new things and look for beauty. And of course I’m planning to write more stories.  :)

I wanted to say Happy New Year to all of you and wish you the best on your goals. I’d also like to wish you peace in this coming year–in this busy, interconnected world, remember to take some time for yourself. We don’t have to be the best at everything. It’s okay to relax sometimes! It’s okay to “Don’t Worry, be Happy!”   Go ahead, click the link, listen to the song and watch the video. :) It’s fun.  Cheers!

jumping dolphin

2.5 Years, 20 books, and 100k sales later–What I’ve learned

I had some thoughts this month stemming from my writing journey and what is happening in publishing, and I thought it might interest other writers. I often read the advice to stop checking sales, ranks, reviews, web hits, and focus on writing. It’s some of the best advice out there, and advice I try to follow. On the other hand, sometimes it’s  healthy to pause and evaluate how you’re doing. (Seems to be a trend at the end of the year!) It can also show you that you really have built something.

I have 10 novels, 7 novellas and 3 nonfiction books, and reached 1,000 reviews on Amazon this month. I don’t think it’s bad to check in on sales and reviews, if you keep it under control. I used to read reviews and see if I could learn anything from them–and reviews used to be longer and more detailed. I often get short reviews these days, especially for my novellas. Still, I like to glance through once in a while to see what readers are saying. Amazon Central puts them all in one place so it’s easy. It’s fine to have good and bad reviews; it shows that your book is selling.

On ranking: I used to check my book ranks, but now I mainly check the rank for my most recent book, or a book that I’m running a promotion on. I look at my author rank in Author Central to see the overall trend. (But in general, I’m trying to check less and write more.)

On predicting: I’ve had some awesome months when I had a new release or a promotion went really well, but I’ve learned that I can’t take that and make a monthly prediction of steady growth. Sales go up and down. I put my sales into Excell and then create a month by month chart showing book sales and income. I have another chart that shows yearly book sales and income, so I can see the upward progress every year. It’s the big picture that matters.

On Changing Amazon: In 2011 and 12, it seemed most of my books would sell and have different seasons and spikes. Since this summer, however, it seems Amazon promotes new books, giving them a chance to succeed at first, but sales for my older books have slowed down. (That follows a more traditional model than what I’ve seen on Amazon since 2011, and it might change again in a few months.)

On crazy ebook growth in 2012–there were some blockbuster books the last couple of years that really drove sales. That can happen again. A book or series will come out that will be different, and it’ll see sales like 50 Shades, Twilight, Hunger Games, Wimpy Kid and Wool. There’s been huge bestsellers from both traditional and author published books.

That naturally leads into my next observation: things change constantly. In the last two years, we’ve had all kinds of storms. The huge ebook growth, then people crying that the sky was falling, then people saying Indie stores are making a comeback, and even times when people said books are on the way out. I know better than that one. But things do change, and they don’t follow our predictions. The steady reality is that we keep getting surprised. I just have to focus on improving my writing. (I’ve been working on bigger story lines and deeper themes.)

Another change: I had a sales curve every year that dipped in the summer, but this last summer was more like my typical Decembers. I released a book that I really believed in, but I was surprised at how well it did. Of course, releasing new books has always been the best promotion, and I regret that I didn’t have another one ready to release this fall or winter. Montlake Romance re-released Point Hope in late October, and I relied on that as my ‘new book.’ My next book is coming out in January, and I plan to write and publish 3-5 books this coming year.

With all the changes on Amazon, the US book market, and publishing in general, I’m going to expand into other retailers with some of my books. I’m very pro Amazon and feel extremely thankful to the company for opening the door to so many authors. I’ve built an audience and got a traditional publishing deal for one of my books that I published through Kindle. Because it’s about my readers and reaching more readers, so I’m going to experiment with other retailers.

My biggest lesson: many of the promotional activities we’re encouraged to do don’t get the results we want. I used to advise people to build their “snowball,” and I still believe in this idea, but there is also an 20/80 rule. 20% of what we do will get 80% of the results. In terms that I understand better, focus on the things that make big results. I experiment, and learn from other authors, and I focus on writing.  Maybe I’m stating the same lesson over and over! It’s about the writing. When I launch a book now, I basically publish it and post it here, on my FB page and Twitter. I also did a Goodreads giveaway with Point Hope and plan to do more of those.

Preview on Kindle (also available in print)

Newly updated for 2014 – insight and advice for all the phases of Indie Publishing


The big things I’ve learned pertain to writing and storytelling, which of course is the whole point of all of this. I write, read novels, read books on writing, learn from podcasts and videos, write some more, repeat… and it’s thrilling, challenging and fulfilling. I’m putting together a workbook on novel writing for a class I’m going to teach this coming year. I’m really excited about it. I keep files on everything I learn about writing, and now I get to put it all together with diagrams. :)  I had some huge breakthroughs in structure this year, especially about how to up the tension and drama in a novel’s middle, and I’m eager to share that. I’m going to publish the book so people who aren’t local to take the class can also buy it.

One thing I keep in mind is that learning is a continuous, life long process. I have a thick journal where I record notes on useful writing books, videos, etc, and new things I learn. I write life posts and encouraging quotes too. It’s a fantastic way to keep all my writing notes in one place, and I can look through it to refresh what I’ve learned. It’s been one of the best things I’ve done for my writing career. Well, time to wrap up this monster post. I hope you enjoyed it and found something useful. :)

~Best wishes to all the authors out there, and thank you for blogging, sharing and encouraging other writers!

P.S. I’m a member of The Alliance of Independent Authors, which runs a series called “How I Did It,” featuring posts from many successful Indie authors. Here’s my interview:  How I Do It: Kristen James Shares The Secrets of Her Self-Publishing Success.    This group is a great resource!

Merry Christmas! Cover Reveal. And Looking Ahead.

There’s a lot stuffed into that title! I wanted to send out a big MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone – I hope you’re enjoying a bright, wonderful holiday season. Does it feel rushed to you this year? We had a short season between Thanksgiving and Christmas! I just got my tree up yesterday and started my Christmas shopping.

I also hope it’s been a good year for you. For me, a lot happened but then again, things slowed down this year. I published Point Hope and a lot happened with that book, but I didn’t finish another until autumn. (I did publish a novella this summer called A Wedding to Remember.) So Costa Rica will be out early next year, which is actually just weeks away now!

Front CoverHere’s the cover.

You might notice something a little different about this cover, compared to my other books. There’s just one person on this cover. I’ve been writing romance for several years, yet more and more my stories are focusing on family drama and married romance. I love including romance in my stories, but it’s a different kind of romance than you find in, say, a romance novel. The story in Point Hope centered around an entire family. It was actually an in-depth, close up and personal story about the trouble between Trey and Rosette, their own struggles, and the family dynamic. I love that story! I loved writing it and sharing it with readers. It’s the kind of story I look for when choosing books, and the kind of story I wanted to write for so long.

Costa Rica, too, is about family with a twist. It’s about two families, but it’s also about Annalisa’s personal journey. There’s romance, but much more, and I wanted the cover to reflect the feel of the story.

The other big difference is this cover shows Costa Rica and not somewhere in Oregon. It actually begins in Coos Bay (like Point Hope) and then moves to Costa Rica. (I’ll post the description and first chapter soon!)

My next book, In a Field of Oranges, is more of a romance with some heavy personal struggles. It has a feel like Point Hope, but Lance and Sierra are almost strangers when the story opens. I’ll share more about that story in the next few months, and I plan to release it in the first half of 2014. I’m having a great time writing this one, and I have to admit it’s thrilling to write different kinds of stories. Working on In a Field of Oranges feels fresh and new, and I think it’ll improve my stories that much more to have a spectrum of story types.

I’m going to write A LOT next year. I’m itching to share my next story idea, but I’ll wait until I’ve actually started it.   :)   Stay tuned!

Much Love,




“Know Your Audience!”

The cold weather has descended and I’m spending more time inside writing, and so today’s post focuses on adventures in writing instead of the outdoors. Actually, this is more of a thought about writing and readership.  I keep seeing the advice, “Know your audience!” and “Write for your audience!” and “Target your audience!”  Many, many articles say this is the #1 tip to becoming a bestselling author. (They say that about writing series too.)

The weird thing is, every author I read about that makes it huge didn’t seem think about their audience at all. They wrote a story from the heart. Authors that break out with their first book or an early book often write in the early morning hours before work or late at night, and they seem to be focused solely on producing the story that grabbed and inspired them. Also, that early on, they don’t have their own audience yet. Nicholas Sparks based his first novel The Notebook on a real couple, not an idea for a target audience. I read once that Stephenie Meyer had a dream about a girl and vampire in love and that inspired the Twilight series.

I like to think that I write for the people who love my stories, but I’ve never researched a certain demographic so I could to them. I’ve written and put out books with stories that I wanted to share. As I wrote more and more, I began including more of what I care about, aiming to produce a story with a meaning beyond the entertainment. When I wrote Point Hope, I just felt like it was a great story worth telling. I felt successful with that book before anyone else even read it. I recently finished another book called Costa Rica, and I did think about the things my readers said they liked in my other books. Perhaps that was writing toward my audience. I’m midway through another novel right now called In a Field of Oranges, and it deviates from my last few themes, but it still has my style and tone.

In a way, it seems “know your audience” is an industry catch phrase that doesn’t mean much, at least not to me in a useful way. The applicable part of the advice is to write up a profile for my idea reader and try to write to her… That feels like throwing a dart into the dark to me. (I’m sure there are useful ways to apply that advice, but I’m sharing my opinion and thoughts.) I’d rather write for myself: what I’m passionate about, what I want my stories to say, how I want to improve my craft, and how I want to connect with the readers who talk to me about my stories. I’ve found that the more of my life and passion I put into my stories, the better they connect with others.

So why am I blogging about this? I’ve been thinking about all the authors out there seeking the path to publication or to a bigger audience. Like me, they probably read blogs, articles, magazines and books on writing. I’m just wondering, if they toss out all the confusing advice and write the story that keeps them up at night, what kinds of books will they produce? Yes, it’s important to learn the ropes and fine tune our storytelling and craft, but sometimes we need to take an idea and run. My point is, the books that keep us up reading late into the night are completely different than our own lives and what we  think we want to read. They’re so unique and surprising that they somehow validate and connect with our lives. I’d argue that’s what our target audience is looking for!

Release Day!

It’s here!   The Montlake Romance edition of Point Hope is live on Amazon.

I’ve had an amazing journey with this novel. The story came together so easily, and I wrote the first draft in two months. Some stories I can see clearly while others take more effort to bring into focus, and this one just pulled together like magic. (I think that happens when the plot has inherent conflict and I have a good feel for each character and what they want.) I spent another month going through the story before sending it to my editor. Editing takes about a month as well. I was so excited to share the story with my readers, and I published the book in June. Then Montlake Romance emailed in early August, and here we are on the Montlake Romance release day!

I received my author copies a few weeks ago, and I found myself flipping through and reading the story. After going through the publishing process twice this year, you’d think I’d be tired of it. Instead, it’s just the opposite. I can fall into the story just by opening the paperback or the Kindle version. (I got both just to see them.)

And in case you’re wondering, or waiting for my next book, I’m still writing! I’m finishing the first draft of Costa Rica and working on a newer project called In a Field of Oranges. I’ll share more about those in the next few months.


Preview/ Order on Amazon

After his Navy career came to an end, Trey became an EMT in his hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon. He struggles with PTSD, which affects his ability to do his job and connect with his family. His wife seems to be living life without him.

Rosette can’t figure out what happened to her marriage, or to Trey—the man she once loved so desperately. It feels like she’ll lose everything along with him. Meanwhile, he’s enclosed in his own world without her.

Their marriage is on its last legs when their family is faced with two deaths and an orphan. They’re already raising two young children and Trey’s teenage brother, Alex. Trey and Rosette make a shaky agreement to play “family” for now so they can take care of Trey’s recently orphaned niece. But can faking it ever be enough?

It’s make-it or break-it time. If they split apart, who will raise Hope?